In Italy, pasta is generally eaten as a first course (primo piotto or just primo) as part of the main meal of the day. This may be at lunchtime or in the evening, depending on family circumstances and whether the meal is served during the week or on the weekend. The meal usually begins with antipasto, which is followed by a primo piotto of either soup, pasta, rice or gnocchi. Pasta used to be served as a lunchtime first course when lunch was traditionally the main meal of the day, but now that more and more Italian women are working outside the home, these customs are changing and there are fewer hard-and-fast rules about lunch and dinner. After the primo piotto, the second course. secondo piotto, is served. This is either fish or meat followed by vegetables or salad, then cheese, fresh fruit and coffee. Desserts are normally reserved for special occasions.
When pasta is served as a first course, the usual amount is 21/2-31/2 ounces uncooked weight per person. Sauce is added sparingly, tossed with the freshly drained hot pasta in the kitchen, and the mixture is then brought to the table in one large bowl. By the time the pasta reaches the dining room it has mingled with the sauce and taken on some of its flavor. In some homes the bowl is passed around the table and everyone helps themselves, while in others one person does the serving. When you are serving pasta directly from the bowl, it looks most attractive if you retain a small ladleful of the sauce to put on top of the pasta after tossing, then sprinkle with cheese or herbs at the last moment.
If it suits your lifestyle best to serve pasta as a main course for lunch or supper, simply increase the weight of uncooked pasta to 4-6 ounces per person and make more sauce. For convenience, you may prefer to serve pasta in shallow soup plates or bowls or on dinner plates. Warm these beforehand and serve and eat the pasta as soon as possible so that it can be enjoyed at its best. If you accompany your main course with a fresh green salad and follow with some fresh fruit, you will have a tasty, nutritious and supremely satisfying meal. Buon Appetito!