New Year’s Greetings from Viterbo, Italy~

Dinner in Viterbo, Sunday Jan 2 - Beyond the Pasta - Mark Leslie

Start off the New Year reducing your waist ~ Italian-Style

As an American I think we sometimes have the false idea that every Italian meal involves large volumes of food – nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, Italians do eat multiple courses, but the portion size of each of those courses is rather small.

It is the New Year and I am in Viterbo, Italy with the Stefani family – the family I wrote about in my book Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family. And since it is the New Year, I know that the American airwaves are crammed full of diets and resolutions to lose weight.

For the Stefanis in Italy, meals are about freshly cooked real food and attention to portion size. I thought I would share with you what I had for dinner tonight so you can see what I am talking about – here in this Italian home.

The first course was soup. Stracciatella – little rags – what I like to think of as the Italian version of egg drop soup. Beaten eggs mixed with a little grated cheese and lemon zest are cooked in a light broth. Because the egg mixture is added to almost boiling broth, it cooks quickly forming tiny pieces, which resemble rags – hence the name.

That simple soup was followed by the food in the photo above (going clockwise): pieces of sliced mortadella and speck (smoked prosciutto); a potato salad prepared with tuna, pickles, olives, and a little mayonnaise; gorgonzola cheese, cherry tomatoes, bread, and red and yellow peppers cooked simply with a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic.

What you see in the photo fed four people – quite happily fed four people. And we didn’t eat all of the potato salad, peppers, or meat – there were leftovers. Tonight’s meal was all about eating a little of this and a little of that.

“So, dinner lasted 30 minutes, right?”

Nope, dinner took two hours. As we sat and started with our soup, there was a lot of conversation before we ever moved on to the little buffet featured in the photo. There was no rushing through the meal. We took our time to enjoy the food and the company. You’d be surprised how full you can get when you actually take your time eating a meal. I can hear my grandmother yelling at us kids, “Slow down, chew your food, and don’t rush!” There was method to her madness back then, though I never realized it.

Before reaching for the next frozen diet dinner with the hopes of regaining your waistline once again, might I suggest that you take a moment to prepare a couple of simple dishes with real food, serve yourself some small portions, and eat it seated around a table with people you enjoy – taking your time to enjoy the company, conversation, and the food. I think you’ll be surprised at the positive results – in your waistline and the new discoveries made by sharing time with loved ones.

Happy New Year and Buon Appetito!