Italian Courses {recipe}

This entry is part 8 of 31 in the series My Italian Kitchen


granita e brioche
In Catania, Sicily breakfast is granita (Italian ice), brioche and cappuccino.
The meal structure in Italy is a little different than it is in the US. The big meal of the day is comprised several courses. In Italy, the typical Italian breakfast consists of a small pastry and either an espresso or a cappuccino. We ate a lot of yummy breakfasts when we were in Sicily in July.

The big meal is the pranzo or dinner which is served at the noon hour. The last meal of the day, cena, or supper, is a much lighter dish.

Pranzo at home is typically composed of a primo piatto (first course) which is followed by a secondo piatto. These days people will often do one or the other. However, when there is something to celebrate, a wedding or a first communion, a big meal will consist of many courses. Here’s is the basic structure:

Antipasto (appetizers)

The appetizer course is composed of cold dishes such as cold cuts such as salami, prosciutto, mortadella etc., or roasted vegetable such as grilled eggplant or roasted red peppers. Some restaurants have so many yummy antipasti that people will often sub the antipasto bar for the first course.

Primo Piatto (first course)

This course includes pasta, soup or a risotto dish. All the recipes I’ve shared so far have been primi piatti. 

Secondo Piatto (second course)

The second course is the most important course and consists of meat, such as chicken, beef, pork, rabbit or wild game or fish or shellfish.

Contorno (side dishes)

Side dishes are not served on the same plate as the second course but alongside it in a separate dish. Choices are either a simple green salad (lettuce only) or a mixed salad (lettuce and tomato) or some other kind of veggie, often patatine fritte (french fries).

Frutta (fruit)

As if you were still hungry, seasonal fruit is served after the secondo. Remember though, a meal like this is an excuse to sit around the table for hours, talking, drinking, laughing. In the Christmas season, you might even get served a basket of mixed nuts with nutcrackers (not already shelled nuts but those you shell yourself.)

Dolce (dessert)

The dessert course can be something light, like a sorbet, or something much richer like a coppa di gelato (ice cream sundae) pastry or tiramisu. Keep in mind that each region has its own specialties. For example cannoli is a Sicilian pastry. Nowadays you can find them in other regions but it’s really a Sicilian thing.

These courses are preceded by the aperitivo, an aperitif, and followed by a caffe and digestivo, such as limoncello. 

Here is a recipe for one of my favorite antipasto.


[Italian language lesson: the ‘ch’ sound in Italian is hard like “christmas.” It is not a soft sound like “chandelier” so the American pronunciation of this dish /broo-sheh-tah/ is incorrect. The correct way to pronounce it is /broo-skeh-tah/. Now you know. ]

  • 4 ripe medium tomatoes, diced
  • 4 leaves basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and let sit. In the meantime slice ciabatta bread (or other artisan bread) into half inch slices then toast in the oven set on 425 degrees on a cookie sheet for 8 minutes, turning after 4 minutes. Alternatively, grill on gas grill. When bread is toasted, rub each piece with a cut piece of garlic When ready to serve, spoon tomato mixture onto bread. Drizzle with more olive oil if needed.

Since we were in the middle of a hurricane, I didn’t have all the ingredients but we made do with what we had and it was still yummy! (I added origano in place of the basil.)bruschetta

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About Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

I'm a wife, mom, and a homeschool teacher. I'm always behind on housework and paper pile sorting. I'm fond of this crazy life but not of melted cheese. I want to follow hard after God, making each day really count. I like to run, read, cook (and eat!). Thanks for joining along on my journey!

6 thoughts on “Italian Courses {recipe}

  1. The Italian breakfast looks yummy! 🙂 I also enjoy Bruschetta and that recipe was a good reminder that I should make it while I have all the fresh tomatoes from our garden.

  2. Do the Italians have a siesta mid-afternoon? In Panama, the shops and everything else, closed up for two hours in the afternoon so that everyone could go home for lunch. I am thinking maybe in Italy it is the same so that everyone can enjoy the larger, heartier meal of the day at noon(ish). How interesting that French fries are a side dish. Here in El Paso, many of the Mexican restaurants serve baked potatoes with a meal…so you would have beans, rice, the main dish and baked potato! Oh, to be able to eat that way with no consequences.

    1. Yes, most stores and offices close midday however with westernization that is changing. I grew up in a small southern town and the kids would even go home from school for lunch and then return. I’m not sure if they still do that. I’ll have to ask mom. Shops would open at 10:00, close at 1:00 reopen at 4:00 and close at 8:00.

  3. That is so interesting about the different courses. I like the notion of having an excuse to sit around the table talking and laughing. That’s really interesting about the shop schedule, too.

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