A typical Italian meal consists of a slightly different order of courses than you may be used to and would usually start off with Antipasto which would be a selection of fresh and dried meat and cheese, served with maybe bruschetta and some kind of savoury/sweet marmalade, such as a delicious one they make from grapes when they have some left over from wine making, (not very often this happens, but hey!)
I found that by having something like this to start with, I was certainly not left starving and waiting for the next course! I have now started making bruschetta at home which is a great way of using up left-over bread and those few tomatoes which always seem to lurk at the bottom of the fridge. Simply add some torn basil, (great if you grow some in your back garden,) a drizzle of Aldi olive oil and season to taste for a tasty and cheap starter.
Their next course, (Primi piatti) would then generally be pasta with quite a simple tomato sauce. This is probably a hang-over from the days when money was in short supply and was designed to fill you up before the next course, (Secondi piatti,) which would be meat. If you think about it, it’s the same as the original way in which we used to eat Yorkshire pudding, which was before the beef and meant to fill you up so you didn’t need a huge portion of meat. It’s only as time has gone on have we started to have the Yorkshires served with the beef, and not before.
Not all Italians make their own pasta and they are actually huge advocates of the many dried varieties which are now available in the likes of Aldi and Lidl. You can pick up a huge pack of dried pasta in these stores for less than a pound and if you make a fresh tomato sauce, (you’ll often find that tomatoes are one of Aldi’s Super 6,) you really can feed the family very cheaply indeed.
Again use their olive oil, a hint of garlic, fresh or tinned tomatoes and some basil and the only expensive thing you need to make an authentic dish would be a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. This can also often be bought very cheaply dried from Aldi and lasts for a long time. Also as the cheese is so strong smelling and tasting, often only a little is needed to get the desired effect.
If you still have room then now is the time to serve the meat course which would never be accompanied by carbs. So think of griddled veg or salad as an accompaniment instead. The last course (if you still have room!) is then Dolce, which literally translates as ‘sweet.’ Not always do you have to have Tiramisu, (I do, but that’s another story!) but it is quite acceptable to finish a meal with fresh fruit.
So if you think about it, plan carefully and shop wisely, then you too could easily be living ‘La Dolce Vita’, (the sweet life,) without it costing you a fortune, or your health!