A simple dinner party can be prepared Italian-style – in advance – giving you more time with your guests.
Get it right ..
Start with Crostini
Move onto a main dish of either a colourful Lasagne; a delicious Italian lamb or a Baked sausage cannelloni
End the meal with a dramatic Cassata that melts in your mouth!
Crostini (24 pieces)
Cut 5cm circles from 12 slices white bread, crusts removed. Melt 30g butter in a pan or microwave and brush both sides of circles with butter and place on oven tray. Bake in moderate oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown; remove to cool. Make a white sauce using 45g butter, 30ml flour, 250ml milk and stir until it thickens. Remove from the heat and add 50ml grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and 90g finely diced mushrooms; mix well.
Add 10ml anchovy paste (optional) and stir through. Divide mixture and spread over bread circles; top with extra cheese. Garnish with rolled fillets of anchovies, pitted olives and strips of red pepper. Bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes.
Cottage cheese and spinach lasagne
Filling: Combine and set aside: 2 x 250g smooth cottage cheese, 25g grated parmesan cheese, 200ml fresh breadcrumbs, 50g melted butter, ground nutmeg and black pepper to taste, salt, 250g button mushrooms (wiped and sliced) and 100g spinach (chopped, cooked and well drained).
To comlete: Layer 1 x 410g can sliced tomatoes (Italian style) in a greased ovenproof dish. Place a layer of green lasagne sheets (from a 250g packet) (no pre-cooking required) over tomatoes, spread with a third of cottage cheese filling. Continue layering lasagne sheets and filling and end with lasagne sheets. Arrange another can of sliced tomatoes on top and sprinkle with grated Cheddar cheese and seasoning. Bake at 200C, 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Garnish with basil leaves.
Ask your butcher to debone a 3 – 4kg leg of lamb for you. Place on a board and open the meat; beat with a rolling pin and slash the thickest part of the muscle so the marinate can penetrate evenly.
Chop a handful of fresh thyme leaves and some fresh rosemary finely and add sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste. Rub mixture into the cut side of the meat. Place the meat in a shallow dish and marinade for 1 – 2 hours, turning once or twice.
Marinade: Juice of two lemons, 200ml olive oil and 100ml balsamic vinegar.
Preheat grill to very high. Place meat under grill and cook for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. Lower heat and grill for 15 – 18 minutes, turning once. Leave to rest for 5 – 10 minutes to allow juices to settle and soak into the meat.
Cut into even slices and garnish with lemon wedges and serve with salsa verde (chopped fresh herbs and garlic mixed with red wine vinegar reduction, olive oil and Dijon mustard to taste) and a mixed bean salad.
Baked sausage cannelloni
Filling: Fry one chopped onion, 10ml sage and meat, removed from the skin of 6 pork sausages, over high heat for 10 minutes, while stirring, until browned. Leave to cool and add 50g fresh breadcrumbs, 1 beaten egg and seasoning. Divide mixture into 8 portions and roll each portion into a sausage shape and allow to cool/freeze slightly.
White sauce: Make a white sauce using 50g butter, 45ml cake flour and 600ml milk. Bring to the boil over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add 50ml fresh cream. Set aside.
To serve: Preheat oven to 180 C. Ease each ‘sausage’ into a cannelloni tube and arrange in a baking dish. Pour white sauce over. Top with tomato slices and sprinkle with 150g mozzarella cubes and grated parmesan cheese. Place the dish in the centre of the oven and bake 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.
Cassata (Layered Italian Ice-cream)
Make 3 layers of ice-cream and pour into a 200mm-diameter cake pan, one at a time. Freeze each layer until firm; freeze overnight after the third layer has been added; unmould and serve with swirls of cream and grated chocolate.
Layer 1: Beat 2 egg-whites until peaks form, gradually beat in 125ml sifted icing sugar. Fold in lightly beaten egg-yolks, 125ml beaten fresh cream and a few drops of almond essence.
Layer 2: Beat 2 egg-whites until peaks form, gradually beat in 125ml sifted icing sugar. Whip 125ml cream until soft peaks form and fold in egg-white mixture. Melt 60g chopped dark chocolate and stir in egg-yolks. Combine 25ml cocoa powder and a little boiling water (to make a paste), stir into chocolate mixture and fold into cream mixture.
Layer 3: Beat 250ml cream and 5ml vanilla essence until peaks form. Whisk 1 egg-white until soft peaks form, gradually add 50ml sifted icing sugar. Fold egg-white mixture into cream and add 100ml mixture of finely chopped glace red and green cherries, apricots and pineapple rings. Stir in 30g chopped almonds.