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Planning an Italian Dinner Party, Beginning with a Cook's Dream

May 06, 2011 02:21PM ● Published by Anonymous


For our wedding, my dad's side of the family all chipped in a beautiful set of shiny, high-quality pots and pans. I think I now have more skillets/sauté pans/frying pans than I know what to do with! Let me tell you, this is a serious upgrade from the mish-mash of pots and pans I had before, which were a conglomeration of hand-me-downs from old college roommates, a pot or two I “borrowed” from my parents when I left for college, and a $40 set I bought on sale at Macy’s a few years ago when I moved into my first apartment.

 

 

Along with the gift came a gorgeous, heavy lasagna pan and a cookbook, “Essentials of Italian Cooking.”


It’s been one day, and I am OBSESSED With this cookbook. If I were ever to cook my way through a book, a la “Julie and Julia,” I think this might be the one. As it is, I’m already planning my first Italian dinner party using recipes entirely from this book. The question is…which recipes should I use?


I think, to start, I would have to serve a basic tomato bruschetta, along with baked stuffed mushroom caps. The mushroom caps are stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, pancetta, basil, and garlic, and my mouth waters every time I think about them.

Next would be the pasta course. Now, I’ve never served an actual pasta course before, just pasta as an entrée. But for the purposes of this meal, I think a pasta course is in order. The book has an immense amount of sauces to serve over pasta, fresh or dried, and for this dinner party, I’m going to choose Pasta served with Eggplant and Ricotta Sauce. I’m not typically a fan of ricotta, but this sauce – made with olive oil, onion, garlic, plum tomatoes, romano cheese, ricotta, and bail – just sounds divine. The book recommends serving the sauce over rigatoni pasta (broad, short tubes), so that’s what I will do.

Let’s move on to the main course. I’ve barely made my way through the poultry section of the cookbook when I know that I’m going to be making Chicken Fricassee, Cacciatora Style. My mom always made chicken cacciatore growing up, and while I’ve made a dumbed-down slow-cooker Weight Watchers version, I’m excited to dabble in a true Chicken Cacciatore recipe.

I think, to start, I would have to serve a basic tomato bruschetta, along with baked stuffed mushroom caps. The mushroom caps are stuffed with a mixture of mushrooms, pancetta, basil, and garlic, and my mouth waters every time I think about them.

Next would be the pasta course. Now, I’ve never served an actual pasta course before, just pasta as an entrée. But for the purposes of this meal, I think a pasta course is in order. The book has an immense amount of sauces to serve over pasta, fresh or dried, and for this dinner party, I’m going to choose Pasta served with Eggplant and Ricotta Sauce. I’m not typically a fan of ricotta, but this sauce – made with olive oil, onion, garlic, plum tomatoes, romano cheese, ricotta, and bail – just sounds divine. The book recommends serving the sauce over rigatoni pasta (broad, short tubes), so that’s what I will do.

Let’s move on to the main course. I’ve barely made my way through the poultry section of the cookbook when I know that I’m going to be making Chicken Fricassee, Cacciatora Style. My mom always made chicken cacciatore growing up, and while I’ve made a dumbed-down slow-cooker Weight Watchers version, I’m excited to dabble in a true Chicken Cacciatore recipe.

 

Naturally, along with the chicken, one needs a vegetable side dish. At this time of year, it’s tempting to do an asparagus recipe, but surprisingly, this book only offers a couple. Instead, I think I’m going to try a new version of my old favorite, Panzanella (Bread) Salad (Recipe below).

Then, I might be crazy, but I might even try dessert. I said I wasn’t going to, but there’s a recipe for a Farm’s Wife’s Fresh Peart Tart and it just looks so easy and sounds so delicious. Plus, another wedding gift was a 9-inch round cake pan, which the recipe calls for. Is it fate? Could be.

In the course of writing this, it has been decided that this dinner party will be on Sunday night with a group of five people. I better get grocery shopping!

Panzanella Salad

½ garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon capers
¼ yellow sweet bell pepper
Salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon quality red wine vinegar
2 cups firm, good bread, trimmed of its crust and toasted under the broiler, trimmed into ½-inch squares
3 round tomatoes
1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/4 –inch cubes
½ medium onion
Black pepper, ground fresh

1. Mash the garlic and capers to a pulp, using the back of a spoon against the side of a bowl, a mortar and pestle, or a food processor.

2. Scrape away any part of the pulpy core of the sweet pepper and dice into ¼-inch pieces. Put the pepper, garlic, and caper mixture together in a serving bowl and add salt, olive oil, and vinegar. Mix thoroughly.

3. Put the bread cubes in a small bowl. Pure a tomato through a food mill over the bread. Toss it and let it steep with a little salt for 15 minutes or more.

4. Skin the other two tomatoes and then cute them into ½-inch pieces. Add the soaked bread squares and the cut-up tomato to the serving bowl, together with diced cucumber, onion, and several grindings of black pepper. Toss thoroughly, taste and correct for seasoning, and serve.

 

 

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