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Menu Ideas & Planning

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Meal Structure - Italian Home Cooking

Alan's Italian Home Cooking RecipesMeals in Italy usually contain no fewer than 3-4 courses. Meals are seen as a time to spend with family and friends instead of immediate sustenance, as such the daily meals can be longer than in other cultures. During holidays, many family feasts will last for many hours.

In many homes today the traditional Italian menu is kept for special events (such as weddings) while the everyday menu only includes the first and second course, the side dish and coffee. 

One notable aspect of an Italian meal, is that the primo or first course, is usually the more filling dish and will consist of either risotto or pasta, both being rich in carbohydrates. 

Modern Italian cuisine also includes single courses (all-in-one courses), providing carbohydrates and proteins at the same time (e.g. pasta and legumes).

Aperitivo - apéritif usually enjoyed as an appetizer before a large meal, includes Campari, Cinzano, Prosecco, Aperol, Spritz and Vermouth.

Antipasto - literally "before (the) meal", hot or cold appetizers

Primo - "first course", usually consists of a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta or soup.

Secondo - "second course", the main dish, usually fish or meat. Traditionally veal, pork, and chicken are the most commonly used meat, at least in the North, though beef has become more popular since World War II and wild game is very popular, particularly in Tuscany. Fish are those which are caught locally.

Contorno - "side dish", may consist of a salad or cooked vegetables. A traditional menu features salad along with the main course.

Formaggio e frutta - "cheese and fruits", the first dessert. Local Cheeses may also be part of the Antipasto or Contorno as well.

Dolce - "dessert", such as cakes and cookies

Caffè -  coffee

Digestivo - "digestives", liquors/liqueurs (grappa, amaro, limoncello,sambuca,nocino) sometimes referred to as ammazzacaffè ("coffee killer")

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