During the warm spring and hot summer months, many welcome the excuse to dine “al fresco” with friends and family among the peaceful olive trees and luscious green hills. And since food is such an important part of Italian culture, even the picnics are nothing short of portable feasts.
For those of you who can’t make it to Tuscany for an authentic Italian style picnic, you can still recreate the experience by following these tips:
As with any outdoor event, location is key. Italians will often have their picnics in public parks or private gardens where they can eat comfortably in the shade and soak up the sun afterward. While you may not have access to the Cypress Tree filled parks of Italy, your best bet is to find a nook that is out of the way so as to enjoy a little peace and quiet with your meal.
If a picnic or portable table is not readily available, Italians are just as happy to relax on a blanket, towel or tablecloth.
Helpful picnic tip: Don’t let damp or wet grass ruin your picnic! Be sure to bring along a plastic tarp or an old shower curtain liner to place under your blankets to keep them dry.
Ah yes, the food. To start the mini-feast, most Italian picnics will feature a sizeable buffet of classic finger foods such as:
- Aged or soft cheeses like Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano or fresh Mozzarella
- Cured meats such as prosciutto, speck, salami or mortadella
- Cut vegetables (carrots, fennel, celery, etc.)
- Fresh fruit such as melon, figs and pears
- Italian bread, rolls or focaccia
If you think that’s enough food for one picnic, think again!
Depending on the size of the party, many Italians will also prepare cold dishes to add a little more “sostanza” -or substance- to the meal. These can range from simple first course recipes to “piatti unici” or one-dish meals. For example:
- Insalata di pasta fredda, rice or cous-cous
- Verdure ripieni (stuffed vegetables)
- Torte salate a.k.a. savory tarts or quiches
And to finish? No Italian picnic would be complete without fresh fruit. Cherries, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches or plums: whether diced up in a delicious salad or just sliced fresh, Italians end almost every meal -picnics too- with a sweet serving of seasonal fruit.
With such a magnificent picnic feast, there is only one ingredient missing: the wine.
When paired correctly, a glass of red -or on hot days- chilled white wine can make everything taste better, even bringing out the unique flavours in each food.
Choosing a wine can be tricky, but in the summer months Italians will generally opt for a simple Chianti Classico, a Rosé (or Rosato), or a semi-sparkling white wine like Prosecco.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the wine (both red and white) chilled on ice in a cooler or in the shade for best taste. Also, while paper and plastic cups are perfectly acceptable, wine is always more enjoyable in a glass.
Now you are ready to host an Italian picnic! Have fun and don’t forget to pack plenty of water, sunscreen and maybe even a little Pavarotti for some authentic Italian tunes. Buon Appetito!