I’ve often wondered how Italian mammas could endure boiling pots of pasta in their kitchens during those incredibly hot summer days. Surely they had an escape plan guaranteed to bring smiles to the faces of their families at the dinner table. So what did they prepare? How did they escape the heat of their summertime kitchens?
The answer is surprisingly similar to our own methods. With a little thought and creativity, the Italians have mastered the art of delicious cold meals that move them through the hot time of the year without any sense of compromise.
Caprese Salad – Who hasn’t enjoyed a fresh Caprese Salad. Juicy sun ripe tomatoes sliced with fresh mozzarella cheese topped with basil leaves and lavish amounts of local olive oil are a favorite. Add some bread for a delicious panino, an Italian sandwich, and you have a complete meal.
Prosciutto and Melone – Sweet and salty, this combination is perfect served with fresh focaccia bread.
Pasta Fredda – This is the equivalent to our cold pasta salad. Cold pasta may not sound very appealing, but served drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Parmesan, Romano, mozzarella, or ricotta cheese it is transformed into a tasty meal. As with Rosso Freddo below, meats, olives, or mushrooms can be added too.
Risso Freddo – Just like cold pasta, cold rice doesn’t sound necessarily appetizing. However, with the addition of vegetables, olives, fava beans, hard-boiled eggs, diced salumi, or whatever else sounds good, it becomes the perfect backdrop for a complete meal.
Affettati – These are sliced Italian cold cuts and they are always welcome especially with a glass of vino and a side of cheeses. A tagliere is a board with several kinds of sliced meats and fun to taste for variety. These are often served on or with small slices of bread or crostini as well.
Panino – Then there is always the good old Italian sandwich filled with meats, cheeses, or just veggies. They are considered a lunch for the most part, but I’ve eaten them any time of the day to beat the heat.
Gelato – Only one gelato a day? Think again…nothing is as refreshing as gelato in hand while walking through the city. Consider that the fruit gelato contains much less milk and is easier on the waistline than the creamier ones. So there you have it. Enjoy them whenever you can and don’t count.
A spinoff that I especially find refreshing is the affogato, a cup of vanilla or coffee gelato with a splash of espresso over it. While walking the towns and villages of Italy, I depend on these for my afternoon pick-me-up.
Granita – Originally from Sicily, this is a semi-frozen dessert with fruit flavors that are similar to sorbet. It tends to have a coarser, more crystalline texture than sorbet and less compact. Chunks of fruit can also be added.
When in Italy, do as the Italians do and enjoy these delicious summertime treats. Then head to the beach for that cool, refreshing dip while you wait for that dreamy Italian sunset.
What Italian treats have you enjoyed the most during the hot summer days? Please feel free to share your experiences. I’d love to read them.