Italian Food 101, “A Typical Italian Formal Meal”!

The typical Italian menu consists of four to five courses: Antipasto, Primo piatto, Secondo piatto, IL Contorno and IL Dolce.


Antipasto literally means "before the meal”. It is Aromi’s favorite course and is the first course of a formal Italian meal.
For a normal dinner you would choose 2 to 3 antipastos to serve with your dinner.
But… if you love Antipastos like we do you can go all out and have yourself an “Antipasto Dinner”,  prepare and serve only Antipastos’!!!
There are so many choices for an “Antipasto Italiano”. In a typical antipasto you will find a variety of Olives (lots of Olives!), Mushrooms (Porcini and wild mushrooms), many Jarred Vegetables in Olive Oil or Vinegar. Salumi (cured meats such as Soppressata, Prosciutto, Speck or a spreadable Soppressata called ‘Nduja from Calabria).

Prosciutto and Melone and Tomato with Mozzarella and Basil (Caprese) are an American favorites.
Cheeses; Mozzarella, Burata, Fontina, Provalone, Caciotta and Buffula.

In an antipasto you will find many cooked items also such as; Frittatas’, Polenta, Stuffed Peppers, Grilled Eggplant with mint, Stuffed Mushrooms, Roasted Peppers with Garlic and Olive oil, Stuffed Olive Ascolane, Olive Zeppoline and Seafood antipasto dishes include Seafood Salad Frutti di Mare, Grilled Octopus or Sardines, Shrimp Scampi, and Mussels in white wine.

Mamma Mia, the list goes on!

Oh, and let’s not forget the numerous choices of breads; Olive Bread, Ciabatta, Focaccia, Sardinian Carta Pane, all types of bread sticks and Treccine and a whole series of spreads and Pate’s to put on the bread.

There are sooo many antipasto choices! Depending on which of the 20 Italian regions you choose, you will find a huge variety based on local traditions.
(See our Antipasto section for some ideas)

 + Pair your antipasto with one of  our delicious Aromi Wines!! 

Primo Piatto

Il “Primo Piatto” is a big Italian favorite and is served soon after you have caught your breath from the Antipasto. It is usually a pasta dish (Spaghetti, Lasagne, Tortellini, Ravioli or any of the dozens of choices) but can also be a Zuppa or Minestra (soup) or a Risotto.
As with the other courses, depending on which Italian Region you are considering you will find ingredients specific to that area that make up the main ingredients of the recipe.
As a general rule of thumb the (but this not written in Stone) Il Primo Piatto plays off of the antipasto and as time goes by they have become more elaborate. So if fish is present in the antipasto some type of fish or shellfish may be part of the primo recipes such as risotto frutti di mare or linguini with clam sauce.
On the other hand if the antipasto is meat or vegetable based, the primo might be risotto with Porcini or to a meat based sauce such as Bolognese.
Many Italians at the lunchtime meal are opting to a larger antipasto and a Primo Piatto. The Secondos’ have become lighter but non the less flavorful.
Vegetable sauces which as lighter and can be prepared quicker than long simmering sauces more often are used as sauces for pastas and Primo Piatti. But a red sauce prepared with pork ribs is still king our book!
The combination of the sauce and the pasta can be left up to your personal view but some combinations but, some combinations You just don’t mess with!

See below some sauce and which pasta to pair it with;
Aglio e Olio- Spaghetti
All’Amatriciana- Bucatini
Bolognese- Tagliatelle
Burro e Salvia(Butter and Sage)- Gnocchi
Carbonara- Spaghetti or Penne
Frutti di Mare- Spaghetti or Arborio Rice
Napolitana (Sugo di Pomodoro con Basilico)- The pasta of your choice
Broccoli and Sausage- Orrecchiette
Pasta e Fagioli- Ditalini
Pesto- Cavatappi or Fusilli
Sugo di Pesce- Linguini

+ See the Aromi Pasta Pages and Recipe pages for more info.

Il Secondo Piatto

In a traditional Italian meal Il Second Piatti is the third course right after Il Primo Piatto.
Il Secondo Piatto is usually prepared with meat, fish, game or eggs.
As we mentioned early, Il Second Piatto may have taken a little bit of a back seat to the Antipasto and the Primo Piatto but there are numerous amazing Secondo Piatti in Italy!
The recipes are countless and again they are based on the regions of origin.

Some examples of regional Secondi Piatti are; The Fiorentina Steak in Florence, Veal Osso Buco in Lombardy, Lamb (braised, stewed and grilled) in southern Italy, small game birds roasted on a skewer in Veneto, roasted wild boar in Tuscany, Rabbit stew in Sardinia.
Pork, Chicken, Turkey and Fowl can be found throughout the regions prepared with an infinity of recipes, Porchetta allo spiedo in Lazio.
Italy is surrounded by sea on three sides so shortage of fish and fish recipes along the coast from Liguria on its western coast to Sicily in the south and back up to Friuli Venezia Giulia on its eastern coast.

Il Contorno

Il Contorno accompanies the main course. Often Il Contorno in Italy is served generally on a plate different from that of the Secondo and is smaller in size.
Typical Contornos’ can be mixed salads, Caprese salads, Arugula salads, Tomato salad, Cucumber salads  and many other types of salads.
A Contorno can be a variety of cooked, grilled or raw vegetables such Eggplant, Zucchini, Cabbage, Cauliflower or starches such as Corn, Beans or even Polenta.
Depending on your choice of Secondo, from which region your recipe is of origin and the season, your choice will definitely be different and exciting. So many ways to prepare the same vegetables and starches.

+See the Aromi Recipe and Contorno web page.

Il Dolce

Il Dolce is the last of food courses of a formal Italian meal. Il Dolce is a dessert but it is a little more specific, fruit and Ice cream are desserts but they are not Dolce. I Dolci Italiani are Pastries, Cakes, Budini (pudding) and Cookies.
Needless to say but again, just like the other courses there are so so many and they also region specific.

+ See the Aromi Web pages for Dolce items, Dolce Recipes and Dessert Wines