Recipes for "what to bring to an Italian potluck"
Veal Marsala is a big celebration dish with my family. And raviolis, the giant round ones you can either make or get from an Italian grocery, with a rich, spicy tomato sauce (don't forget the bay leaf--it's good luck for whoever gets it in their dish). My grandfather was also a big fan of octopus (can be grilled or sauteed in butter and garlic).
A great basic salad can be made with arugula and sliced roma or cherry tomatoes, tossed with a very small amount of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and fresh ground pepper. I like to top it off with thinly shaved parmesan.
The only polenta I had growing up was Polenta Dolce for holiday dessert. There are different ways to make it, but my mother makes it simply with whole egg and sugar, spreads it in a flat pan and refrigerates it overnight. In the morning, she cuts it into triangles, rolls it in cracker crumbs, and quickly pan fries it in vegetable oil (can also be toasted in a toaster oven). Guaranteed your family will love it.
Sounds like a case for the timpano featured in the movie Big Night. It feeds an enormous crowd, is a very impressive presentation, and is ridiculously delicious to boot.
Step One: The Ragu Sauce
Make the sauce the day before and serve the meat for dinner that night, or take it along for the potluck as a separate dish.
1/4 c. olive oil
1 pound stewing beef (I use chuck roast), trimmed of fat, rinsed, dried with paper towels, cut into small pieces
1 pound country-style spare ribs, trimmed of fat, cut in half, rinsed, and dried with paper towels
1 c. coarsely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. dry red wine
1 six-ounce can tomato paste
1 1/2 c. water
2 35-ounce cans whole plum tomatoes, pureed in food processor
3 basil leaves
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
Heat the olive oil in a big pot on medium-high heat. Sear the stew meat on all sides until brown. Remove stew meat and set aside, then repeat process with spare ribs. If your pot is big enough to hold all the meat , go ahead and cook them both at the same time.
With the pan still on medium-high, add the onions and garlic, then reduce heat to low and cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add tomato paste, using some of the water to get out any bits still stuck in the can. Cook until warm, about 2 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes and the rest of the water, along with the basil and oregano. Cover loosely and let simmer 30 minutes.
Return the meat to the pot along with any juices in the bowl you set the meat aside in, cover loosely and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. Remove the meat, measure out 7-1/2 cups of sauce, and add 1/2 cup of water to the measured amount to loosen the sauce. Save any remaining sauce for your next spaghetti dinner, or use it to top the meat when you serve that.
Step Two: The Meatballs
10 one-inch thick slices Italian bread, decrusted
1 lb. ground chuck
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 Tbsp. finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Put the bread on a cookie sheet and let it dry out, about 3 days (or about an hour in a 200 degree oven). Put the bread in a bowl and cover with warm water until softened, about 5 minutes.
In a second bowl, mix the meat, parsley, garlic, egg, cheese, salt and pepper, using your hands to mix thoroughly. Squeeze the water out of the bread, break it into small pieces, and add it to the meat. Mix thoroughly until the bread is completely incorporated.
Heat the oil on medium high. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measure, scoop out little bits of dough and form into 1/2 inch balls. Cook just one, turning frequently, until browned on all sides (If it's sticking to the pan, don't try to force it). Taste it, adjust seasonings as necessary, then cook the meatballs in small batches.
Step Three: Timpano Dough
4 c. flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c. water
Mix everything but the water together in a stand mixer or food processor. Add three tablespoons of the water and mix. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together and forms a ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a couple of times. Let rest at least 5 minutes before using.
Step 4: The Timpano Itself
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The dough from step 3
2 c. 1/4 inch x 1/2 inch pieces Genoa salami
2 c. sharp Provolone cheese, cut like the salami
12 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and cut into eighths (cut once on each axis)
2 c. Those little meatballs from step 2 that you've been nibbling on
8 c. The thinned ragu sauce from step 1
3 pounds of ziti, cooked very al dente (about half what it says on the package) and drained
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 c. finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
4 eggs, beaten
Get out a six-quart bowl or pan with sloping sides (Williams-Sonoma sells a set of glass mixing bowls, the largest of which is six quarts), and grease very thoroughly with the butter and olive oil.
Flatten the dough on a large, lightly floured surface. Dust the dough with flour, and roll it out, dusting with flour and flipping it occasionally, until about 1/16th of an inch thick and as wide as you need it to be (which is the diameter of the top of the pan, plus the diameter of the bottom of the pan, plus twice the height of the pan). Fold the dough in half, then in half again the other way, and put the point of the dough in the middle of the pan. Unfold carefully, and press into the bottom and sides of the pan, letting the excess drape over the edge.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the drained pasta with the 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 cups sauce. Put 6 generous cups of the ziti into the bottom of the timpano bowl. Layer on half of the salami, half of the provolone, half of the eggs, half of the meatballs, and half of the Romano. Pour 2 cups of sauce over this. Add 6 more cups of ziti, top with the remaining salami, provolone, eggs, meatballs, and Romano (in that order). Pour another 2 cups sauce over that. Add the rest of the ziti. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top of that, then the beaten eggs. Fold the dough over the top to seal, trimming away any double layers of dough.
Bake in the 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about an hour. Cover with foil and keep baking for about another 30 minutes, or until the timpano's internal temperature reaches 120 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest at least 30 minutes. Check to see if the timpano is stuck to the pan by giving it a spin in the pan. If anything is stuck, detach it with a long knife. Invert the serving platter on top of the timpano (depending on your prowess with such things, you may wish to wait until you're there and unveil it in front of everyone), take a deep breath, and flip the whole thing over. Let it rest for another 20 minutes (if it hasn't already been cooling for an hour), cut a 3-inch circle around the middle of the timpano to ease slicing, cut into wedges, and serve.
Yes, it is worth all the effort. It's a very flexible recipe- we've used jarred sauce when we didn't feel like making the ragu, grabbed the Parmigiano-Reggiano when we couldn't find Pecorino Romano to save our lives, and it's still come out delicious.
re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester
oh man, i just printed this out. I invited someone I've never met to dinner. She may be coming in January or March. And while part of me thinks to play it safe with a roast chicken (which i know i do well) I was thinking for weeks it would be a lot of fun to make this for her instead, especially because i'm sure she's had roast chickens *and* timpano, but probably never a timpano from a 23 year old american girl she doesn't know.
How about a big platter of antipasto? In my family we use a huge platter. Spread out a bed of good greens (arugula and radicchio add a nice bitter touch). Then layer on salami, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, provolone cheese, marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted red peppers, italian canned tuna, anything else you like. We top it with good olive oil and just a little vinegar (the amount depends on how many marinated veggies go on). I spent about $40 at the Italian market the last time I made one, but the prosciutto was $17 a pound. The best ingredients make the best salad.
Make a really good risotto. Cool it and roll it into balls about 1 1/4" in diameter. Freeze these. Roll the balls in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs. Deep fry them at 370 degrees for 3 minutes and drain. These can be served at room temp. or reheated to 200 degrees in the oven and served. I typically make 3 dozen of these and heat them 12 at a time. Usually I don't even make it out of the kitchen before they are all gobbled up. Mushroom and Broccoli are good veggies to put in the risotto.
re: Just Larry
re: Just Larry
Yum! Risotto is tasty on its own, but deep fried balls must bring them to another level. Your version sounds like a dish that Michael Chiarello made on his Food TV show which had me drooling. Kind of involved w/ multiple steps, but definitely worth bringing as one dish to a potluck.
For the original poster, check out his other recipes under his show, Easy Entertaining, or Giada's under Everyday Italian for other ideas.
how about a super easy pizza rustica? looks good and as if you've spent hours preparing. pasta fagioli soup, quick and easy. just did these for a cooking class and everyone seemed to enjoy them. giada from everyday italian has a good recipe for the soup. they look gorgeous.
3 cups flour
¾ cup butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
3 lightly beaten eggs
2-4 Tablespoons cold water
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup feta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese (1-2 tablespoons reserved)
1 small container (8 oz.) ricotta
3 cups mozzarella
8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (real bacon bits work too)
½ cup sundried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped
¼ cup sliced or chopped black olives (pitted kalamata olives are a nice substitute)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, and salt until it looks crumbly. Add the eggs and then add the water as needed, trying not to make it too soft. Divide the dough into unequal portions. One ball will be about ¾s of the dough for the bottom crust and the remaining ¼ of the dough will be for the top/lid. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes or freeze for up to 3 months. Roll out the larger ball to about 14 inches and drape into the 9-inch spring form pan. Mix the remaining ingredients together and place inside the pan. Roll out the smaller dough ball to about 10 inches and top the pan with it, cutting off the excess and crimping the edges. Brush with a little heavy cream and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.