A true Italian dining experience features the freshest produce, the best protein, and delicious beverages. Nothing is half-heartedly made and everything comes together in a harmonious symphony of individual courses. While you may think there is nothing more Italian than a heaping bowl of pasta, small portions are actually more common in Italian households as the pasta dish is merely one piece of the whole meal. Beginning and ending with a cocktail, (and laced with wine throughout), an Italian meal from start-to-finish includes an appetizer, pasta course, meat dish, vegetable option, and of course dessert. Everything is small enough to provide balance and an exciting array of options, and garlic brings it all together.
But before you even think about food, be sure to wet your appetizer with a pre-dinner drink like the Italians.
A little campari or vermouth is the preferred poison of choice when kicking off a traditional Italian gathering. Pour yourself and your guests a beverage and follow along for a few mouth-watering options for throwing a quintessential Italian feast.
This is the classic. With equal parts campari, gin, and sweet vermouth, a more perfect aperitif couldn’t be possible. (Recipe and photo: Two Tarts)
The Adonis is a simple concotion of sherry and vermouth for a delightful start to your Italian dinner party. (Recipe and photo: The Bartendress)
A little ape-teaser to get your taste buds working. Generally this is something light and fresh-tasting. Just a few star ingredients that shine in their own right without too much muss or fuss. A cheese platter or some slices of salami will do nicely here. Similarly, a bowl of oil-cured olives will never be turned down in our house.
These crostini appetizers feature sweet figs, a dollop of burrata (mozzarella’s cream-filled cousin), and thinly sliced prosciutto. It’s the antipasti trifecta! (Recipe and photo: A Zesty Bite)
Where seafood is in abundance, mussels are among the easiest antipasti to whip up. Just heat them until they open, flavor with olive oil and garlic, add a little parsley garnish, and you’re done! (Recipe and photo: NoshOn.It)
Traditionally a pasta dish, the primi kicks off the sit-down portion of an Italian meal. The best and most authentic recipes tend to be very simple, with fresh ingredients and a healthy dose of olive oil. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine to the table!
This is one of our favorite and most simple pasta dishes, aptly named “spaghetti with garlic and oil.” (Recipe and photo: NoshOn.It)
Simple and salty, a classic puttanesca includes capers, sardines, and olives that complement each other flawlessly. (Recipe and photo: Eat Good 4 Life)
The meat or fish dish follows the pasta and is often light on accompanying vegetables, which earn their own place in the meal.
Popular in Tuscany, this lamb dish is sure to warm you up and remind you of that stunning countryside. (Recipe and photo: Delights of Culinaria)
Made with marsala wine and shiitake mushrooms, this chicken dish is creamy and luscious. (Recipe and photo: Palachinka)
Italians know how and when to let vegetables shine on center stage. The contorni (side dish) isn’t necessarily meant to accompany anything. It simply provides an opportunity to enjoy produce the way it was meant to be.
There is nothing quite like perfectly roasted carrots to remind you how incredibly delicious these nutritious root vegetables can be. (Recipe and photo: A House in the Hills)
Quick-frying vegetables is a common trick to create melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Sprinkle these zucchini chips with parmesan cheese or dip them in garlic-loaded yogurt. (Recipe and photo: Give Recipe)
Your sweet tooth is calling! Italians have a number of custardy, chocolate-filled, or otherwise amazing options for ending your meal.
This popular Florentine recipe is just what you’d hope to find in any bakery or Italian matron’s home. It is, after all, Grandma’s pie. (Recipe and photo: Foodful Life)
Take the best vanilla ice cream or gelato available to you. Douse with strong and hot espresso. Enjoy, repeating as many times as necessary. (Recipe and photo: Sprinkles and Sauce)
Meant to aid digestion, a number of liqueurs like amaro and limoncello often grace the after-dinner table along with sweet dessert wines.
Especially along the coast of Italy, limoncello is a popular way to end a meal. Mix this homemade limoncello into a cocktail or sip it chilled like the Italians do. (Recipe and photo: From Which Things Grow)
This vodka and amaro loaded cocktail pairs grape-distilled vodka with amaro and bitters to yield a beautiful rich-colored drink. (Recipe and photo: One Martini)