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Truly Italian dinner

I'm having 7 people over for dinner and I was wondering if anybody could share some great ideas and recipes for a *truly* and strictly italian menu and wine pairings?

I think I'm gonna prepare a menu based on your suggestions and post detailed photos of the making afterwards.

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  1. I would just suggest you check out Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook-- she has many suggestions for first and second courses, and vegetable sides, which go well together--

    I don't think she discusses wine though--

    1 Reply
    1. re: DGresh

      That was my first thought, too. What a great cookbook it is.

      I also don't recall mention of wines, but I'm not a big fan of drinking wine with food, so I may have just skipped over it in disinterest.

    2. You might want to think about breaking down a "truly Italian" meal into a truly REGIONAL Italian meal, as there are many different regional cuisines in Italy. Or have a different region w/accompanying regional wines for each course.

      9 Replies
      1. re: charlesbois

        I would agree with the suggestion from charlesbois. Italian cuisine is so highly varied in flavours and history that accenting those differences would make for a spectacular dinner.

        1. re: xtal

          I'll third that - great suggestion and would help you narrow things down to the regional wines. Here's a recipe for Porchetta Sarda (Sardinia):

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44002... - nice thing is you serve at room temp, so you can make it ahead - there are some photos of up it further up in that thread.

          You could have a primi of Spaghetti with Bottarga ... would be happy to give you my recipe.

          1. re: MMRuth

            I'm not the OP, but I'd love your bottarga recipe. My husband and I split our primi course when we travel in Italy, but I never could convince him to order pasta with bottarga. The first week we got home, I bought a jar of bottarga. Four months later, the jar is still sitting in the pantry with no plans to use it. Other than generally knowing I need to shave the block of bottarga over the pasta, I don't have a recipe.

            1. re: Indy 67

              Sure - I perused a number of recipes, including the Hazan one and the Rogers/Gray "Italian Country Cookbook" when we first bought bottarga and came up with this for two of us:

              About 1/2 lb spaghetti - sometimes more -
              3T olive oil
              1-2 chopped garlic cloves
              1 cup chopped Italian parsley
              1 crumbled dry hot chile pepper
              Juice of one lemon
              Sea salt and fresh pepper
              1.5 - 2 oz bottarga (I always use the gray mullet roe one that is vacuum packed - haven't tried the jar one.)

              While heating up the water for the pasta, heat olive oil in a small sauce pan (I may confess to sometimes adding a little more than the 3 T), add garlic, parsley and chile pepper for a few seconds. Grate the bottarga - I use a microplane. Drain the pasta and put in a serving bowl - add the olive oil/parsley etc. (I usually heat up quickly again just when the pasta is about to be ready) and toss. Add the bottarga and toss (I like to use tongs for tossing). Season with salt and pepper and then add lemon juice and toss. Sprinkle the remaining bottarga on top and serve immediately.

              I usually serve a small bowl with with hot chili pepper flakes so that we can each adjust it as we like. You'll probably want to play the amount of bottarga/lemon juice/garlic until you figure out your preferred combination.


              1. re: MMRuth

                Thanks. This recipe sounds lovely.

                The bottarga I've got is Callipo brand bottarga di tonno. I just took the jar -- about the size of a small baby food jar -- out of the box. This bottarga is loose powder. Clearly, I won't have to shave the cake of pressed bottarga which was what I was expecting.

                FWIW, the recipe on the box is much less interesting than your recipe. The sauce ingredients include butter, a couple tablespoons cream, and a bunch of finely minced parsley.

                1. re: Indy 67

                  I've heard of using cream - I think my husband said that when he had it at a restaurant in London, that it had cream and also that the Bottarga was a very fine powder. He loved the dish, but he loves cream sauces, which I don't. I've also noticed that as the bottarga I buy gets older, if I've not kept it wrapped up as well as I should, it does dry out a bit and is more powder-like when grated, which does have the advantage of being more dispersed through out the pasta, if that makes sense.

        2. re: charlesbois

          Thanks so far. Of course I could look up a cook book and find good suggestions in it, but I was hoping maybe to find a fantastic and unforgettable recipe, maybe a personal experience somebody had of the best northern italian food ever (that would maybe go far beyond meatballs or eggplant parmesan).

          1. re: Michael1976

            Are you particularly interested in Northern Italian as opposed to other parts of Italy? That Porchetta recipe is awfully nice ....

            1. re: Michael1976

              "Northern Italian" is pretty broad, too.

              Are you interested in Emilia-Romagnan? Friulian? Venetian? Ligurian? Fred Plotkin's cookbooks on Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria are fantastic. "La Terra Fortunata" has an extensive section on wine, as well. I use Lynn Rossetto Kasapr's "The Splendid Table" for Emilia-Romagna (she includes wine suggestions with most dishes).

              For my personal favorite, I love the lasagna bolognese saveur published in Saveur a few years ago (note: it's pretty labor intensive and involves making spinach noodles from scratch, as well as bechamel and bolognese sauces).

              I also love Biba Caggiano's butternut squash gnocchi recipe
              I'll serve either pan fried with sage and brown butter, or with a duck ragu.

              Also great is Mario Batali's ricotta gnocchi with oxtail ragu (can't find it online but I can post an adapted version if you're interested).

          2. I tend to always make Rocco Dispirtos mamas Meatballs & marinara as part of a dinner party. They are wonderful, very moist and flavorful

            1. You could try this: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/men... I've only made the ravioli (I cut back on the butter), but I'm sure the rest is good too.

              1. For dessert, you cannot get much more authentic or simpler than panna cotta (literally "cooked cream"). I was Don of a women's residence at a college for English-speaking kids in Italy in the Abruzzo for some time and made this for "our" girls. They loved it so much I had to teach each graduating class how to cook it. There is an abundance of good recipes, just make sure you take the time to use a real vanilla bean and NOT rely on vanilla extract.

                1. For inspiration, you might check out the threads for last October's Cookbook of the Month, which was Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. All of them are gathered here:


                  I'm at work now, so don't have access to my cookbooks, but if you have Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, there are menu suggestions, by season and event, in the back of the book.

                  If I were you, I'd do something like a butternut squash (or pumpkin) ravioli in brown butter/sage sauce, followed by Marcella's roast chicken with lemons and a side of sauteed spinach in garlic and olive oil, and finish with a salad of sliced tomato, mushroom and arugula with a lemon vinagrette. Dessert? Gelato of course!

                  As for the wines, I would suggest you post a query on the Wine Board once you've got your menu:


                  1. Risotto with porcini mushrooms or Tagliatelli with porcini mushrooms and cream; followed by something lighter such as Chicken Picatta (lemon and capers); Hazan's Broccoli, garlic and oil is delicious, too, as a side dish.

                    1. I'm pretty sure this was from an authentic Italian cookbook...

                      For dessert, flake off chunks of high quality parm. Top with a few toasted walnuts, and drizzle with good honey. Simple and delightful! And easy, which I usually am allergic too. Being easy, that is.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: scuzzo

                        Well if it were me, I would go onto the Food Network site, and check out menu's from Giada's themed dinners. Although I think that Mario, Marcella & Lydia are exceptional, Giada has easier dinners and desserts.

                        Most of her recipes are easy, elegant and delicious.

                        Good luck.

                        1. re: mcel215

                          I have really been loving Batali's book Molto Italiano. There are some really great dishes and most are not particularly difficult. There's a wonderful meatloaf-type roll stuffed with carrots, cheese, etc. Also a number of nice desserts that aren't trite.

                          1. re: mcel215

                            Yeah, I'd go with Giada, too. Her menus are really easygoing, but still impressive.

                        2. if you want a true ital exp. you Must serve the salad at the end of the meal and it must be oil/vinegar dressing only

                          if you want a sort of peasant exp this was the every sunday ritual

                          start with macaroni ( rigatoni,ziti etc...) in a standard meat sauce (gravy) complete with pork spare ribs, chunks of beef (a cheaper cut of roast or steak will do),meatballs made with beef and pork ( veal sometimes as well ), and braiciolle (excuse my spelling) sandwich steak or flank steak rolled up and tied with bread crumb,hard boiled egg and parsley in the middle

                          next was capon( this is a special chicken a male that has been fixed(you know wht i mean) then fattened up they go in the 7-10 lb range .you stuff it with a mix of chopped sauted onions,bread, eggs, and chopped up and sauted gizzard/liver etc that comes with the bird serve with roasted potatoe on the side

                          then the salad is served

                          then fruit/nuts

                          then the dessert w/coffee

                          as far as wine forget the pairing crap a jug of gallo or what ever someone in the family made was it
                          then us kids go out and play the men would pass out watching a football game and the women would clean up
                          that (this is an ital tradition that went on i MOST homes till about 30 yrs ago ,and still goes on injust some homes today

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: foodperv

                            That is exactly what we still do, except there is always an antipasta platter beforehand with cocktails, and lots of crusty Italian bread with every course. We've eliminated the chicken course at this point, getting too old to eat all that. And you're right about the Gallo wine, specifically Hearty Burgundy, although I tried to be fancy sometimes and would buy Chianti: mass amounts more important than quality!
                            Also don't forget the anisette with the coffee.

                          2. If you want your menu to be truly Italian, I think it is essential that it be seasonal and focus on what's available only at a particular time of year. Unless your focusing on one ingredient, say fish or cheese, it's probably a good idea to vary the ingredients in each course and not repeat them.

                            1. I am not talian, but married Italian. When we were first married we were invited for a Sunday dinner at his aunt's home. I was quite impressed with all the food! First served was a small cup of chicken broth, and then out came a large platter of spaghetti with braciole and meatballs in a wonderful tomato (red?) sauce. I thought that this was the complete dinner....but lo-and-behold....(to my surprise) the real meal began! Stuffed turkey, vegetable platter, cranberry sauce. Needless to say I had very little room left because I thought the spaghetti and meats/sauce were *the dinner*!!! I don't even remember the desert, because by that time I was almost ready to "explode" from all the food. Italians usually serve some fruit for a light desert. My husband's family is from N. Italy (Genoa).

                              Here is a website that may be of some help to you: (Left-Top click on *Recipes*)


                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Lisbet

                                your exp is the same as i discribed as ours but the turkey was for company coming only because it was more exp and compared to the capon it was concidered more of a higher class meat GOD i miss those days

                                1. re: foodperv

                                  Foodperv: you don't have to miss them...with the exception of the capon/ turkey (we substitute lamb or rabbit) our family in Appulia/Puglia does this every Sunday...I particularly loved the reference to the wine. Ours (family made) comes out to the tables (outside if poss) in old pop/soda bottles!

                              2. Folks love stuffed pasta...what about simple homemade cheese ravioli in a sage and butter sauce? Or Ragu Bolognese over some homemade tagliatelle?

                                Simple Secundi might be veal or chicken piccata, veal or chicken saltimbocca (marcella has a great recipe), chicken braised in wine. A bit more more work, but I always get huge compliments from Mario B's trout with pancetta and green olives. Its a really fancy seeming and unusual recipe.

                                1. Pumpkin or squash risotto is great at this time of year -- could be served in a pumpkin, maybe. I don't know how "traditional" that is, but I do know that guests nearly swoon when I serve it at dinner parties. Someone in the LA chapter of Slow Food served this at an autumnal Italian dinner party once, and I pounced on the idea.

                                  If you want to impress guests and show that you went the extra mile: you could make your own gelato for dessert, or bake your own bread. The "homemade" version of either of these is rarely seen at a dinner party, I would think... so that would be great for the WOW factor and can be done in advance.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: foxy fairy

                                    "Pumpkin or squash risotto is great at this time of year -- could be served in a pumpkin, maybe."

                                    I LOVE this idea. It's on the docket for my next dinner party. Thank you!