All I Know About Cooking I Learned From my Italian Mother-in-Law

Everything I ever knew about cooking I learned from my Italian mother-in-law! (Wouldn’t that have made a great title!?) But it’s not true. 🤔 I already knew how to cook, and didn’t need lessons from Mamma Anna. But she did teach me menu planning, albeit second hand. And I have learned a lot about cooking from living in Italy. (Eating with Italians is in itself a cooking lesson!)

I never had the privilege of getting to know my mother-in-law, as we lived far away. And by the time we moved closer, she had developed Alzheimer’s. But I got some helpful menu tips from her anyway!

Mamma Anna’s menu

Hubby often reminisced about his mother’s simple menu with the same meals every day of the week. For example, spaghetti every Sunday or pasta and beans on Monday. He liked knowing what to expect for supper each day. And he anticipated it throughout the day. (Is he Italian, or what?!?) 😉

But unlike Mamma Anna and her daughters, I didn’t inherit a strong cooking gene. Although I am a good cook, I don’t have the same passion for it. And even less for menu planning, which always stressed me out most of all!

Until I started following Mamma Anna’s menu, or my own version of it. It’s so simple. And easy to remember because it uses day-theming and alliteration. (Alliteration means pairing words starting with the same letter. Like Monday Meat or Friday Fish.) I know you’ll love it too! So let’s get started!

Mamma Anna’s Menu – my version

Monday Meat🥩 MEAT (beef, lamb, veal, pork, etc.)
Tuesday Beans🥣 BEANS & Legumes (beans, lentils, split peas, tofu, etc.)
Wednesday Wings🍗 POULTRY (chicken, turkey, duck, goose, etc.)
Thursday Eggs🥚 EGGS & Dairy (eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese)
Friday Fish🐟 FISH & Seafood
Saturday Soup🥪 SOUP or Salad + Sandwiches
Sunday Spaghetti🍝 PASTA

Need a plan for your lighter meal too? You could have sandwiches or leftovers. Or mix the main meal menu up a bit, adding lighter dishes. Or try a typical Italian supper of tomato salad, salame, olives, and bread. With veggies preserved in oil (eggplants, artichokes, etc.)

  • Monday Macaroni
  • Tuesday Taters
  • Wednesday Casseroles
  • Thursday Dairy (eggs & cheese)
  • Friday Fowl (poultry)
  • Saturday Sandwiches
  • Sunday Seafood (fish)

With these suggestions, Monday’s main meal would center around a main dish of meat (like beef stew). Then you could serve a light macaroni casserole for your lighter meal.

Planning your meal and shopping

  • Once you have listed your main dishes, add side dishes from the other food groups. This ensures a varied, well-balanced diet, which dieticians consider key to healthy nutrition.
  • Make a list of favorite recipes to choose from every day. For example, Monday Meat could include meat loaf, pepper steak, beef stew, and meatballs.
  • Plan your shopping list around the dishes for that week. Add plenty of in-season fruits and vegetables. And check your supply of basic grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
  • Choose your recipe early in the morning, which will allow time for defrosting things. And happy cooking!

This menu ensures a well-balanced, varied diet. And by using in-season produce it’s also frugal! Plus I can swap days if necessary, depending on how much time we have.

But above all it’s so simple and easy to remember! Give it a try and you’ll thank Mamma Anna too!

Images: Salad by Daria-Yakovleva |Emojis from Emojipedia | Spaghetti Image ponce_photography.

4 replies on “All I Know About Cooking I Learned From my Italian Mother-in-Law”

Oh yes Linda I’m sure that with your crowd, you have to plan 3 full meals a day! But still, the same principle could be applied for all the meals. And anyway, buon appetito!!


You’re so right, Nancy! This strategy has worked for me, and I’m so glad. Because trying to decide what to cook when I got up each day was stressful. And now hubby gets to savor the thought of the meal all morning long, just like when he was growing up! Thanks, my friend!

Liked by 1 person

Share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.