Epic Italian Dinner Party Recipes
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How about hosting an Italian inspired dinner party? Everyone loves the Italian classics. The World Loves Melbourne has been given amazing Italian recipes from Sandra Del Greco of Melbourne's La Cucina Di Sandra Cooking School. These are rustic dishes that you can cook at home in your own kitchen. When it comes to dinner parties we love to impress our guests, but we don't want to have to be "rocket scientists" to be able to cook dishes from over-complex recipes. The World Loves Melbourne looks for winning dishes that appeal to all guests, with a rustic element and "comfort food" factor, and that are easily "do-able".
Picture an impressive scene of a white tablecloth, shiny best cutlery displayed, candles around the room for vibe, amazing guests seated... then we serve up stunning Italian food and wine! Bellissimo!
As we've said before, our friends recommended Vinomofo to us, a member based online wine retailer, and we've been stocking up our cellar ready for every occasion. Vinomofo work directly with the best producers in the world to find the wines they love, and curate them to your personal taste.
Gamberi al pane saporito in salsa mediterranea - entree
(Prawn stack in Mediterranean sauce)
Ingredients for 4 people
For the stack
12 medium sized shelled green prawns
200 grs of finely cubed ciabatta style bread - white part only
1 finely chopped shallot
8 or more pomodorini depending on their size
8 basil leaves
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
For the sauce
500 gr of mussels and clams or pippis, garlic, parsley and extra virgin olive oil to open them
(Open the mussels and clams with a little olive oil, the garlic and parsley. Use a large pan with a tight fitting lid; they should take no more than 5 minutes to open). Strain, remove the shells and reserve the cooking water.
400 gr of pomodorini, best quality available
1 finely chopped garlic clove
12 black pitted olives finely chopped
A handful of basil leaves torn
2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
Open the mussels & clams and reserve their water.
To prepare the bread mixture, chop the bread in a food processor and slice the pomodorini finely. In a frypan sauté the shallot until translucent, add the bread, the tomatoes and basil. Sauté until the mixture is well amalgamated and the bread is incorporated with the other ingredients.
To make the sauce, chop the pomodorini in slices. Warm the olive oil in a pan, add the garlic and chopped black olives, add the tomatoes and basil and cook for just a few minutes. Warm the mussel water in a small pan, add a few tbs to the sauce, season with salt & pepper if necessary. Just before serving add the molluscs to the small pan and warm them for a minute or two as well.
Place each prawn between two pieces of cling wrap and gently flatten them with a meat mullet. Place the flattened prawns in an oven tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, cover with more baking paper and bake in the oven for 3/5 minutes (depending on the size of the prawns).
To serve arrange a prawn in the centre of each plate, top with one dessert spoon of the bread mixture, top with another prawn and more bread mixture, finish with a prawn.
Ladle some of the sauce in each plate and add a few mussels and clams to each plate.
Sprinkle with finely chopped basil and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.
Recommended wine: Crisp Fresh whites such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Or even a Pinot Grigio.
Gnocchi alla Romana con salsiccia - main course
(Roman gnocchi with sausage sauce)
There is dispute over the origin of this recipe which is known and loved all over Italy and often served in winter. Despite its name, which would indicate Roman origins, the Piemontese claim it is their dish served in mountain villages with lots of cheese and often with a béchamel sauce. The use of butter would also suggest that its origins are from Piemonte rather than Rome.
Ingredients for 4 people as a main course
120 gr of unsalted butter
120 gr of Parmesan cheese
A pinch of salt
250 gr of coarse semolina flour
50 gr of Gruyere cheese
1 lt of full cream milk
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
For the sausage sauce
2 Italian sausages, skin removed and crumbled
Half tbs of olive oil
1 tsp of ground dried sweet peppers (optional)
50 gr of Gruyere cheese
In a heavy based saucepan combine the milk, 50 gr of butter, the salt and nutmeg, bring to a soft boil and pour the semolina flour into the milk, whisk the semolina with the milk vigorously making sure there are no lumps in the mixture.
Continue to whisk until the semolina mixture has become dense, remove from the heat and add the eggs and 80 gr of the parmesan cheese, whisk all ingredients together until well blended.
Transfer the semolina mixture to an oiled square tray about 1 to 2 cm high. Level the mixture with a wet spatula or other kitchen tool.
The mixture should be level and about 1 cm high. Allow to cool.
When the mixture is cold and you are ready to prepare the dish, warm the oven to 200°.
Oil or butter a small square oven dish. Using a wet round pastry cutter, cut disks about 5 cm in diameter and lay the gnocchi in the buttered oven dish, slightly overlapping each other.
When all the disks are nicely arranged in the oven dish, cover with the parmesan cheese and the grated Gruyere. Melt the remaining butter and pour on the gnocchi. Bake in the oven for 20/25 minutes or until the gnocchi are a light golden colour.
To prepare the sausage sauce, warm a little oil in a frypan, add the ground sweet peppers, sauté for a minute add the crumbled sausages and sauté on a lively flame until the sausages are cooked and you have a little sauce.
Pour the sausage and the sauce over the cooked gnocchi, add a little more Gruyere, return to the oven until the cheese melts about 2/3 minutes.
Optional serving suggestion
Instead of layering the gnocchi in a baking dish, you can also pile the gnocchi rounds as a stack.
On an oven tray lined with kitchen paper arrange one round per person, top the round with some of the parmesan cheese and a little Gruyere. Stack three to four gnocchi rounds alternating with the two cheeses, top with the melted butter and bake in the oven for the same period of time.
Remove from the oven after 20 minutes and top with the sausage sauce.
Recommended wine: Richer whites, Rose, Sangiovese, Marsanne, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir.
Castagniaccio alla Toscana con sciroppo al Limoncello
(Chestnut flan with Limoncello syrup)
Castagniaccio was originally a peasant dish devised to feed poor families that had nothing else to eat but chestnuts foraged in the bush land in the North of Italy. Originally a dish popular in many of the northern regions it was later enriched with nuts and raisins in Tuscany and is now popular all over the country as a dessert served mostly in winter, when chestnuts are in season and extremely popular.
Ingredients for 6 to 8 people
375 ml of cold water
250 gr of chestnut flour
80 gr of chopped walnuts
80 gr of pine nuts
A handful of rosemary sprigs
100 gr of raisins
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Lemon with Limoncello syrup to serve
6 to 8 lemons depending on their size
200 gr of sugar
Zest of all lemons
20 ml of Limoncello
To make the lemon syrup
Wash and scrub the lemons. Using a fine zester remove all the zest from the lemons, in a container mix all the zest with the lemon juice (about 500 ml) and rest in the fridge (shaking often) for 24 hours.
Sieve the mixture, add the sugar to the lemon juice. Bring the mixture to the boil on a lively heat and allow it to boil for about 30 to 45 minutes. Transfer to the fridge until ready to use.
Bring back to room temperature and add Limoncello before serving.
To make the Castagnaccio
Warm the oven to 200°.
Soak the raisins in warm water for about half an hour.
Sift the chestnut flour in a large bowl, add a generous pinch of salt to the water and slowly add the water to the flour and start mixing with a whisk, add the water a little at a time and continue to slowly whisk to obtain a smooth and well amalgamated mixture.
Drain the raisins of all the soaking water and pat dry with paper towel, add to the chestnut flour mixture together with the chopped walnuts, and the pine nuts (reserve 1/4 of the ingredients to sprinkle on top of the castagniaccio).
Transfer the mixture to an oiled round baking dish with low sides, similar to a quiche dish. The castagnaccio should be about 1 cm high in the baking dish.
Sprinkle the remaining raisins and nuts as well as the rosemary needles on top of the cake.
Drizzle a tbs of olive oil all over the dish and bake in the hot oven at 200° for 30 minutes or until the cake has formed a cracked crust and the raisins are a golden colour.
Serve a slice of castagnaccio with the lemon Limoncello syrup warmed or at room temperature.
Recommended wine: Dessert style wines including Moscato, Sweet Riesling, "Sticky" wines.