With the arrival of summer in Italy, there are many things that make the change in seasons particularly obvious. The temperature changes from cool to hot, the general pace of life in the country slows down as everybody’s mood shifts to one that is more relaxed, and people look forward to some well-deserved days (or weeks) of rest, recreation, and vacation, of course. In Italy, however, a country that passionately loves its food, this shift is also reflected in every meal and table, and the heavier and warmer winter food is replaced by the considerably lighter summer dishes.
One of the main points of difference between winter and summer fare would be the method of preparation, because while winter dishes are more often than not boiled or stewed, summer dishes tend to be quicker and easier to prepare. This can be mostly attributed to the fact that nobody wants to slave away in a hot kitchen on a sweltering, hot summer day!
For starters, a lot of popular Italian summer food and dishes are picnic-friendly, which basically means that the easier it is to make and pack inside a picnic basket (maybe for a road trip or lunch at the park on a sunny day), the better. This makes sandwiches, light salads and antipasti (appetizer platters that are usually composed of meat slices, cheese, and maybe some olives, tomatoes, or fruit) particularly popular.
Pasta and risotto, though a bit heavy in the tummy, are still staples in every Italian household, and the change is mostly seen in the types of sauces used with it. In the summer, heavy, meaty, and creamy sauces are replaced with simpler ones such as pesto. Summer is also the season for simple tomato-based sauces because fresh tomatoes are plentiful at this time, and what better way to make use of all those fresh vegetables of the season than to turn it into delicious, homemade tomato sauce? Sometimes, people even make do without the sauce entirely, and instead just toss the pasta with some garlic or onions, some herbs, salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of cheese. Simple, fast, and light.
Summer is also the season of seafood, and various types of fish and shellfish can be found in a lot of salads, pastas, or served on its own. Seafood is particularly popular because it is light, refreshing, tasty, and best of all, it cools quickly. Of course, meat is also very much on the menu, and the preparation for both meat and seafood tend to be either by quickly frying it (again, to minimize the time one has to spend in a hot kitchen), or by grilling it outdoors where heat won’t be an issue.
Of course, it being summer, this is also the best season for a lot of fruits and vegetables, and the Italians like to enjoy and make use of the local produce while it is at its freshest and yummiest. For vegetables, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and zucchini (along with its blossoms) are particularly abundant and are often served in fresh in salads, or stuffed and then cooked. Meanwhile, for fruits, summer is when peaches and watermelons are the stars of most meals and get-togethers. Fruits may be chilled and eaten on their own, served with some cold cuts, or can also be found in the form of another Italian summer staple, the delicious gelato!
As an added tip, summer is also the perfect season to get preserves, as people are processing the season’s products and are stocking up in preparation for the next winter. Whether you want some jam, pickles, liqueur, or any other type of preserved or pickled fruit or vegetable, summer is the best time to get the tastiest and freshest batches from almost any grocer in town who will be lining their shelves with rows upon rows of these preserves. If you’re feeling more hands-on though, those same grocers will, more often than not, also be selling jars and tins, as well as other related supplies, so you can make your own preserves to suit your preferences. You basically wouldn’t lack of options on how you want to get your stash of preserves for this year.
So there you have it. If you’re planning to have your own Italian summer-themed spread, the general rule of thumb would just be to have food that is light, tasty, and easy to prepare. However, why settle for just an Italian-themed meal? Take our word for it, and go on your own Italy vacation to sample these delicious Italian summer meals yourself!
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