Monday, September 5, 2011

an italian dinner party

As a thank you to our friends Chris and Natalie for their chauffeuring services (they drove us to and from the airport for our Italian vacation), we invited them over for an Italian dinner party this past Saturday. We took a cooking class in Radda in Chianti and wanted to recreate a few of the items.

The Menu:

Cocktails: Campari spritzers or champagne cocktails
Appetizer: Natalie's sweet potato, arugula, and goat cheese pastries
Pasta: spinach and ricotta ravioli with tomato sauce
Entree: herbed pork loin cooked in milk
Side: roasted asparagus with parmesan
Wine: Chianti from Castello d'Arbolo (we brought this back from Italy)
Dessert: tiramisu

(puff pastry triangle pies)
The Plan:

On Thursday, I finalized our menu and made a shopping list for the ingredients we needed to purchase. I stopped by the grocery store on Friday evening to grab all the groceries and on Saturday morning we prepped as much as possible.

Josh mixed, kneaded, and rolled out the pasta dough while I measured up the filling. We assembled and parboiled the ravioli and then stored them in the fridge for later.

I chopped the herbs for the pork rub and wrapped it up for later use. Josh prepped the garnishes (orange slices and lemon peels) for the cocktails. I cut all the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herbs for the tomato sauce and set them on the stove to slowly reduce all afternoon.

We followed all the steps for tiramisu and wrapped it up so the flavors could meld and the dessert could chill.

We set the table and pulled out all the platters and serving utensils we planned on using.

(homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli)
The Execution:

About 30 minutes before our friends arrived, we pre-heated the oven, lit some candles, and opened the wine so that the bottle could breathe. We brought a pot of salted water up to boil (to cook the pasta), rubbed the pork with the herbs, washed and trimmed the asparagus and set it on a tray with oil, salt, pepper, and a generous amount of shaved parmesan. We rubbed the pork with herbs, covered it with milk, oil, and butter, and placed it on the stove at medium heat. This is actually a common way to cook meat in Italy. And quite delicious.

Once our friends arrived, Josh concoted some cocktails, which we enjoyed with Natalie's seriously good sweet potato, arugula, and goat cheese pastries. About 30 minutes later, we tossed the asparagus in the oven (cooks 8-10 minutes at 400) and removed the pork from the milk. We wrapped the pork in foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. We boiled the pasta and plated it with tomato sauce. The pork was cut and plated with the reduced milk sauce and the asparagus was pulled out of the oven. Dinner was served!


The menu was a success, and it allowed us to actually spend time with our friends, versus running around the kitchen. I'll post our recipe for homemade spinach ricotta ravioli tomorrow. It's completely approachable and a great option for a dinner party!

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