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Italian dinner

Great dishes to celebrate the gastronomy of Italy

Italian pasta feast in London

I have been fortunate to make regular trips to Italy over the course of my hospitality career.  It is also safe to say that over dozens of trips, for business and pleasure, not a single one featured bad food!  Many dishes in fact became stars of our travel anecdotes, and even more feature in our regular repertoire of Italian meals.  The list gets longer when we count recipes we stumbled upon in an attempt to diversify our Cucina Italiana.

 

One of these recent discoveries is a marinated tuna dish called tonno en sauro. I love Italian dishes that are fragrant and easy to prepare and this has become one of our favorite appetizer dishes (primi piatti) for an Italian themed meal.  There is really not much to it other than poaching slices of raw tuna in a sauté pan with EVOO, crushed garlic, sliced shallots, white wine and vinegar (with a sprig of thyme and some peppercorns). The finished product is served on warm, crusty slices of baguette.

tonno en sauro

We are always tossing the coin on whether the featured main dish (secondo piatto) should be a pasta or rice dish.  I realize that the traditional approach is pasta to begin with, but that leads to a very heavy menu.  So we lighten it up to start and go with our favorite pasta or rice as the main course.  With the options we have for both pasta and rice, we cannot go wrong with either.  The chosen option really depends on how we feel and who we are hosting.

 

I am primordially inclined toward pasta, and always will be, but risotto can seem a more interesting choice for guests.  I have long been a fan of risotto, but I think the moment when I really took notice of the dish was during a visit to Italy in 2000. I was with friends in a restaurant in San Gimignano called La Mangiatoia, and one of us ordered the chianti risotto as a starter. Her only regret is that no one else at the table chose the same, and her dish wound up being demolished by her three fellow diners. It was arguably the most delicious dish of that trip.


chianti risotto stands alone, but also complements a perfectly grilled steak

We were very surprised that the chef was willing to give up the recipe (shown below). I have been cooking this recipe regularly ever since and find that the addition of bone marrow contributes a silky smoothness that is memorable. This risotto can serve as a starter, as a main dish on its own, or as an accompaniment to a Florentine style steak (shown above).


original recipe for Chianti Risotto provided by the chef

I am generally not a fan of desserts.  Unless we are entertaining at home, it is rare that we include a dessert in our dinner plans.  It is even more rare that I will select from the dessert menu while eating out.  However, a couple of treats will occasionally tempt me, and among these is tiramisu, though it has to be made from scratch in an authentic Italian restaurant.  Tiramisu means ‘pick me up’ and this dessert, laced with coffee and brandy, will certainly do that.


homemade tiramisu

Of course, any Italian meal should be accompanied by fine Tuscan wines and we are big fans of the Chianti based Antinori Family of wines, which were far more affordable before Wine Spectator discovered their Solaia Super Tuscan in the late 1990s. 

 

A post dessert aperitif of icy Limoncello or a Vin Santo with cantucci cookies is not a bad way to finish off the evening.

 

Mangia bene!



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