A Traditional Italian Dinner
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Here’s a Traditional Italian Dinner I served to our family with six courses that lasted over 2 hours. This type of meal is more like an event–perhaps on a Sunday afternoon with family and friends and plan for plenty of visiting in-between courses. Because there are so many courses, the portions are smaller than what we might see in the U.S.
(Post modified on 10/2/23.)
Since October is the official Italian-American Heritage Month, I always like to feature a few of our favorite Italian recipes–I have so many that I love! Plus, if you’ve never experienced a Traditional Italian Dinner, it should be on your list of things to do. Not only the steps in making the dinner, but actually enjoying the hours of eating, laughing, drinking, and visiting, of course, with more laughter!
It was such fun learning about the steps of an Italian Dinner and the wines to serve with each dish. Here’s to Italian Food! Buon Appetito!
A Traditional Italian Meal begins with Antipasto
First Course – Antipasto – “Before the Meal” similar to appetizers in America. I love to serve Antipasto Trays when we have a gathering of family and friends. Antipasto is commonly known as the first course of a traditional Italian meal. Here in America, it might also be called a cheese and cracker tray, a charcuterie board, or simply appetizers. For this course, I served a simple tray with cheese, pistachios, salami, and olives with Sauvignon Blanc.
Second Course – Primo
Primo is a pasta dish, risotto, gnocchi, or soup served with a hard bread. For a lighter meal (or one with fewer courses, you might serve this as your main dish and exclude the Secondo.) For this course, I served Fettuccine with Truffle Sauce and Asparagus.
Other Primo options might be Ragu Bolognese, Cabbage and Sausage Rigatoni, Butternut Squash Risotto with Saffron, or Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup. A nice Chardonnay would be good with this course. If serving a red sauce you might go with a favorite Chianti or Sangiovese.
You’ll want to continue serving bread through the 2nd-4th courses. Rustic Sourdough Baguettes are so delicious and perfect for breaking bread with your family during the meal. Our family loves when I make them. Hard and crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside, and just the right taste of tangy sourness. Have everyone break apart small sections throughout the meal. This recipe will make 4 small loaves.
Third Course – Secondo with Contorni
The Secondo course is a meat and/or fish dish often served with Contorni, ie vegetables. I made this Stuffed Pork Tenderloin based on an Italian “Rosa di Parma”–which is so wonderfully tender and delicious you have to try it! Serve with a nice Pinot Noir.
When considering the Contorni dish, you might try Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which are so easy and delicious to make, you’ll be coming up with all kinds of meals to serve it with. Other vegetables that works well for this course are Baked Italian Zucchini Boats, Glazed Sweet Potatoes, or Crunchy Baked Asparagus Spears.
Fourth Course – Insalata
Insalata is a salad, served after the main dish to cleanse your palate before dessert. Isn’t that interesting? We Americans have it all backward. We eat salad to fill our bellies before our main dish so that we don’t overeat. Who would have guessed?
Spinach Salad with Fig Dressing is a wonderful addition to your next Italian dinner. Spinach Beet Salad or Spinach Salad with Vinegar Dressing would also be good choices for this fourth course. Serve a salad with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Chardonnay.
Fifth Course – Formaggio e Frutta
Formaggio e Frutta is simply Cheese and Fruit. Sometimes this course is omitted or could even be combined with the final course of dessert. This Crescent Lined Baked Brie with Apricots is perfect when you want to serve guests a little something special. I love how the cheese oozes once you slice into this yummy goodness. Baked Brie is delicious with a sweet Riesling or a zesty Pinot Grigio.
Sixth Course – Dolce
Dolce is a final sweet or dessert, often served with Prosecco followed by a cup of coffee. This Elderberry Wine-Poached Pear Crostata is a fabulous recipe I tried last summer that we really loved. Honestly, I thought it was amazing. Decadent enough to include as the finale for the finest Italian meal. This would be a perfect example of combining the 5 and 6th courses.