Italian Meal Ideas and Customs: Do You Skip Breakfast?

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Italian meal ideas, festive spread

I’ve never been a big breakfast eater. I mean, I enjoy a good breakfast. (Diced and salted avocado on fried egg over toast, anyone?) I’m just not one of those you-will-die-if-you-don’t-eat- breakfast-every-day people. I actually prefer to eat a bit later in the morning. Who knew it might be because I’m Italian? I recently joined a Facebook group that features Italian meal ideas and customs.

It was there that I learned it is quite typical of Italians to skip breakfast. In fact, my own preference for a later morning snack or light fare may simply be, as they say, “in my blood.” Are you a breakfast skipper? You might be Italian!

Traditional Italian meal ideas follow a pattern

There’s a structure to a traditional Italian meal. If you’re full-blooded Italian, you likely grew up eating this way. At least, on big occasions when all the relatives stopped by (which might have been several times a week!) your meal was probably served in courses..

We Italians are lingerers. There’s no cram-it-down-and-get-back-to-work DNA in our bodies. Nope. We’d much rather sit around the table with you for hours on end, sipping things, tasting things, laughing and talking (somewhat loudly perhaps). If you want to eat like a true Italian, there are a few things to know.

Merenda is for those who skip breakfast

In Italian, ‘merenda’  basically means ‘snack.’ If you like the Italian meal ideas that include skipping breakfast, then you might enjoy a merenda later in the morning.

Italian meal ideas are all about the cena, or supper. There are several types of supper in Italy. The most traditional style involves numerous courses that add up to a delectable dining experience. And, guess what? I have always preferred eating my salad after my main course. Turns out, that is a common feature of cena!

Italian meal ideas for cena

Italians open their dining extravaganzas with appetizers or aperitivo. If you’re serving supper Italian style, you might follow this with an antipasto (or skip the aperitivo altogether). If you’re a non-Italian who saw that and immediately thought, “Antipasto is salad!” you are incorrect! Insalata, or salad, comes much later in the meal.

Antipasto can be anything from shrimp cocktail to salami, olives, cheeses and prosciutto. Next up for traditional Italian meal ideas is the primo course, which typically includes all that wonderful pasta we love so much. Secondi (Think: second main course) follows primo and this is where meat dishes make a grand entrance!

Still no salad

At this point, you might be thinking Italian meal ideas should include something similar to a seventh inning stretch. LOL
However, you’ve still got some eatin’ to do because cena wouldn’t be complete without cortono or — sidedishes!

Cortono might include raw, cooked, cold or hot veggies. You’re supposed to present them on a separate platter from the meat. It is only after cortono that insalata arrives. Yes, Italians eat salad right before dessert (dolce). Then again, the most authentic Italian meal ideas would actually feature formaggi et frutta (after dinner fruit) in between insalata and dolce. The latter is dessert, perhaps gelatto, cake or sorbetto.

2 more courses in Italian meal ideas

I mighta’  coulda’ shoulda’ started this post with a strong recommendation to wear stretchy pants when dining Italiano style. As if you won’t be feeling full enough already, a typical cena still has two course left, the first of which is caffe. Yes, coffee is an entire course in a traditional Italian meal.

Your finale is digestivo, which you might have guessed means ‘digestion’ — if you’re Italian, you drink more drinks after coffee to help you digest. Such drinks might include herbal concoctions or some delicious limoncello.

So, there you have it

The next time you skip breakfast or eat your salad after the main course, simply say you’re feeling your Italian roots. Not Italian? That’s okay because tradition has it, there are only two types of people: Italians and wanna’ be’s! ROTFALOL

No Italian meal ideas would be complete without a yummy recipe. This guy is my favorite Italian chef! Do yourself a favor and try his chicken parmigiana. It’s delizioso! Don’t forget to play some festive Italian music while you’re cooking! And, “Doe-na-forgetta-da-veeno” (Translation: Don’t forget the wine!) while you cook! Cin Cin! (Cheers!)

No time to cook?

If you’re life is way too crazy-busy at the moment to prepare and enjoy an 8-course Italian meal, no worries! I’ve got your back! Try these easy-peasy crock pot meal ideas, instead!

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