January 18, 2012

Our Family Dinner...... Italian Style!

Hmmm...how to prepare for Italian night at the Maine House? We are hosting a Tuscan- themed dinner at Estelle's and want to ensure it has all the ambiance of a night in Palermo!

Dinner will be followed by a showing of The Godfather...one of the best classic movies ever made, in our humble opinion! How can you not get up and waltz when Connie's wedding scene is played? Estelle's has chosen some great Italian dishes that are sure to please our dinner guests from the sides to the main dish of Joy Behar's lasagna....ending with a beautiful and light Panna Cotta! I hope these recipes will inspire you to host your own Italian themed dinner party! Buono Appetito!

For our veggie side, we are serving a bowl of marinated artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers strips and black oil-cured olives, stirred together with a very light vinaigrette. This will help cut through the rich flavors of the lasagna.

A good wine to try with lasagna is the
Pasqua Montepulciano d'Abuzzo

Joy's Lasagna

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup Chopped Onion
2 Garlic Cloves
1 ½ Lbs. Sweet Italian Sausage (Out Of Casings)
1 Large 28oz Can Crushed Italian Tomatoes
1 6oz Can Tomato Paste
¼ cup Chopped Parsley
½ cup Chopped Basil Leaves
2 Tsp Sea Salt
¾ Tsp Pepper
½ Box Lasagna Noodles
1 Lb Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Extra Large Egg
1 Lb Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
¼ cup Parmesan Cheese For Sprinkling At End

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and position the oven rack in the middle. To make the meat sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic and stir for one more minute. Then add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat. Breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fully cooked and no longer pink. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, basil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Soak lasagna noodles in hot tap water.
While the sauce is simmering, make the cheese filling In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of Parmesan, the beaten egg, chopped parsley, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
 Ladle one third of the meat sauce into a 9”x 12”x 2” casserole or baking pan. Spread the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add approximately half the pasta (in one layer, cover the sauce with the noodles), half the sliced mozzarella, half the cheese mixture, and one third of the sauce. Add another single layer of noodles, mozzarella, ricotta, and the remaining sauce Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of Parmesan.
 Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling.

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), at room temperature
2 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt and extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf crusty baguette
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For the bread, stir together the butter, mashed garlic, and herbs in a small
bowl and season with salt and pepper. Tear open the loaf of bread lengthwise, spread the herb-garlic mixture over both halves and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes.

Estelle's Vanilla Panna Cotta
3 T. Water
1T. powdered Gelatin
4 C. Heavy cream
 1 t. good Vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
Fresh Raspberries 
Satin Chocolate Sauce

Satin Chocolate sauce
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
4 1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/3 c. hot water

In a small bowl, combine the water and Gelatin and let soak for about 10 minutes. (Do not stir.) Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the cream, the vanilla bean (if using real vanilla adds when at end) and sugar to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to dissolve the sugar. As soon as it simmers, turn off the heat and add the Gelatin mixture, stirring to dissolve the Gelatin. If the Gelatin doesn't completely dissolve in 3 minutes, return the mixture to the heat and warm gently until dissolved. Pour the mixture into 6 to 8 ramekins or desert cups. Chill, uncovered, 2 hours.

Satin Chocolate Sauce: In the top of a double boiler, combine the 2 chocolates over simmering water. Stir constantly until melted, then whisk in the syrup and water without removing the double boiler from the heat. Whisk until smooth and shiny. The sauce can be made up to two hours before serving, refrigerated. To rewarm, stir over low heat or heat in microwave.



  1. You amaze me with the bank of ultimate recipes you have on file! I'm actually blogging Friday about my lack of expertise with Italian food, I've been making Caccitore the wrong way for 42 years... I'm learning some of your secrets though! Thanks for sharing~

  2. This lasagna is really one of the best! I was out of tomato paste, so I used 1 cup of spaghetti sauce I had left over...doctored the sauce with Italian seasoning also...just amazing! I hope you try it...the rolls are melt in your mouth good..there is no stopping at one!


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