Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Dec 10, 2007 03:49 PM

Help complete (or comment on) my Italian dinner

I'm having some friends over for an Italian dinner inspired by my culinary trip to Italy this summer. One problem is that I can't make most of the things we made in Italy because it was summer and some ingredients aren't available/fresh this time of year.

I would love advice on wines to serve with this, as well as how to fill it out, or make changes.

So far, I'm planning on:

Appetizer: frittata of leeks and zucchini

First course: polenta with ragu of mushrooms and beef

Second course: Roast chicken with lemon

Side: maybe eggplant parmesan or white beans, or both. Or maybe sauteed greens.

Dessert: Chocolate Amaretti cake

As you can see I'm a bit undecided on the contorni, and I think I may need a second dessert.

TIA for any suggestions!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It sounds as if you're trying to convey a real Italian experience -- good for you! -- in which case, go for the greens as a contorno, and consider a simpler dessert, maybe just fruit. Good luck, and enjoy!

    1. Sounds like a wonderful meal but, for me, just a tad much. Here's what I would change: serve the polenta with a ragu of just mushrooms (no beef); forget the eggplant parmesan and go with sauteed greens and maybe white beans with garlic. And serve some really good fruit along with the cake. That's it. Enjoy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Nyleve

        I agree. Too much food, too heavy. And I'm thinking some rapini sautéed in garlic....

        If you absolutely want another cooked dessert, maybe poached pears?

        1. re: piccola

          I think we all agree it's too heavy. I could take or leave the beef in the ragu, but the eggplant parm along with so heavy a first and main sounds more Italian-American than Italian. Better to go with bitter winter greens sauteed in garlic. One of my favorites this time of year is escarole sauteed with garlic, pine nuts and anchovies (or olives).

      2. wow- nyleve and i are definitely on the same wavelength.... i was going to suggest that you save yourself a step and omit the beef from the mushroom ragu. polenta with mushroom is a classic combo, and the beef 1) doesn't really add much interest to the dish and 2) will only make your guests fill up before your secondo.

        then, i was about to suggest skipping the eggplant and making the sauteed greens instead. you could include or exclude the beans- include them if you want/require a starch accompaniment, but they are not essential after polenta, believe me. on the other hand, to be a little more picky with regard to Italian eating habits, it is nearly unheard of in italy to serve roast chicken without a roasted starch accompaniment. it doesn't have to be potato- something like parsnip, or even baby brussel sprouts would work. its all up to you, though- you could just stick with the greens and offer a nice crusty bread.

        i think your dessert sounds perfect. if you want to add a little something, make it simple and seasonal- a plate of figs with balsamic? some roasted chestnuts?

        as for wine, i am a big fan of serving prosecco with antipasti. it will go well with your frittata. polenta with mushrooms... nero d'avola. roast chicken-- this one really depends on the contorni (and how "lemony" will the chicken be?). I imagine that your cake is very sweet and rich, so I would say you need something like a moscato or passito to stand up to it (skip brachetto, the lighter, bubbly dessert wine- it will get lost with this cake). try to find a local wine shop where they are knowledgeable about Italian wines, and ask which dessert wines they recommend (many shops won't carry a large selection).
        for more wine advice, I suggest you post this question on the Wine board once you have finalized your menu. they will probably have an entirely different take on it! :)

        i am sure you and your guests will have a wonderful time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: vvvindaloo

          Can I come to your house for dinner?

          Love your wine recommendations. That's where I always fall down - I go to great lengths choosing food, then just serve whatever wine I happen to like, regardless of how well it goes with the food.

          Oh - one more suggestion for the meal. I hate to bring it up now, but there's a part of me that would very much like to see a light green salad show up at some point. Maybe with butter lettuce and a very very light dressing. Between the primo and secondo, perhaps? I know it's another course but I always like a salad with that kind of meal. Nothing heavy or complicated - simple simple simple.

        2. You're really putting a great effort and the dishes sound good, but not included together. The dinner should progress from lighter to heavier dishes, so the primi might be too heavy. For either the chicken or beef dish, I would not include a dish with cheese. I agree with others that a dark green would be fantastic. Perhaps brocoli rabe or braised kale and cannelini beans.
          I like the menu tho, and would personally just dash the beef in the Primi and add fingerling rosemary potatoes and a dark green as the contorno.
          Good luck!

          1 Reply
          1. re: monavano

            The meal sounds good and even better with the changes...let us know how it comes out. When I do an italian dinner with the eggplant parm. I'll usually make that as the second course and have very light before and after. The roasted greens sound good with it all. Give it a variety of colors. and in the end, enjoy!

          2. I agree with the comments made so far - but I would omit the frittata altogether and have something lighter to start. Omit the beef from the ragu and keep the portion modest. Sauteed greens or even boiled with oil and lemon would be a great contorno with the chicken.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bropaul

              I agree that along with the other changes suggested(no beef, make the greens) I'd replace the frittata as well. I'd just go with a basic antipasto platter(some salumis, roasted vegs, some cheese, olives, etc).

              I'd also replace the dessert and go with some type of fruit instead - maybe a spiced winter fruit compote. i love poached pears for dessert wtih a bit of cheese. Serve some vin santo along with some cantucci as well.