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Quick & Delicious Italian Summer Dinner Party

If only we weren't stuck at home, back in Florence roaming around the beautiful Italian city of love.

When we went to Italy last September, we roamed the streets each night. We popped into Enotecas, (wine shops,) gelaterias (ice cream stores,) and foccacerias (bread markets.) What more could you want?

Of course, we visited the Galeria da Academia to see the statue of David and the Galeria de Uffizi - the most prominent art museum in Italy and 2nd oldest museum in the world. We had the most incredible time.

So instead, we're reminiscing in our home.


Occasionally we'll do this and buy a bottle of Chianti. We play Italian music throughout the house while we're cooking. There's a collage of pictures of our trip in the living room you can see in the distance filled with pictures of a much freer time.

This Quick & Delicious Italian Summer Dinner Party menu is inspired by the Tuscan region. Known for its simple and beautiful dishes, this menu was inspired with regional flavors like Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Pesto from Genoa, and a hearty meat & pasta dish inspired by Florence, herself.

Lemons & bread, (of course,) are just the part of the essence of Italy.



Tonight's dinner will include:

This is a fairly simple dinner to make, needing just a half day to prepare for. I went grocery shopping last night and am ready to cook up this feast for 4!

Appetizer

This Balsamic Bruschetta couldn't be simpler… or tastier.

I use roma tomatoes for bruschetta because they're a little meatier and hold their own piled on top of a piece of toasted bread. Red onion is a must here to compliment the tomatoes, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar bring all of the flavors together. Mix in some basil and salt? Magic.

You can even prep this in advance, (which I highly recommend because the flavors meld together even more beautifully with time,) by prepping the tomato, onion & sauce the night before. Toast up the bread before you're ready to serve it and top it off with the tomato mixture and parmesan.

Side

One of my new favorite salads is a Panzanella. Why? Because it's faking it.

Sometimes, I want something heavier than a salad with my meal, but really try to fight that urge. A Tomato Confit Panzanella Salad is the perfect compromise.

The tomato confit is inspired by Greensboro's very own Machete restaurant, where I had the most divine tomato panzanella of my life, (thanks, Tal!) Here, I try to recreate it with my own at-home spin adding in freshly roasted cherry tomatoes from the garden and some leftover baguette we had.

Entrée


This Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake is one of my all-time favorite recipes.

Made with chicken thighs, the flavors are just perfect for a warm summer dinner with friends. The pesto is fresh & herby with a little kick of spice from the chili flakes. Add a splash of lemon juice & white wine to brighten up the flavors.


Farfalle is my favorite pasta for this dish because it holds all of the pesto and parmesan perfectly for each bite.

Tonight, instead of broccoli, we used it's much cuter cousin: Broccolini.

*Fingers crossed for broccolini to take over and wipe broccoli off the map soon!*

Dessert

Finally, I'm serving Limoncello Granita for dessert.

This is a no-bake, no-cook, 4 ingredient recipe - including the Limoncello. All you need is 15 minutes to prep and at least 2 hours of freezer time.

And if you're not feeling boozy, you can easily make this PG-13 with regular lemon juice.

Remember…

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Prep Instructions

Servings: 4-6

Difficult Level: 2 Prep Time in Advance: 1.5 hours Cooking Time the Day of : 2.5 hours

Total Time: 4 hours

Ingredients


For the Bruschetta:

  • 5 roma tomatoes, diced

  • 1/2 large red onion, diced

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, diced

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil OR 1/8 cup of dried basil

  • 1 baguette

  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

For the Panzanella Salad:

  • 2 1/2 cups (or 1 pint) of cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped OR 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 crusty (stale) baguette

  • 1 cup perle (small) mozzarella balls (marinated in oil or in water)

For the Chicken Pesto Pasta:

  • 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil, + more for drizzling

  • 1 pound Boneless Chicken Thighs or Tenders

  • 2 teaspoons Salted Butter

  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon Pepper

  • 2/3 cup dry White Wine (Pinot Grigio suggested) or chicken stock

  • 8 ounces Farfalle (Bowtie) Pasta

  • 1 cup Broccoli or Broccolini florets, sliced into thin pieces*

  • 3 cloves of Garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

  • 8 ounces of Basil Pesto

  • 1/3 cup dry White Wine or chicken stock

  • 3 tablespoons Lemon Juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 1/2 cup of Fresh Basil, sliced into thin strips

  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan, grated

For the Granita:

  • 2 cups water

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup Limoncello

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

  • Sprigs of basil and/or lemon zest for garnish

Directions


Day 1: The night before - 1.5 hours

  1. Go grocery shopping (list attached in PDF)

  2. Prep the bruschetta tomato mix (no basil); leave in the fridge covered overnight

  3. Prep the tomato confit; leave in the fridge covered overnight

  4. If frozen, defrost chicken thighs in the fridge overnight

  5. Prep the lemon granita & put in the freezer

Day 2: The day of - 2.5 hours

  1. Prep your vegetables by washing & cutting the broccolini. Zest lemons if using for garnish, cut in half & then juice.

  2. Cut 1 baguette into slices for bruschetta & cut 1 baguette into cubes for panzanella.

  3. Take granita mix out of the freezer & scrape to mix. Put back in the freezer.

  4. Toast sliced & cubed bread in the oven for 8 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

  5. Combine cooled baguette cubes with tomato confit. Mix with mozzarella & top with basil; cover & let sit in fridge for at least a half hour before serving.

  6. Season & cook the chicken thighs for the pasta dish with olive oil, salt & pepper.

  7. Boil, cook & drain the pasta.

  8. In the same pan as the chicken was cooked in, pour in the pesto sauce. Mix in lemon juice, olive oil & wine until thinned out with the consistency of a puree.

  9. Cook the vegetables in the pesto sauce for 5-7 minutes. Combine the pasta, vegetables with pesto & top with parmesan & chicken thighs; transfer to heat-safe dish & bake for 10 minutes. Let cool 5-10 minutes.

  10. Take granita mix out of the freezer & scrape to mix. Put back in the freezer.

  11. For appetizing, top sliced baguettes with bruschetta mix. Sprinkle with parmesan. Serve.

  12. For dinner, serve Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake & Panzanella Salad.

  13. For dessert, serve Granita by scraping to mix one last time & putting the flaky ice into small cups. Top with basil or lemon zest for garnish.

Con Amore,

Chelsea

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Chelsea Boccardo Smith

Chelsea is the creator and founder of At Chelsea's. She enjoys sharing home entertaining tips, recipes, and menu ideas. Find time saving checklists & party planning guides on her Etsy shop. When she's not writing about her most recent party, she's out trying a new restaurant or taking her dog, Amber, for a long walk.
Learn more about Chelsea.

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