toasting friendship eggplant ricotta rigatoni, veal prosciutto and sage, spinach with garlic, torta caprese
The first time I served this menu was for a couple who had just moved to San Francisco. Having only met them just a few times, I wanted a menu that had interesting ingredients but was approachable, slightly different and delicious.
The first course, eggplant and ricotta is just a tomato based sauce with the added flavor of sauteed eggplant and topped with creamy spoonfuls of ricotta cheese. Veal is not something common to serve for dinner- having grown out of favor for a number of reasons. The use of prosciutto and sage creates a powerful combination. If veal is not your thing, substitute for chicken or pork and the results are still wonderful.
The Torta Caprese is an Italian chocolate cake that is not too sweet and not too rich but incredibly satisfying. I top with an orange scented whipped cream for put heaven.
In a perfect world, I would eat pasta at every meal…along with a crunchy, crispy salad…just pure happiness. And rigatoni pasta is one of the best shapes of pasta! Rigatoni topped with eggplant, fresh tomato sauce and soft dollops of ricotta cheese creates the appeal of a hearty flavored sauce combined with lovely, light creaminess…
Literally the name of this Roman recipe means “jump in the mouth” referring to how delicious the meal tastes. Some people feel uncomfortable serving veal, and a good substitute for veal is chicken breasts, or you can even prepare with pork cutlets. The veal (or substitute) can be made an hour or two in advance…
Spinach, a vegetable rich in vitamins and minerals, and is now being usurped by its famous cousin, kale. But let’s not forget how wonderful fresh spinach can be for a salad or gentle cooked as a side dish. Its elegant and subtle flavor will always have a place at my table.
What I love about a Torta Caprese, is that like so many Italian desserts, it is not too sweet, and the consistency of the cake is not overly dense or rich. Rather than more traditional wheat flour, the cake takes almond flour, or almond meal, and “rises” through the use of egg whites rather than…
The day before
Write down your menu, make list of what you need to prepare, and when you will prepare it. Get organized (in your head) with any serving plates or things you need for serving.
Make Torta Caprese and the orange whipped cream. Cake stays covered at room temperature.
Clean any fruit garnish for dessert, and refrigerate
Prepare the eggplant tomato sauce
Two hours before
Make the spinach, leave on stove top ready to be reheated
Set table- remember napkins, salt and pepper, extra cheese for the pasta
Organize serving bowls, dishes and serving utensils in kitchen
Put water in a pitcher with lemon or cucumber and refrigerate
Take out dessert bowls, plates and spoons
One hour before
Make the veal, keep in cool oven
Boil water for pasta, remove from heat and cover with tight lid- this step makes it faster to boil later
Place eggplant tomato sauce in large saute pan, ready to reheat
Have the veal juices in saute pan and ready to heat up to serve
30 minutes before
Oven with veal should be set to warming temperature, 170F (65C) to in order to warm meat
Put on music, open wine, set out glasses for drinks before dinner, and any nibbles/appetizers
15 minutes before guests at table
Prepare the pasta, slowly reheat the spinach- add a few tablespoons water or chicken broth to assure it does not burn
Begin to reheat the veal sauce over very low simmer
Light candles and put out water
As with all my menus, this one also has the benefit of short cuts. You can serve this in courses or all at one time- family or buffet style. When I serve the veal as a separate course, I recommend serving with just a bit of mashed potato for an added dish, or you can add another vegetable.
For the pasta course- substitute a good store bought tomato sauce for homemade, cook up the eggplant and the dish in done. Or buy a good pesto sauce, in substitution for the eggplant sauce, and serve the pasta pesto topped with spoonfuls of ricotta and a bit beautiful basil leaf.
Don’t want to make dessert, buy a good chocolate cake or tart at the bakery, serve with fresh whipped cream and you are the ideal host.