The thing I love about cooking Italian food is that, for the most part, you let great ingredients do the talking. You don't have to overcomplicate things with hundreds of ingredients, or spend hours in the kitchen with lengthy cooking techniques. Just try to make sure that your ingredients are as fresh as possible - the farmers market is a great option for veggies, or even grow your own if you can. I've recently started growing some herbs & veggies at home & it's so rewarding eating your own freshly picked produce.
To start, I'd suggest an old classic that can be easily prepared in advance. All you need is 3 ingredients;
- Palma ham
- Cantaloupe melon
- Mozzarella cheese
As you may know, I'm partial to a rustic wooden serving board & have opted to serve these on sticks, for both a modern twist & convenience. Though not essential (chopped squares would work equally well), I liked using the melon baller scoop & it was a bargain at 99p. In terms of portion size, I'd go for 2-3 of these per person.
For the main, a simple pasta dish is always an easy option. You can make the sauce in advance, so all you have to do when the guests arrive is cook the pasta. When the pasta has cooked, you can add the sauce to the pasta pan to warm through & you're done! For a basic spicy Italian sauce, try the following (serves 4);
- A few basil leaves, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 cups of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2tbs olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
Tips - when you cook the pasta always add a drop of olive oil & a pinch of salt. When serving, use freshly grated parmesan (rather than pre packaged or dried) & some freshly ground black pepper. Any kind of pasta works with this dish & you could also add chicken if you'd like.
For the dessert, I'm going to direct you to the seasons & suppers blog. I made their Italian pear & almond cake for my friends & it went down a treat. I followed the recipe for the cake, but made the sauce (which I used as a sort of icing, as seen above) with thick cream & pinot noir, instead of marscapone & marsala as they were more readily available. Don't be afraid to decorate your cake & add textures. It's easy to create an interesting look with some pears & a sprinkling of almonds.
& that's it, 3 simple ideas for a casual Italian feast with friends. Hope you like it. If there's anything else you'd like to see on the blog, or if you have any feedback, just let me know in the comments section below...