When faced with a five-course meal at an Italian restaurant, you may wonder whether Italians eat like this at home. Let’s visit Gabriella Lazzarini, one of my cooking teachers, for Easter lunch. When you walk into her house, you naturally gravitate toward the delicious smells coming from the kitchen.
The dining table is laid with Easter finery and the antipasti are in place.
On the plates are a crostino with fegatini di pollo (chicken liver pâté), prosciutto crudo, salami and bresaola. In the centre of the table is a bowl of traditional hard-boiled Easter eggs and at the right, next to the basket of bread, are peperoni ripieni, round moderately hot red peppers stuffed with tuna and capers.
Another traditional Easter antipasto sits on the sideboard.
This pepper tart is made only in the area around the town of Camaiore, a little inland from Viareggio. The filling consists of boiled rice, chopped Swiss chard and parsley, grated pecorino and parmesan and lots of freshly ground black pepper. The pastry edge of the tart is formed into becchi (beaks), and the pie is baked in the oven until it’s well-browned.
Now we move on to the first course, two distinct dishes of cannelloni.
One type is filled with meat and covered with a meat ragù and the other is filled with ricotta and spinach and covered with a bechamel sauce with lots of parmesan.
There are also two secondi, stuffed roast rabbit and breaded lamb cutlets.
With the rabbit, Gabriella serves a wild green available for a very short period in spring.
There seems to be an unwritten principle that when you serve one fried dish, you should accompany it with more fried delicacies. Here are artichokes and zucchini waiting to be dipped in a light batter and deep fried.
I’m so uninterested in sweets that I forgot to photograph the chocolate cake we had for dessert, but I assure you it was scrumptious.
So, do Italians really eat like this all the time? No, but in the countryside a hot meal is common at both lunch and dinner. Lunch won’t be preceded by antipasti except on special occasions and there will be only one pasta, one meat dish, one or two vegetables and some fruit. Lots of people eat just one course if they’re not engaged in heavy outdoor work. Dinner is lighter: soup, leftover meat, maybe a vegetable. If you’re going out for a pizza, it’s always in the evening, not for lunch. In the cities, I’m afraid it’s a panino for lunch on the run, just like cities the world over. That’s why I’m staying in my little village on top of a mountain.
Erica Jarman invites you on inspiring culinary tours of life behind the scenes that you won’t find in any guidebook — get to know the food artisans and craftspeople of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Liguria. Come join me and my Italian friends and dip into a lifestyle where lunch is more important than business. Find out more at Sapori e Saperi Adventures and follow Erica’s own adventures on her blog.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.