Lunch

Lunch

By
Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi
Contains
18 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781784881191
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Italians still take their l’ora di pranzo (lunch hour) as a sacred time to eat good food, catch up with family or friends and relax, many still finding time to take a short nap. According to statistics agency ISTAT, over 74 per cent of Italians still manage to eat lunch at home.

Unemployment and the economic downturn during the country’s longest post-war recession means money is tight and it goes further on food prepared at home than eaten out. Many young adults cannot afford to move out and it’s not unusual to find children still living at home until the age of 30. Older relatives are looked after by the family as much as possible and often a retired mum at home will look after her grandchildren so that their parents can work, so lunch at home could easily be a three or four generational affair.

Those in cities go to local, independent trattorie that serve good and inexpensive food cooked on the premises, and offer perhaps a two-course lunch from a limited menu. Or, they go out for a freshly-made panino. Italy has still not surrendered to our sandwich-at-the-desk culture and most Italians care very much about what they eat.

I was horrified to be told that in a school near us in the UK teachers and students were given their lunch in a polystyrene box so that they can eat in a 15-minute break while they go from classroom to classroom. Any of our Italian friends would be aghast by this lack of respect for food and for the time given to it.

We try to follow the Italian system wherever we are. L’ora di pranzo is a break from work and time to enjoy food prepared quickly at home or in a local trattoria. This chapter is full of quick and easy meals that take less than 40 minutes to make, from start to finish. Most Italians will eat a bowl of pasta at home with a ragù or homemade sauce. The ragù recipes are in the fresh pasta section but they also go well with dried pasta, so do make a batch on a weekend and use it up during the week, Italian style.

When Giancarlo was growing up his father would collect fresh herbs and vegetables every day from the fields and his tiny herb garden. These would form lunch or be served with a bigger meal later that day. This meant that Giancarlo’s family were always eating seasonally. In winter, leaves of cavolo nero were picked after the first frost and made into Black Kale Bruschetta. In summer, salads were made such as panzanella, a simple dish of tomato, cucumber and yesterday’s bread soaked in water.

Pasta for lunch...

Lunch is the time in Tuscany to eat pasta. In most households you will find pots of ragù or tomato sauce in the fridge for just such a time. We sometimes have a ball of leftover pasta dough in the fridge, so all I need to do is quickly roll it through the pasta machine and drop the strands into boiling water for a couple of minutes to make a quick lunch. However, dried pasta is perfectly acceptable and its quick cooking time makes it perfect for a meal when you have little time for preparation. Many Italians also eat it in the evening, or late into the night, but always in small portions. Giancarlo remembers preparing un spaghettata in the early hours of the morning after a night’s dancing: he would boil up pasta and serve it with a little chilli, splashes of new olive oil, a handful of chopped parsley and some of the local sheep’s cheese.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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