Sunday, April 7, 2013

An Italian Feast

Tori and Holly hosted an amazing Italian feast for us on March 21st.  They truly have a gift for decor and food and we're so thankful they share it with us.  Everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed over every course.

The invites

  When we walked in we were greeted by this cute table filled with our take home gifts.  So fun!

The table was unbelievable.  Really and truly, they have a gift. There were fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs and candles on a wooden plank running the length of the table.

The details at each place setting were perfect.

The appetizer table had three appetizers and a limonata Pellegrino for each of us.

Antipasto Skewers

Artichoke Bruschetta

Mushroom & Mozzarella Arancini with Marinara Sauce

The Menu

Italian Wedding Soup

Rosemary Bread - we all wanted to shove an entire loaf in our purse.  So good! 

Peach Bellini Drink

The Main Course
Chicken Marsala with Angel Hair Pasta and Roasted Vegetables

Panzanella-Italian Bread Salad

Panna Cotta with Carmel Sauce
Lemon Marscapone Sorbetto
Torta Caprese with Chocolate Ganache

We always have a great time together.  It's so fun to share a love of great food and entertaining with such sweet and amazing women.

Our take home gifts
Florentine Cookies

A Rosemary Plant - makes me smile every time I see it on my window sill

Thanks Tori and Holly for a delicious and beautiful evening!!


Mushroom Risotto (Gourmet Italian)

1 Ounce dried porcini mushrooms (1 cup)
3 ¾ cups hot water
5 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon olive oil
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 pound (2 1/3 cups) Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (Italian parsley)

Parmigiano- Reggiano shavings

-       Soak porcini in 1 ½ cups hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes. Lift porcini out, squeezing liquid back into bowl. Rinse to remove any grit and coarsely chop. Pour soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a coffee filter or a dampened paper towel into a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, then add broth, soy sauce, and remaining 2 ¼ cups water to pan and bring to a simmer.
-       Meanwhile, heat oil with 1-tablespoon butter in a 4-to5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and fresh mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are browned and any liquid they give off is evaporated, about 8 minutes. Stir in porcini and sauté for 1 minute, then add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute.
-       Stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, salt, pepper, and remaining 5 tablespoons butter until butter is melted, Thin risotto, if necessary, with some remaining broth (you will have some broth left over).
-       If reserving some risotto to make the arancini, set aside 3 cups and cool to room temperature, then chill. (Remaining risotto serves 4 as a main course).
-       Stir parsley into remaining risotto. Garnish with cheese and serve immediately.

Note: The leftover risotto keeps covered and chilled, 4 days.

Mushroom & Mozzarella Arancini (Gourmet Italian)

Makes 12 balls

3 Cups chilled Mushroom Risotto
12 (1/2 inch) cubes mozzarella
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs (not seasoned)
About 8 cups vegetable oil for frying

-Mold chilled risotto around cube of mozzarella, into 1 ½ inch balls using wet hands.

-Put flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Dredge 1 ball in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumbs and transfer to a sheet of wax paper. Repeat with remaining balls.

-Heat 1 ½ to 2 inches oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavey pot until thermometer registers 360 degrees. Working in batches of 4, lower rice balls into oil wth a slotted spoon and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 mnutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Return oil to 360 degrees between batches.

-Let balls stand for 2 minutes (for cheese to melt).

Marinara Sauce (

2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed Italian tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup white wine
-In a food processor place Italian tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
-In a large skillet over medium heat sauté the finely chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the blended tomato sauce and white wine.
-Simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Antipasto Skewers

  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 40 pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 40 large pitted ripe olives
  • 3/4 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 40 thin slices pepperoni
  • 20 thin slices hard salami, halved
  • Fresh parsley sprigs, optional
  • Cook tortellini according to package directions; drain and rinse in cold water. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the tortellini, olives and salad dressing. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Drain and discard marinade. For each appetizer, thread a stuffed olive, folded pepperoni slice, tortellini, folded salami piece, ripe olive and parsley sprig if desired on a toothpick or short skewer. Yield: 40 appetizers

Artichoke Brushetta
  • 1 jar (6-1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 loaf (10-1/2 ounces) French bread baguette
  • In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Cut baguette into 30 slices; top with artichoke mixture.
Place on ungreased baking sheets. Broil 3-4 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen

Italian Wedding Soup (Giada De Laurentiis)

Yeilds 8 servings

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 slice fresh white bread, crust trimmed, bread torn into small pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground pork (I used chicken sausage)
Freshly ground black pepper

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound curly endive, coarsely chopped (1 pound of escarole would be a good substitution) ( I used baby spinach)
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the meatballs: Stir the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and pork. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and curly endive and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through and the curly endive is tender, about 8 minutes. Whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve. Sprinkle soup with parmesan cheese if desired.

Note: I added about a ½ cup of Acini di pepe pasta with the meatballs.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Rosemary Bread  (

Yeilds 2 loaves

1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons butter ( I used softened butter)

1. Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly.
2. Mix in 1 T butter, salt, and 2 cups of flour.
3. Add one tablespoon of the fresh chopped rosemary.
4. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
5. Add more flour if necessary. ( I always used the extra half cup)
6. Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel.
7. Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour until doubled.
8. Punch down dough and divide in half.
9. Let dough rest about 5 minutes.
10. Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray.
11. Shape the dough into 2 small rounded oval loaves.
12. Sprinkle remaining 1 Tablespoon of rosemary over the loaves and press lightly into the surface.
13. Let loaves rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
14. Preheat oven to 375°F.
15. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
16. Carefully remove from oven, brush with remaining butter (and salt if desired. I used sea salt).

Virgin Peach Bellini  (

1 cup peach, peeled, chopped (frozen or fresh)

1 (750 ml) bottle sparkling apple cider, chilled (3 cups)

1. Allow chopped peaches to defrost if using frozen. If using fresh peaches, put puree in freezer to chill about 1/2-1 hour before proceeding (or put peaches in freezer till they are really cold, about 1/2-3/4 hour.
2. Place in blender with 1/2 cup sparkling cider. Blend until peaches are pureed.
3. Divide puree evenly between 4 champagne glasses. Fill glasses with remaining sparkling cider. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Marsala (This is a combination of three different recipes)

3 small chicken breasts cut in half and pounded thin
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
2 to 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed
4 ounces of assorted mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini)
½ cup sweet Marsala
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig

2 ½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container or jar.

-Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl or plate combine the flour and Essence and stir to combine thoroughly. Quickly dredge the chicken breast halves in the seasoned flour mixture, shaking any excess flour.
-Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken halves (You can cook all six at one time if they fit, or you can do three and three, adding an additional tablespoon of butter and oil for the second batch if necessary) and cook until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes per side. Set the chicken aside on a plate.
-Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
-Add a tablespoon of the olive oil, if necessary.
-Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender and the juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
-Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes.
-Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes.
-Wisk the ½ cup of heavy cream with the 1 ½ tablespoon of cornstarch. About half way through the above mentioned 4 minutes simmering; mix the cream into the sauce mixture until thickened.
-Return the chicken to the skillet. Cook until just heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute.
-Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce.
-Season with salt and pepper to taste.
-Using tongs, transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon sauce over the chicken and serve.

Roasted Vegetables
3 zucchini
1-2 tomatoes
½ onion ( I used a sweet onion)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground Parmesan

-Preheat oven to 425 degrees
-Wash veggies
-Slice zucchini in thirds lengthwise (I like to leave the stem on, it looks neat)
-Lay zucchini slices on a cookie sheet
-Slice tomato thinly and lay 2-3 over each two zucchini slices
-Slice onion thinly and lay over the tomato and zucchini
-Brush with olive oil
-Salt and pepper
-Cook for 10+ minutes, to desired tenderness
- Brush again with olive oil, top with salt and pepper, fresh chopped basil if desired, Parmesan and serve.

Pasta with Olive Oil and Garlic (

1 lb spaghetti (good quality) (I used angel hair)
½ cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size of cloves)
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley
Salt and pepper
½-3/4 cup pasta water

1.     Bring a large pot of water to a brisk boil
2.     Add salt
3.     Add spaghetti, following directions on box
4.     Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small pan
5.     Slice the garlic thinly and add it to the oil (I just used crushed garlic)
6.     Remove the pan from the heat when the garlic turns a pale golden color ( do not brown the garlic)
7.     Add the parsley, salt and pepper
8.     Reserve ½-3/4 cup pasta water
9.     Drain pasta and stir in oil
10. Add the water if you think the mixture is too dry

Panzanella – Italian Bread Salad  (Barefoot Contessa)

Yeilds 12 servings

3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers, drained
¼ pound fresh Mozzarella

For the vinaigrette
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

-Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.

-For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.

-In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers and mozzarella. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

Sinfully Sinless Tiramisu (

            1 ½ cups good-quality hot chocolate, made with water and using 1 ½ times the hot chocolate powder
            ½ teaspoon rum extract
            ½ tablespoon pure vanilla extract
            4 large egg yolks
            ½ cup granulated sugar
            1/8 teaspoon salt
            ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
            8 ounces mascarpone cheese (can sub cream cheese in a pinch)
            ½ cup heavy whipping cream
            About 36 crisp ladyfingers cookies/biscuits
            1 tablespoon natural cocoa powder
               -Make the hot cocoa according to the instructions above – using water instead of milk and using 1 ½ the amount of hot chocolate powder you would normally use to make a cup for drinking. Allow the hot cocoa to cool while you are preparing the rest of the recipe. Once it is lukewarm, add the vanilla and imitation rum extract. Due to the high cocoa to water ratio, whisk the cocoa mixture frequently to keep the cocoa suspended.
             -Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and fill with about 1-2 inches water. Let it come to a simmer while you proceed with the recipe. In a medium bowl (an appropriate size to be placed on the pan that is heating), beat the egg yolks at low speed with a mixer (hand or electric) until just combined. Add the ½ cup sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula once or twice. Add ¼ cup cream to the yolks and beat at medium speed until just combined, 20 to 30 seconds; scrape the bowl. Set the bowl with the yolks over the saucepan of water that has come to a simmer. Cook the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly and scraping along the bottom and sides of the bowl with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the egg yolk mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 to 7 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir vigorously to cool slightly, then set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
             -Add the mascarpone cheese to the cooled mixture and beat at medium speed until no lumps remain, about a minute. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside. In the now-empty bowl (no need to clean the bowl), beat the ½ cup heavy whipping cream at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Then gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no white streaks remain. Set the mixture aside.

            -Give the hot cocoa mixture a good whisk to combine. Pour it into a shallow baking dish like a pie plate. Dip 1 ladyfinger into the hot cocoa at a time, allowing it to soak up the hot cocoa for about 1-2 seconds per side. Transfer each ladyfinger immediately to an 8-inch square baking dish. Lay the cookies side-by-side to create one even layer. You may have to trim/break the soaked cookies to fit the pan. After finishing the first layer of ladyfinger cookies, spread half of the mascarpone cream mixture evenly over the ladyfingers, spreading to the edges of the pan. Using a small fine-mesh strainer, sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon of the natural cocoa powder over the mascarpone layer. 
-Repeat the soaking process with the ladyfingers, creating one more layer of    ladyfinger cookies over the mascarpone/cocoa layer. Spread evenly with the remaining mascarpone mixture. Dust with the final 1/2 tablespoon of natural cocoa powder. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, best overnight, to chill and set. This can be made up to 1 day in advance. Cut into squares and serve.

Mascarpone Sorbet (

1 pint of your favorite sorbet
6 oz. mascarpone cheese

-Put sorbet on your freezer and let it defrost a little
-Put sorbet in food processor along with 6 oz. mascarpone
-Blend until all is combined and smooth
-Spoon into glasses and refreeze
-Defrost slightly before serving for optimum complex, creamy, tangy flavor
-Garnish with whatever you would like, lemon zest, mint, strawberries etc.
Panna Cotta
·      1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk room temperature
·      1 envelope unflavored gelatin
·      1 teaspoon vanilla
·      ¼ cup plus 2 T sugar
·      2 cups heavy cream
·      Grease 4 ramekins lightly with butter
·      Pour buttermilk into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top.  Stir to dissolve.  Set aside.
·      Pour cream and sugar into a medium saucepan.  Add buttermilk mixture.  Place pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture is just under a boil. 
·      Remove from heat and add vanilla.
·      Pour into ramekins.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Homemade Caramel Sauce (

¾ cup white sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup corn syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Heat all ingredients except vanilla to boiling in saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, reduce heat to medium or medium low and continue to cook about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is caramel colored. Add the vanilla and stir if desired.

Torta Caprese
Makes one 9-inch cake
9 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1 cup butter

¼ cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon almond extract
(I only used 1 teaspoon because I thought 1 tablespoon was too strong)
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

1 ½ cups ground blanched and toasted almonds

6 eggs, room temperature

-Preheat an oven to 310°F and line the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper.

-Slowly melt the chocolate and butter over a double-boiler. 
-In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk together the melted chocolate mixture, the cocoa powder, almond extract and sugar until combined. 
-Add the ground almonds and whisk until combined. 
-Add the eggs one at a time, adding each egg after the first has been incorporated into the mixture. 
-Pour the mixture into the spring form pan.  Make sure the mixture is level and smooth on top. 
-Bake for 50-60 minutes. 
-Cool and serve with chocolate spirals, shavings and powdered sugar.  Serve with gelato, ganache, and or whipped cream.
Ganache for chocolate Torta
·      6 ounces dark chocolate chopped
·      ½ cup heavy cream
·      Heat cream in a saucepan until just boiling
·      Pour cream over chocolate and stir until melted
Florentine Cookies  (
1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (about 5 ounces)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Topping, optional:
2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (we used at least 8 oz)

-Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

-Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.

-Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, 30 minutes.

-Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) or rounded tablespoons (for 6-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread.

-Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve.

Optional chocolate topping
-Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth. (Alternatively, put the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue heat until completely melted, about 1 to 2 minutes more.)

 -For sandwiches: Drop about 1/2 teaspoon (we used at least 1 teaspoon) chocolate onto on the flat side of half of the cookies and press together with remaining halves. Return to rack and let chocolate set.

-For chocolate decor: Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired. Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.

Busy baker's tips: Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes.