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Aug 14, 2008 09:30 PM

Italian dinner menu

I am planning an Italian dinner/ wine tasting. I am going to try this as a pot luck, but i want to give people suggestions. Things will need to be easily transported and not much to do once it gets to my house. I am thinking 5 or 6 courses.

Here are some thoughts....
antipasto & cheeses
hot appetizer (not sure, maybe calamari or mussels?)
salad (maybe calabrese?)
pasta (no clue)
main (osso bucco with ???, we will do this one at home, veal probably)
dessert (tirimisu maybe)

Any help is appreciated. The guests are all fairly good cooks.


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  1. The Antipasto/Cheeses make a good, if traditional, start.
    How about crostinis topped with chopped meats and/or cheeses, cheeses mixed with various herbs, olives, etc.,maybe some cheese filled polenta balls and a few miniature meatballs on skewers as appetizers
    For the pasta, you might find Pasta Con Pesto Siciliano refreshing this time of year.
    Insalata Caprese might be a nice item for the salad on your menu.
    Osso Buco is typically served with a pasta side (Ozzoto, Rissoto, etc,) but you have a pasta dish planned ahead of the Osso Buco. How about Italian white beans with tomatos, seasoned with safe? (Fagioli all'Uccelletto) and a Gremolata for the Osso Buco.
    Tirimisu would make a nice dessert; you might also consider a Zabaglione
    (Italian white beans with tomato & sage)
    OK, now all you have to decide are the wines.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      I read about the rissotto with the osso bucco, but I thought traditionally that pasta was served as a separate course??

      1. re: cleopatra999

        Traditionally, I think it is a separate course. I was surprised when I was about 18 when I had dinner at the home of Italian immigrants. First course, brodo, second course, lasagne ! I asked about it because I often had lasagne as the main course, in fact, the entire meal. They said that lasagne was usually an appetizer. I was wowed because lasagna is such a filling, heavy course. But, one would probably be hard pressed to find someone to eat that way, I think. I kind of want to find an e-mail fro Mario Batalli and ask him (yeah, right). So, maybe there are some Italians reading this board that could comment?

    2. For pasta I would do some sort of baked pasta it will keep better and not get sticky also because you are doing Osso Buco I would do like a veggie pasta maybe Manicotti stuffed with portabellos. I agree with the salad Caprese tomatos and basil are so fresh right now. I would really keep the appetizers light. It sounds like a lot of food so you don't want people to be to stuffed on the 1st abd 2nd course and not be able to do the main. Maybe just like some nice olives and grapes with gorgonzola some fresh figs or melon wrapped in prosciutto and a bowl of pistachio's. I entertain a lot and I have just found that I really have to pace people on the Appetizers or they end up not being able to eat the main course.

      1. Already both todao & analisas mom give good suggestions. Todao is right in that Osso Bucco is generally served with a risotto, I think "risotto alla milanese" which is a simple risotto flavoured with saffron. It's generally quite a heavy dish, sort of cool-weather food, and might be ok, depending on where you live. If you do decide for Osso Bucco, then Analisas mom gives good advice on keeping everything else light.

        Here are some more ideas for your dinner party:
        antipasto & cheeses: parmigiano-reggiano chunks with balsamic-vinegar syrup, or gorgonzola with honey, grissini wrapped with prosciutto, veggie crudite with pinzimonio (oil lemon & salt) or bagna caoda

        hot appetizer: olive ascolane (fat green olives stuffed with a finely-ground meat mixture, breaded & fried), or mozzarella in carozza (sliced buffalo mozzarella & 1 anchovy between two slices of bread, dipped in beaten eggs, then fried), or fried artichoke hearts, or frittata with sweet onions & balsamic vinegar, or fried stuffed zucchine flowers (stuffed with mozzarella & anchovy, if you like)

        salad: like everyone else said, caprese is great or you could do a sicilian salad, with mixed greens, sliced oranges, and olives.

        pasta: pasta/gnocchi with pesto, or a lasagna with pesto & bechamel, pasta alla norma (with eggplant & tomatoes), or no pasta - eggplant parmigiana!

        Main: why not try whole baked fish with potatoes & rosemary & lemon & artichokes, or vitello tonnata (sliced roast veal with a tuna/mayo/caper sauce...usually served cold but very typical Italian summer dish), or lamb cutlets breaded with ground pistachios & fried.

        Dessert: well, you can never go wrong with tiramisu. Sorry, todao, but I just dont like me it just seems like eggs & sugar. Why not do fresh fruit & gelato?

        Good luck with the dinner party!

        7 Replies
        1. re: msmarabini

          I should mention that this meal will be in the fall, so autumn suggestions are welcome.

          1. re: cleopatra999

            With all the potential menu items here, you can't miss. msmarabini has some spectacular suggestions (some of which I've never heard of and will certainly try myself) and the unique appetizers suggested by Analisas mom will put you on the list for best cook in the neighborhood.
            Now, let's get cookin'

            1. re: todao

              I wanted to revisit this menu and see if I can get any more help with it.

              The following is confirmed...

              8 people
              pot luck
              osso bucco & risotto milanese for second course (this is what I will be doing)

              I know that pasta, soup or risotto is usually the first course. Since I am serving the risotto with the osso bucco, do I skip the 1st course? Or should I serve a soup instead?

              I want to have a cheese course, should this be before or after dinner?

              If I have a salad would that be a course after the second? or a side dish? Or an appetizer?

              Any good resources for italian menus? I have Marcella Hazan's essential italian cooking book, but her menus are not really helping me.

              Here is what I can grasp from a fine Italian restaurant, is this way too much food?

              Antipasti (small bites or crostini with meats, cheeses, roasted or grilled veg/will serve while mingling)
              Primi (hot appetizer)
              Insalata (salad)
              Pasta (will have with secondi)
              secondi (meat dish/osso bucco)
              fromagi (cheeses)
              Dolce (Dessert, keep it lighter)

              thanks again!

              1. re: cleopatra999

                it is a lot of food, but italian meals are eaten over hours and not necessarily in massive cheesecake factory style portions.... if you want to mimic a traditional menu, go for it, and if you fear that it may be a lot, choose lighter dishes for each of the courses and serve small portions, so it becomes like a tasting menu.

                -focus on grilled veggies, maybe some stuffed olives or marinated olives, small meat portions... don't do breads yet as to not fill up.
                -primi is often soup, gnocchi, polenta, risotto... soup is lighter, but these ricotta gnocchi look great http://theseasonalgourmet.wordpress.c... or this polenta gratin
                -salad is salad :
                )-just go light with the pasta i'd say, but that's just my tummy talking
                -you can meat or chicken (im a cacciatore fan, but i know some find it boring)
                -w/ dessert, you can definitely stick to little cookies... i don't know if anyone will be up for tiramisu at this point

                ... happy eating!

                1. re: Emme

                  In agreeance with your first paragraph comments, I would suggest cleopatra999 type up the menu on nice paper and font and place it in a nice standing frame on the table while guests arrive. That way, it helps organize AND tells people to pace themselves since I am sure they will want to taste it all. Hopefully, the antipasto will get there first !

                2. re: cleopatra999

                  My family served dinner as such on Holidays, or special meals:

                  1. Antipasto - a big platter. (Italian cold cuts, cheeses, artichokes hearts, olives, hard boiled eggs, anchovy filets) - Italian Scala bread served with it.
                  2. soup - Italian wedding (small bowls)
                  3. Ravioli - (small, flat plate)
                  4. Main course (lamb, roast beef, vegetables, salad)
                  5. Desserts - (ricotta pie, fruit and nuts)

                  This dinner was eaten over a 2 hour span.

                  But remember, this is your dinner and it sounds lovely. If you friends are coming over and you want appetizers, why not do a cheese platter, fruit and nuts then?
                  And your salad can be served with your Osso bucco with risotto.
                  Good luck, it will work out. Just remember to have fun!

                  1. re: cleopatra999

                    Osso bucco is one of my favourite recipes. Great choice.
                    This many courses is very typical.
                    Antipasto - Insalata di Mare (a cold seafood salad - cuttlefish, octopus, squid, shrimp, crab meat, small green olives, minced red pepper, chopped garlic and parsley, lemon and EVOO); this is best made in the morning and left to marinate. Bring almost to room temp and add really good olive oil just before serving on a small lettuce cup.

                    Soup - Brodo con pastina (homemade chicken with small pasta "balls", usually small minced pces of the white meat from the capon used to make the broth) when broth

                    Pasta - Lasagna (with bescamella and a ragu with meat and porcini) or Manicotti (cheese would be appropriate) with a light tomato sauce

                    Main Course - Osso bucco and polenta (traditional); I would almost opt out of the polenta after the other courses and serve it with some sauteed broccoli rape and garlic, or roasted squash.

                    Salad - Traditionally, italians eat their green salads after the meal(aids in digestion). I would make a very simple and traditional italian salad. Option 1: organic mesculin with lemon and EVOO and shaved parm on top. Option 2: Mix the following lettuces: romaine, frisee, radicchio (bitter) and endive or really tender dandelion with an EVOO and red wine vinegar vinaigrette. The key is to toss the salads with the vinaigrette adding salt to taste just before serving. Also, the tomato, onion, etc is often added in the summer to tender lettuces or eaten on their own.

                    Cheese course - Four cheeses (one very soft, one soft and two heartier); serve with grapes and some truffle honey or even cherries in amarone or preserved apricots.

                    Dessert - Buy or bake an assort ment of dry cookies and cannoli, or a simple pane di spagna (like a plain cake), or olive oil cake or (in season now with wine grapes) sciaccata di uva (grape cake). Serve with espresso (in Italian homes, the vast majority use a bialetti stove top maker). You can get them for around ten to fiteen dollars at Marshalls or TJ Maxx.

                    This sounds like our holiday meals! This should take quite a while to eat.

            2. Salad, since it's fall, multi colored beets, with tops, and goat cheese
              For the pasta dish I would offer up canelloni, crab or turkey- with bechamel sauce, delicious and not too heavy.
              Osso bucco, oh yeah!
              Individual tirimisu, or purchase an opera cake? expresso?
              limoncello (served ice cold)
              and don't forget to put on opera!

              1. Check out the October COTM posts- lots of good Mario Batali recipes, menu ideas and all Italian!