Food is an incredibly important part of Italian culture and Italians take great pride in their traditions, and mealtime in Italy is a vital part of the daily routine, an opportunity for connection with family, and socialization with good friends. It is also a healthful part of life, as traditional dishes are prepared using the freshest ingredients and cooked to maintain the rich natural flavours and nutrients.
Traditionally, the largest and most important meal of the day is the midday meal. This meal commonly lasts two or more hours, giving the family a chance to catch up on the happenings of the day and allowing them the time it takes to truly enjoy the flavours of the classic Italian cuisine. Modern culture has, of course, affected this tradition somewhat, but many Italians still hold to this tradition every chance they get, especially on weekends and holidays.
The midday meal is typically a three to five course meal (no wonder it takes two hours to enjoy!). The meal begins with the antipasto, which literally means “before the meal”, followed by the primo, which is a small serving of pasta. The secondo is the main course, which consists of small portions of meat, poultry or fish. The contorno, a selection of vegetables, accompanies the main dish. The meal finishes with the dolce, or dessert.
Meal times tend to be later in the day in Italy, so the large midday meal could occur sometime around 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Dinner is often 8:00 p.m. or later, which is why this meal is often lighter. Different regions in Italy have different traditions and specialties that the people local to the area are often very proud of.
Gino d'Acampo - Napoletana Pizza
For the dough
- 8 oz plain flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried yeast
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3-4 fl oz hot water (not boiling)
- Olive oil
For the topping
- 8 oz can tomatoes, drained
- 1 table spoon tomato puree
- 5 oz block of fresh Mozzarella cheese
- A sprinkle of Parmesan, grated
- A handful fresh basil, chopped (or a teaspoon dried)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
1. For the dough; pour 30z of hot water into a bowl. Whisk the sugar, then the yeast. Leave to one side until frothy (about 15-20 minutes).
2. In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt together, in another bowl beat the egg. When the yeast mixture is frothy, add it to the flour, then add the egg and mix it all into a dough with your hands. When the dough is mixed, it should not be dry. If it is, add a little splash of water. Also, it should not stick to the bowl. If it does, add a little extra flour. Place the dough on a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it’s really smooth and elastic.
3. Put the dough back in the large bowl and rub all over with olive oil. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm part of the room to rise. This should take about an hour. You can leave it for as long as 6 hours, so you can do this anytime. It will also keep in the fridge for a few days. When it has doubled in size, knead again for about 5 minutes and roll out flat.
4. Take the baking tin or pizza stone and brush with olive oil. Lay out the dough on to it.
5. For the topping; drain the tomatoes with a sieve and rub them through the sieve into a bowl. Add the tomato puree and half the basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread out over the pizza. Slice the mozzarella thinly and distribute evenly over the pizza. Add the rest of the basil and a small sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Sprinkle a little more olive oil over the top. Leave to one side for about 20 minutes and heat the oven to 4225f. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
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