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Italian Menu Ideas


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Questions for Anna Blume and any other Italophiles out there:

First, what simple meat dish would you serve as a second course after a ricotta-pesto lasagna? This lasagna isn't baked, but simply boiled fresh pasta sheets layered with a pesto made with a bit of ricotta.

Second, what simple pasta dish would you serve as a first course if the second course was pork sausages cooked in red cabbage?

Grazie.

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Questions for Anna Blume and any other Italophiles out there:

First, what simple meat dish would you serve as a second course after a ricotta-pesto lasagna? This lasagna isn't baked, but simply boiled fresh pasta sheets layered with a pesto made with a bit of ricotta.

Second, what simple pasta dish would you serve as a first course if the second course was pork sausages cooked in red cabbage?

Grazie.

I love Italian food but don't have the knowledge you're probably seeking. I loved the recipe in The Silver Spoon for meatballs with anchovies. I would do that for your first scenario. (It's recommended that they be served with buttered spinach, which sounds nice with your first course.)

For your second scenario, I'm thinking about gnocchi with sage brown butter. I have no idea if that has any authenticity at all.

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Questions for Anna Blume and any other Italophiles out there:

First, what simple meat dish would you serve as a second course after a ricotta-pesto lasagna? This lasagna isn't baked, but simply boiled fresh pasta sheets layered with a pesto made with a bit of ricotta.

Second, what simple pasta dish would you serve as a first course if the second course was pork sausages cooked in red cabbage?

Grazie.

With the lasagna, I'd suggest a veal piccata or scallopine with Marsala and mushrooms. To make it lighter, substitute chicken. For the pasta course with the pork, perhaps a fettuccine with arugula, garlic and Oyster mushrooms.
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First, what simple meat dish would you serve as a second course after a ricotta-pesto lasagna? This lasagna isn't baked, but simply boiled fresh pasta sheets layered with a pesto made with a bit of ricotta.

Second, what simple pasta dish would you serve as a first course if the second course was pork sausages cooked in red cabbage?

Grazie.

Prego.

To be very frank, I wouldn't serve pesto at this time of year. I'd do winter squash and sage, instead, similar prep, followed by grilled or roasted lamb or pork--perhaps a cut you can roll out and stuff. Lamb shoulder chops marinated first w lots of crushed juniper and grilled over rosemary branches if guests don't mind gnawing gristle and bones. Even spinach and ricotto instead of pesto.

If you're really into the pesto idea, a (2-lemon) roasted chicken as recommended, or if you need it to be fancy, quail, capon, rabbit, duck... Molto Mario has a recipe for stuffed turkey breast--but I don't recall what was in it beside prosciutto. Anna Del Conte has a recipe for uccelli scappati, pork scallops that are rolled around slices of pancetta, rosemary and sage, sautéed and served on a bed of caramelized onion [onion may be too much after pesto]--light pan juices of butter and dry white wine. More elaborite: poached capon filled w walnuts, ricotta and Parmesan if you're into ingredient-themed dinners.

For some reason, a wintery braise just strikes me as too soupy after what you describe whereas a roasted or grilled dish with an appropriate contorno seems good. BTW, I referred to Marcella Hazan's carrots with Parmesan earlier elsewhere. 1/3-inch thick disks of carrot you throw into a heavy casserole with lots of butter. Add 2-3 T water in risotto fashion, stir till gone, a little more water, etc. for supposedly an hour and a half. I was happy w what I got after 20-30 minutes when they start to shrivel and darken around the edges. Dutch oven is swimming with golden butter. Toss them out and coat them w Parmesan. Might be good w second course. That or a wild mushroom stew (funghi in umido or u di f) I also describe in dinner thread somewhere.

As for the sausages, I might start w a soup as long as the ordeal of the cappelletini hasn't worn you out. Maybe something puréed instead of brothy, even, if you could do a chestnut that isn't too rich, or something with sunchokes--maybe w frozen artichoke hearts or a cool garnish in the center. Or this Yellow bell pepper soup (Cibero, Florence). Another way to go is a farro and chickpea soup with porcini as long as you restrict the second course to the sausage and cabbage. (I'd suggest ribollita, except it's redundant w the cabbage.) Or some sort of crostini w chicken liver spread or finely chopped, long sautéed spinach or mushrooms, preferably w bread grilled over the fire.

The dish just sounds more suitable to Tuscan or Umbrian cooking, if kind of French or German so nothing with pasta or rice seems right although (regular or sweet potato; squash) gnocchi w butter and sage might be just the thing as a kind of translation of French and German side dishes. I just associate Italian sausages with things like lentils. You might check one Hazan recipe for a chicken fricassee w red cabbage (her sub for Tuscan kale which wasn't available in US back in the 70s-80s) and see what she suggests for a first course since she's great at menus.

To go with the sausages, it isn't kosher, but I've cooked polenta in the oven (there are online recipes) and it wasn't half bad. If steaming pool of polento with the sausages seems like too much, you could always do polenta as a first (e.g. combo buckwheat & cornmeal--just a little of former, or regular polenta w the mushroom stew) or make the polenta the day before, let a lump of it cool and broil wedges topped w butter and Parm as a side. Since I like sage and sausages, I'll mention again, that battered and fried sage leaves are a perfect appetizer or garnish at this time of year.

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Thanks for all the ideas! In the end, a serious misadventure with pastry had me starting the main course (cabbage and sausage) at about the time our guests were to arrive, so the plan of making fresh fettucine and saucing it with brown butter and sage (thanks, Pat!) was scrapped and I went with spaeztle as a side dish. (I can crank out large quantities of spaetzle fast without too much effort). For nibbles before dinner (ie, to keep guests out of the kitchen while I scrambled about cooking), I went with three different American blue cheeses paired with three different honeys, and spiced pecans. Despite the pastry issues it was a good dinner.

AB: in general I agree about seasonal foods, but I have twelve jars of homemade pesto from homegrown Genoa basil in the freezer to use before next June. I love pulling that stuff out in mid-winter when everyone has palate fatigue from rich braised or roasted meats and starches. When I do make that lasagna I'll follow it with lemon-roasted chicken as you suggest.

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Thanks for all the ideas! In the end, a serious misadventure with pastry had me starting the main course (cabbage and sausage) at about the time our guests were to arrive, so the plan of making fresh fettucine and saucing it with brown butter and sage (thanks, Pat!) was scrapped and I went with spaeztle as a side dish. (I can crank out large quantities of spaetzle fast without too much effort). For nibbles before dinner (ie, to keep guests out of the kitchen while I scrambled about cooking), I went with three different American blue cheeses paired with three different honeys, and spiced pecans. Despite the pastry issues it was a good dinner.

AB: in general I agree about seasonal foods, but I have twelve jars of homemade pesto from homegrown Genoa basil in the freezer to use before next June. I love pulling that stuff out in mid-winter when everyone has palate fatigue from rich braised or roasted meats and starches. When I do make that lasagna I'll follow it with lemon-roasted chicken as you suggest.

I agree with you about palate fatigue. I have corn kernals, blueberries and sour cherries from the summer markets, awaiting me in the freezer. Nothing beats tasting these things in February when I can't wait for the ramps of Spring :(

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