Italian is an interesting language, with lots of sneaky ways to give a slightly different meaning to your words. A while ago I mentioned the masculine and feminine version of each word, which can be a problem for us foreigners. Another way in which Italians change their words, is with a suffix. The most widely used of these must be the diminutive suffix. Technically, all the diminutive suffix does is make things smaller: gatto, a cat; gattino, a small cat. A kitty, if you will.
Then there’s also a suffix used to make things bigger. I love it. In English you can make things smaller (horsey, doggy, sweetie et cetera) but a suffix that makes things bigger was new to me. Of course, in English you can add something like ‘mega’ or ‘super’, but it’s just not the same – mega is a word onto itself, whereas the Italian suffix –one can only live if it’s attached to another word, like some sort of wordy parasite. Plus, the Italians put their mega suffix to creative use, and sometimes they use it change a word’s meaning. For instance, guanto, glove; guantone, boxing glove. Barba, beard; barbone, homeless person. See what they did there?
Anyway, both the diminutive and the mega suffix are also used slyly to make things sound better. Just as we might go for ‘a cheeky wee drink’ (and end up completely sloshed after 6 pints and a round of shots), here people might eat ‘un gelatino‘ (a tiny ice cream), drink ‘un bicchierino di vino‘ (a small glass of wine) or leave the car parked on the zebra crossing for just ‘un attimino‘ (a brief moment).
Of course, the opposite is valid, too, as proven by the insalatona. This is essentially a salad, but they present it as a sort of full meal around here. This insalatona is not just any salad – that would be an insalata. An insalatona is a giant salad, and therefore worthy of being classified as dinner. Well, they’re not fooling me with their sneaky suffixes – a salad is a salad. But I suppose now that it’s getting hot and stuffy here in Turin, having something cold for dinner is not actually such a bad idea, especially if it’s something filling and deeply savoury. This type of weather calls for a salade Niçoise. It’s one of those classics, so I’m pretty sure that there’s one correct way to prepare it, and this it not it. This is mine, and I like it.
For a whole bunch of people:
- 1 kg of potatoes
- half a kg of green beans
- 4 eggs
- a good handful of black olives
- 200 gr cherry tomatoes
- 1 tin of tuna
For the vinaigrette:
- half a tbsp grainy mustard
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- juice of half a lemon
- some sugar, some black pepper
So peel, cut (in eighths), and boil your potatoes. Clean your green beans and cook them. Boil your eggs, drain, and peel.
In the meantime, as all of your stuff is boiling, make your vinaigrette. Mix all your vinaigrette ingredients together and stir like a mental. OK, done.
So chuck your potatoes and your green beans in a big ass bowl together. Add in 2/3 of the vinaigrette, then mix well. Now add the other ingredients in a way that is pleasing to the eye. By this I mean: pile cherry halved tomatoes, quartered eggs, olives and tuna on top of the tatties and green beans.
Top with the final 1/3 of the vinaigrette. Then just eat it.