- Breakfast (a cup of coffee and perhaps a pastry) upon arising;
- Luncheon at about 12:00;
- A more substantial dinner seven hours later.
Artusi doesn't say anything about how the meals should be organized, because he assumed his readers would know.
If you've never been to Italy you may well not, even if you enjoy cooking Italian dishes -- the few times I have eaten in Italian restaurants abroad the meals haven't been anything like what I'd serve at home in Tuscany.
The portions are generally larger, and, more importantly, the meals have been organized as a primary entree, be it pasta, meat, or fish, with some sort of side dish. My father-in-law, who is quite traditional when it comes to food, would be aghast. Not just because of variations in the serving patterns, but because the tone of the meal changes as well, becoming more hurried.
Culinarily, Italy is an incredibly diverse country: Dishes, ingredients, cooking times, and seasonings change radically from one region to the next.
However, the basic philosophy of the meal, seen as an occasion for friends or family to gather around the table and share a relaxed interval before leaping back into the fray (during the work week) remains constant.
A weekday lunch will begin with a primo, or first course, a deep-dish plate of soup, risotto, or pasta of one sort or another. The serving size is about a cup, or perhaps slightly more, and is not intended to be a full meal. In restaurant meals or festive dinners there may be several first courses, for example a risotto, a pasta dish, and ravioli, but their total volume will still be about a cup. By the way, this is called an assaggio di primi, a sampling of firsts.
The primo will be followed by a secondo, a fish, meat, egg or vegetable-based main course with a side dish chosen to complement it (for example, scottiglia, a hearty Tuscan stew, might be accompanied by boiled spinach squeezed dry and sautéed with olive oil and garlic). Again, portions are small -- about a quarter pound of the second course, plus a serving of the side dish, and bread. And again, in especially festive occasions there may be more than one secondo. Lunch will usually close with fresh fruit, and a demitasse of espresso.
Taken as a whole,the meal is extremely balanced: carbohydrates from the first course and the bread, proteins from the first and second courses, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables and the fruit.
A festive meal such as a Sunday family get-together will be a bit more elaborate: There will likely be one or more antipasti (appetizers), and there will be, in addition to fruit, cheese and some sort of dessert, either a pudding, pastries, or a store-bought cake.
In all cases there will also be wine. Indeed, a Piemontese dinner with its rich cheese-based appetizers and hearty braised meats would be but a shadow of itself without a glass of Barolo or Barbaresco, while the fritto misto (mixed fried meats and vegetables) that's such a nice second course on a summer day would seem hopelessly cumbersome were there not a zesty Chianti Classico d'Annata to clear the palate between bites.
In a festive meal there may be several wines, chosen to complement their courses, and there will likely be a bottle of sweet sparkling wine with the dessert.
The organization of an Italian dinner? It can follow the same pattern as lunch, or be much lighter, for example a bowl of soup or some fruit. Assuming you don't decide to go for pizza.
Having said all this:
What will you need to prepare an Italian meal at home?