Italy - the country of romance, architecture, culture and a whole heap of pizza & pasta.
We're extremely saddened by everything that's going on in the world at the moment, and as the land of gelato and Leonardo Da Vinci has been one of the hardest countries affected, we're encouraging you to show your support for Italy by staying in (because you have to) and wining & dining the Italian way!
All you have to do is set your table to perfection (read here if you need some help with that), light a few candles, pop on some Andrea Bocelli and prepare the Italian date night feast you've often dreamt of using our specially designed, traditional meal structure.
After all, the Italian saying goes "the appetite comes while you are eating", and you're gonna need as much of an empty stomach as you can to help you get through this delicious menu.
This begins the meal and is often accompanied by a glass of something bubbly (pop the prosecco) or one of your favourite Italian cocktails (Aperol Spritz anyone?) Traditionally the appetiser course, means you set out some small dishes of olives, nuts or cheeses, or if you want to go a little heavier, try making your very own charcuterie board or mini pizzas.
Try using some mortadella, salami or prosciutto and serve it with different cheeses and bread. If you're unsure how to set this out, read our blog here for all the tips & tricks to the perfect food platter.
One of the most beloved cocktails to originate from Italy, the Aperol Spritz is prepared by mixing prosecco with sparkling water and provides a refreshing drink to accompany all that meat.
There's really nothing to this fancy, classic drink - no really, there's just 2 steps and you're done. The good bit? It tastes like you could be sunning yourself on the beaches of Positano, and that's something we all want right now.
Serves: Serves 2
- 250ml of Prosecco
- 150ml of Aperol
- 80ml of Soda
- Slice of orange
1. Start by adding some ice to your preferred glass then pour in the Prosecco, the Aperol, and the soda.
2. Top the drink with a slice of orange. Stir and serve.
Well, I hope you have your appetite's ready because this is the first course to feature hot meals! Primarily these dishes don't consist of any meat but instead may include luxurious ingredients like truffles or seafood.
If you're on a bit of a budget, try risotto, lasagna or even our favourite gnocchi recipe! Pair this course with your favourite wine and you're good to go....
Gnocchi With Burnt Butter, Lemon & Basil
Think thick, small, and soft doughy dumplings of mashed potato, flour and eggs or in other words, perfectly fluffy little balls of yummy goodness infused with burnt butter, lemon and basil.
To be honest, that sounds like the perfect starter to any meal so get cooking!
Serves: Serves 2
- 250g of fresh potato gnocchi
- 1/2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
- 75g of baby squash, thinly sliced
- 60g of butter, chopped
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 50g of baby spinach leaves
- 1 tbsp of pine nuts, toasted
- Shredded parmesan, to serve
1. Cook the gnocchi in a large saucepan of salted boiling water following the packet instructions, or until the gnocchi are al dente and float to the surface like little edible life rafts. Drain them.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and add both the zucchini and squash, cooking, whilst stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until just tender and golden. Transfer them to a plate and cover them to keep warm.
3. Add the butter to the pan and melt over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add the basil leaves and cook until they are just crisp and the butter is light brown and nutty.
4. Stir in the lemon juice and baby spinach before adding the gnocchi, cooking, whilst tossing, for 2 minutes. Return the vegetables to the pan and toss to warm through.
5. Divide the gnocchi mixture into 4 individual serving bowls, or in a larger bowl if you're serving it family style. Scatter with pine nuts and parmesan. Season to taste.
This is the course you can dig your knife and fork into some meat and seafood. This dish could feature chicken, pork, beef, lamb or turkey (usually decided by what part of Italy you're in, or in this case, what was on special at the supermarket).
If you're a bit partial to some seafood, 'meaty' seafoods are the best kind to serve, including fish, shrimp or lobster.
Contorni dishes are usually served alongside secondi dishes as the vegetable option. They're served separately from the meat or seafood dishes so as to preserve the integrity of flavours. Think fresh and colourful when it comes to this dish.
The insalda dish refers to a salad served alongside both the secondi dish and the contorni dish, however if the contorni dish featured heaps of leafy greens, the salad may not be needed (although one can never have too many greens).
Unsure of what to make? Try out our one-pot Italian style chicken below.
One-Pot Italian Style Chicken
Ready in just 25 minutes (so you don't have to keep your date waiting), this creamy casserole is made from chicken fillets and a whole heap of classic Italian ingredients such as tomatoes, white wine and basil.
Oh and you have to serve it with a side of crusty bread otherwise it's not as good (and that's a guarantee).
Serves: Serves 2
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 10g of butter
- 2 small chicken breast fillets
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 40g (1/4 cup) of sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- 40ml of white wine
- 125ml (1/2 cup) of thickened cream
- 60ml (1/4 cup) of Massel chicken style liquid stock
- 30g of baby spinach
- 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn
- Crusty bread, to serve
1. Heat the oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat until the butter is foamy. Season the chicken and add it to the pan before reducing the heat to medium.
2. Cook the chicken for 5 minutes each side or until it's completely cooked through. Once that's done, transfer it to a plate and cover with foil to keep it warm.
3. Place the garlic in the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and stir until they're thoroughly coated before adding the wine and cooking the mixture for 1 minute or until reduced. Then you can add the cream and stock.
4. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 more minutes or until the liquid is reduced. Stir through the spinach until it's wilted and season to taste. Sprinkle with the basil leaves and serve with crusty bread.
4. Formaggi E Frutta
Yes ladies & gentlemen, this is an entire course dedicated to cheese and fruit. Present your favourite selection of cheese in a similar way to that of the meat platter in the antipasti section, and pair it with seasonal fruits that complement the flavours of your chosen cheeses.
Now for the most important meal of the entire course (in our opinion anyway). Nothing says romance like a great dessert and luckily for you, you have options!
From a rich tiramisu, to a crumbly pie or a fruity sorbet, you're sure to impress. Try making the traditional Zeppole which is basically fried dough with powdered sugar (when everything's gone back to normal, we're definitely booking a flight to Italy).
These fluffy, fried balls of dough are what dreams are made of. No seriously.
Made fresh, there's simply nothing else that compares, I mean just look at the photo?!
PSA: you will get sugar everywhere when you eat them but that's a small price to pay for something this delicious, besides it's half the fun (the other half is feeling too full to finish them but you know just how much effort went into making them so you push through and eat every last one).
Serves: Serves 2 (3 balls each)
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1 tsp of active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of salt
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Powdered sugar
1. In a small bowl, mix the yeast, sugar, salt and water together. Let it stand until it's creamy, about 2 minutes, and stir to dissolve the yeast.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir this with a wooden spoon until a nice sticky dough forms. Then cover the mixture with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours.
3. In a deep saucepan, pour in the vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches before heating the oil to 370 degrees (use a frying thermometer).
4. Use two tablespoons to scoop out the dough (forming a little ball in your hands) and drop it into the hot oil, by using one spoon to push the dough off of the other. Do this for about 4 zeppole at a time, do not crowd them in the pan. Cook until golden brown and puffy, turning with a slotted spoon to fry evenly on all sides.
5. Remove the zeppole from the oil with a slotted spoon, and transfer them to a plate or tray lined with paper towels to drain. When all the zeppole are fried and drained sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
6. Serve hot and stop salivating - dig in!
For this course you get to drink up!
Coffee is often served after dolce (dessert), usually hot and black or you can opt for a digestive alcoholic drink.
Try limoncello, amaro or even grappa!