Every Sunday when I was younger my dad would pack my sister and me in the car and drive us to spend our morning visiting my Italian grandparents. Upon arrival at each of their homes, I was spoiled with some of the most delicious Italian treats: homemade pizza, meatballs and gravy (that’s red sauce to those who don’t know), egg biscuits and so much more. At the time I gobbled everything up, thinking everything was prepared special for my arrival.
As I got older I realized regardless of whether I was visiting or not, my Italian grandparents were always cooking and putting this amazing food on the table. Now, having just spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy, it became clear to me very quickly that food for Italians is a way of life, a way of inviting people into your home and spreading the love. Every family has its own customs and signature recipes, consolidated memories from extensive repetition and practice. With the beginning of a new semester looming, hosting an Italian dinner party is a great way to channel your inner Italian grandma and begin creating your own traditions with your college family.
What: Italian Dinner Party
For: Your new neighbors, your crush or even just your roommates
When: Any night that calls for an excuse to split a bottle of wine with friends
What to Eat: One of the beauties of Italian cooking is how budget-friendly it is for college students. Pasta, tomatoes, olive oil and basil are all inexpensive Italian staples that make it easy to whip up something quick and delicious.
To begin the meal, toast up some slices of bread and prepare a bruschetta or create a light salad, such as this one with white beans and arugula. Prepare an antipasto platter with assorted meats, cheeses and vegetables. As a main course, you cannot go wrong when serving everyone’s favorite Chicken Parmigiana. Though your Italian grandma might criticize your variation from tradition, try these twists on classic dishes, such Spaghetti Carbonara or Rigatoni Treviso. When you have the time to spare, making pasta by hand is a surefire way to impress guests.
If you are feeling really creative, then base the theme of the menu on one of Italy’s twenty regions. Get creative with Lombardy’s favorite rice preparation, risotto, by making it with in-season produce, or try the classic Roman dish Cacio e Pepe.
Of course, an Italian menu would not be complete without dessert. As its name suggests, tiramisu is the perfect pick-me-up for those late nights. Despite the lack of caffeine in this lemon budino, Cara and Phoebe assure that this will also perk anyone up from a food coma.
What to Drink: A dinner party could not be Italian without serving some wine to accompany the delicious food. It is easy to remember that white meats and white sauces pair best with white wines, while red meats and red sauces work with red wines. To finish the evening, serve dessert with hot cups of espresso, ideal for dunking biscotti.
How to Set the Scene: Transform your kitchen into an old school Italian restaurant by covering tables with red-checkered tablecloths and folded white linen napkins. Instead of a floral centerpiece, use empty bottles of wine as holders for small taper candles. Put out small plates of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping the baskets of bread laid out for munching. With the songs of Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli playing in the background, your guests will be waiting for the moment when the food is served and ready to “mangia.”
Bethany Imondi is a junior studying Government and English at Georgetown University. After watching her Italian grandmothers and Florentine host mother cook, she is constantly questioning what the measurement “a cup of this” really means. Read more…