I love any excuse to throw a dinner party. Saturday night we had nine of our friends come over to our house for dinner and for the viewing of an important soccer match, you know how serious Italians are with soccer. One of our friends is a talented graphic designer and and was kind enough to create a menu of the meal I was preparing for our guests, and how surprised I was when he gifted me with a personalized apron. It was the sweetest gift! The menu read, ‘Chef Brittny’, ‘Ristogourmet Pellegrini’, followed by the courses to be served, and ended with the team names of who would be facing off in the soccer game to follow.
On the side it reads ‘Brittanina from Portlandia’ Which translates to ‘little Brittny from Portland’
There were eleven of us and our regular dining table only seats four, so we had to bring in another table and extra chairs so we could all be seated. I love starting out with appetizers as my guests arrive- as it gives them a taste of what is to come as I finish up in the kitchen. Here is a photo of the menu, it’s in Italian, so I have translated it for you to English.
– ANTIPASTO –
Tagliere di salumi di cinta senese, formaggi stagionati e crostini misti
(Cinta Senese salami cuts, prosciutto, aged cheeses and crostini mix)
Rigatoni al forno con formaggio fuso e crema di tartufo
(Truffle mac&cheese with rigatoni pasta)
Tagliatelle fatte in casa con ragú di Cinta Senese
(Handmade tagliatelle with Cinta Senese ragú)
(Dessert was brought by my lovely friends, Martina and Marianna)
The crostini are made with slices of bread topped with sausage and stracchino (a creamy mild Italian cheese) and then are toasted under the broiler. The other type of crostini I made were toasted slices of bread topped with diced tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano. ‘E’ had a wine tasting for work the day before and had several types of different wines from Bolgheri. He also brought along wines they had opened for tasting, so we served those also. No need to waste a good bottle of wine!
Alright, let’s talk about making PASTA.
Fresh tagliatelle egg pasta
200 g semolina flour
(about 2 cups)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup warm water to add if too dry
On a large wooden cutting board, or in bowl, create a mound with the flour and add a pinch of salt. Then make a well in the center of the mound where you crack the eggs into. With a fork, beat the eggs until smooth and then slowly start adding the flour around it and mix until all is combined. If it is too dry then I add some warm water. Knead the dough together for 6-8 minutes with a little love and a little work until smooth. It can be a tiring process but you need the gluten to develop and it’s always good to put your muscles to work! I then wrap it tight in plastic wrap and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes. I have a pasta roller which helps the process out tremendously. ‘E’s’ mom rolls it out with her rolling-pin like the Italian pro she, is but I prefer my pasta roller. (I guess that is the Americana in me.) Once the pasta dough is thin to my liking, I flour it well with regular white flour and roll the dough long width side and then slice it about less than half an inch width. This width is what makes them tagliatelle.
The day before the party I made the Cinta Senese meat ragú because the flavor enhances the longer it sits together. This recipe I learned from ‘E’s’ mom and was one of the first things I learned to make because it is an Italian staple, although I add sausage to mine. Cinta Senese is a breed of domestic pigs from the Tuscan area so this is where the name comes from.
In a large pot place small pieces of ground beef and Italian sausage together and stir with a wooden spoon until it is no longer pink on low heat. Blitz together the carrots, celery, onion and parsley in a food processor until finely grounded. Blend the vegetable mixture with the meat mixture and the wine. White or red wine will work just fine but I personally enjoy the taste when using white wine. After 5 minutes, to let the wine evaporate, add the tube of tomato paste and season with salt & pepper. Continue to cook on low heat for 2-3 hours while stirring occasionally. If you aren’t planning to use all of the ragú, it is possible to store them in jars for later use; with sterilized hot jars, place the still hot ragú into the jars and tighten the lid. Leave on counter until you hear a pop and they have fully cooled. Store in Fridge for up to three weeks.
Cinta Senese Ragú
450 grams of ground beef
2 Italian sausages
3 celery sticks
1 large red onion
1 tube of tomato paste
large bundle of fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 cup white or red wine
salt & pepper
To cook the fresh pasta and ragú, boil a large pot of water that is a little more than halfway full and in a separate pan place the ragú, heat on low. Once the water is boiled, place a large pinch of salt followed with the pasta. Cook for 3 minutes or until it tastes right to you. Then add it into the pan of ragú mixing it together while on low heat until all the pasta is covered and then continue cooking it in the sauce for a minute or longer so that the pasta absorbs the sauce.
Thank goodness for good friends who help you out!
This meal is fantastic with a nice bold red wine. Here I am drinking one of ‘E’s’ wines from his company Aia Vecchia, I’m drinking my favorite, Lagone, which is the wine we drank together the first time we met. Here is their website- http://www.aiavecchiabolgheri.it/en/
There were many mixed emotions about the soccer match- again, typical of Italians! We all had a wonderful time chatting during the game, and ended the evening playing the game Taboo. It was a little more difficult for me because it was all in Italian, but I am proud to say I successfully guessed three answers right. Wahoo!
Thanks for stopping by and leave me a note if you tried any of my recipes! I’d love to know.
Ciao for now!