Italian breakfast is "fast" and sweet. It is never too complicated because, in the morning, Italians do not have time. While we take our time for lunches and dinners, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. Italian colazione is mainly a shot of espresso and something sweet to eat on the go. Even on a lazy Sunday, we do not spend time cooking for breakfast. With our cappuccino, we just have a slice of sweet cake, cookies or bread, butter, and jam.
Many Italians prefer to have their "colazione al bar", standing at the counter of our local cafe enjoying cappuccino and cornetto (Italian croissants) .
Italian croissants are very different from the French equivalent.
While the French croissant is buttery and crispy, the Italian croissant is very sweet and usually filled with jam, vanilla cream or chocolate.
Even if our breakfast lasts only a few minutes, we can chat about the weather and football with strangers.
Italians never miss an opportunity for socializing!
A perfect way to start the day!
On a Sunday, breakfast time is more relaxing, after Mass for the very religious.
First, we buy the newspaper, and then we stop at the bakery to have our breakfast and buy some pastries to bring home for our Sunday dinners.
- Cornetti: in Italian, meaning small horns. They are the Italian version of the french croissant, usually sweeter than the French version and filled with cream, jam,
- Brioche is a typical Sicilian breakfast pastry, also called brioscia. It is a soft, slightly sweet bread flavored with orange zest. It is round-shaped with a small, round ball of dough on top. Perfect for soaking in the cappuccino or a coffee granita. In the summer is cut in half and filled with gelato
- Bomboloni is a fried Italian doughnut dusted with sugar and filled with vanilla cream or chocolate
- Maritozzi are a popular breakfast food in Rome, Lazio. They are sweet bread buns cut in half and filled with whipped cream, custard cream or chocolate
- Sfogliatelle are a classic pastry from Naples. They are made with millefoglie pastry and shaped like a folding fan. They are filled with ricotta cream and candied fruits
For those who go out partying on a Saturday night, they will skip breakfast all together, drink a quick espresso and have lunch as their first meal of the day.
While an Italian breakfast at the cafe is lavish and sweet, a typical Italian breakfast at home is completely different.
Something quick to eat that doesn't require cooking: cakes, cookies, or bread and jam.
What do Italians eat for breakfast at home?
When we have breakfast at home, we don't eat all those complicated pastries you find at bars/cafes.
Italian food like Cornetti, brioche, bomboloni, maritozzi have to be freshly made, especially if filled with cream.
The pastry becomes stale and soggy the next morning and we don't like to waste calories on bad food.
At home we keep our breakfast choices very simple and easy to serve at the table.
Traditional Italian breakfast foods
Italian breakfast was traditionally made of sweet food like baked loaves or bundt cakes ciambelle and crostate served at room temperature.
Usually made with simple ingredients that don't need refrigeration and keep well for a few days.
For a fast, simple breakfast, we would have "pane burro e marmellata": bread, butter and jam.
Nowadays, people got used to buying breakfast cookies, packaged brioche or croissant "merendine" or breakfast cereals.
You may be surprised to know that Italians eat their cereals with warm milk.
Not an Italian breakfast
Italians don't cook or bake in the morning!
We DO NOT have savory breakfast and don't eat frittata, sausage, eggs or fresh vegetables for breakfast, as you read around the web.
There is no such thing as an Italian breakfast casserole.
Traditional breakfast drinks
Italians normally accompany their breakfast with warm drinks like espresso coffee, caffelatte or hot chocolate (cioccolata calda) for children.
Italian hot chocolate is very thick, almost like a pudding "budino" and you need to eat it with a spoon
Sometime we add a little milk to our espresso and we call it caffe macchiato.
We also drink cold fruit juices like peach, pear, apricot or orange juice.
In the summer we substitute hot coffee with:
- Coffee granita is iced coffee served with crushed ice and topped with whipped cream
- Caffe freddo is simply iced espresso coffee
- Crema di caffe is a creamy coffee semifreddo you can drink or eat with a spoon
Italian breakfast table
An Italian breakfast table is usually very simple.
We would have our espresso cups, or a large bowl for caffe latte, and plates for a slice of cake or bread with butter and jam.
At the center of the table a basket full of bread, or packaged sweet cookies or Italian croissant.
Popular Italian breakfast item
These are the Italian breakfast items you will find in any Italian kitchen:
- Moca Bialetti: old fashion espresso machine
- Illy Caffe: best espresso coffee
- Stackable Espresso cups: as we usually have several expresso cups, we like the stackable ones that use less space in the cupboard
- Small milk frothing pitcher in Stainless Steel: Italian drink their milk warm, either in the cappuccino or caffe latte, so we need a stainless steel pitcher to either frost the milk in the espresso machine or heat it up on the stovetop
Note: Lavazza, like Barilla, is not a good quality brand. They are mass produced and therefore large distribution and marketing but in Italy they are not recognized as prime quality.
Most adults like to have a healthy breakfast during the week, and this is what we would normally have with our coffee espresso:
- Fette biscottate are Italian crisp, dry, and lightly sweetened toast very light to digest. They are made with durum wheat flour, traditionally eaten during breakfast, accompanied by butter, jam, honey or plain.
- Yogurt plain or with fruit
- Seasonal fresh fruit, usually an apple, orange, or banana in winter and peaches, nectarine or prunes in Summer
Italian easy breakfast recipes
Here you will find a list of easy recipes you can make for an Italian breakfast:
Cakes that do not need refrigeration
Here is a list of cakes you can bake on the weekend and keep for the week. The do not need to be refrigerated so you can grab a slice and dip it in your caffelatte.
You wouldn't want to eat something cold in the morning.
Not Italian but suitable for an Italian breakfast
These are not strictly Italian recipes, but they well adapt to an Italian breakfast table:
Italians would have a collection of cookies from the brand Mulino Bianco, they have done an excellent marketing campaign and conquered the majority of the Italian breakfast cookies market.
However, if you like me prefer to make them at home, here are some easy biscotti you can prepare for the week.
Bread butter and homemade jams
Pane, burro e marmellata is a classic Italian breakfast.
If you like to bake the bread yourself or make your own fruit preserve, here are some ideas:
Breakfast during festivities
Panettone, Pandoro or Colomba Pasquale are some classic festivities desserts we would have for breakfast.
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For more information about Italian cuisine history, tradition, and culture, you can read: 77 traditional Italian ingredients and best brands, 36 Essential Herbs And Spices Used In Italian Cooking, history of traditional Italian food by region, 32 most popular Italian street food, Italian Sunday dinner a 6 meal courses, Italian table setting and etiquette
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