When I was very young, my parents would invite extended family and friends over for lunch on Sundays. These lunches would include a combination of homemade pastas, copious amounts of salads and a meat course with lots of vegetables. I will never forget kneading the pasta by hand, then rolling it over and over again to form beautiful tagliatelle, fettuccine and, of course, ravioli and tortellini.
We were time-poor, so everything we did was simple yet delicious: true Italian food is characterised by simplicity and flavour. We would start the meal with salads – radicchio and fennel, or witlof with apple, pear and Gorgonzola were favourites – and prosciutto sliced so thinly it would melt in your mouth. Sliced tomatoes with olives and spring onion, drizzled with the sweetest olive oil, fresh oregano and sea salt was another regular. But the dish that most often springs to mind is the simplest of homemade tagliatelle with a fresh tomato sauce. Stracciatella cheese or mozzarella could then be folded through to create a sublime combination of rich tomato and strings of melted cheese, causing havoc when trying to twirl it on your fork. This version can be made a day ahead if you like. It's a versatile recipe where you can substitute any meat, chicken or game, and it works well with either dry or fresh pasta.
Our family lunches would inevitably run into dinner, as we would start at about 2pm and finish at 10pm. Sweets were not really served, but rather cheese, fruit and nuts with a digestivo. Sharing and passing around various dishes while speaking loudly over each other is what I remember most fondly. All the chefs or cooks in my family were self-taught, passed down from each generation to the next willing mad person.