We've teamed up with the talented Tracy Memoli of the food & travel blog, Suite & Savory, to bring you a 3-course wine dinner at home! This lovely Italian focused dinner with wine pairings for each course starts with a caprese salad, followed by Linguine con le Vongole and ends with sweet and savory poached figs & ricotta for dessert that will definitely WOW your guests! Each recipe is seven steps or less, serves 4, and much can be prepped in advance, so you have more time to spend with your guests.
Easy Caprese Salad
This is great as a salad, appetizer or a main course. I like using large heirloom tomatoes for this salad. Not only do the the heirloom tomatoes provide a beautiful color contrast on the plate, but the taste is also richer than regular tomatoes. Another tip to make the flavors of this salad stand out - make sure you choose a great olive oil. Here, I’m using Château d’Estoublon, it’s an extra virgin olive oil from the Provence region of France. The flavors from this olive oil are intense and really bring out the flavors of the heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil.
For the appetizer we suggest a bubbly like Franciacorta, which is made in the traditional champagne method, but is Italian! Or a textural white wine made with Italian grape variety, Ribolla Gialla, such as the blend from Matthiasson, which will offer just the right amount of weight to match the mozzarella.
- 3 large heirloom tomatoes
- 1 lb. mozzarella
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 3 tbsp olive oil (or more depending on taste)
- A dash of salt and pepper
1. Slice tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange on a large plate, alternating slices of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
2. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.
3. Place in the refrigerator and chill for approximately 10-15 minutes before serving.
Linguine con le Vongole
Linguine con le Vongole is one of my absolute favorite dishes to make for friends and family! It’s a recipe that has been in my family for many years. I love putting my own modern twist on traditional family recipes. In this dish, I like using a mixture of red and green tomatoes, which adds a nice unique flavor to the sauce. And for the WOW factor, I love to serve linguine and clams in a bread bowl!
For the main course it's important not to go too heavy, but equally important to have flavor that can stand up to the complexity of this dish. Try the Heitz Cellars Grignolino which is a lighter Italian red variety made in Napa Valley. Or, for a white wine option, try a slightly briny one such as Vermentino from the Liguria region of Italy.
- 1 ½ lbs. little neck clams (scrubbed)
- 1 ½ lbs. manila clams (scrubbed)
- 1 oval-shaped sourdough loaf
- ½ package chopped cherry tomatoes
- 1 chopped green tomato
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup finely chopped garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 box of linguine
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Start with a large oval-shaped sourdough loaf, coring out the center, leaving the base. Depending on the size of your dinner party, you could opt for smaller loaves to give each guest their own personal bread bowl.
Optional: save the extra bread to dice up and serve along with the dish, which is great for dipping into the broth at the bottom! For this recipe, I’m using Amy’s Bread, one of my favorite bakeries in NYC. You can usually find an oval-shaped loaf of bread at your local supermarket. Coat the oval-shaped loaf with butter and set aside.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add in the linguine and cook according to the directions on the box.
3. While the pasta is cooking, coat a large skillet with olive oil and on medium heat sauté garlic just until golden brown.
4. Add tomatoes and wine and cook for approximately 5-10 minutes over medium heat.
5. Once the tomatoes are cooked, add the clams, thyme and parsley, cover and cook until the clams open up, approximately 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open.
6. While the clams are cooking, right before you’re ready to serve the dish, just pop the oval-shaped loaf into the broiler on low heat for just a few minutes – toasting the bread until golden brown. Remove from the oven.
7. Combine all ingredients into the bread bowl and serve.
Poached Turkish Figs, Ricotta & Pistachios
What I love about this dish, is that it’s so versatile - what dish can you serve as an appetizer and dessert? A few come to mind, but none are as simple, sweet and little savory as this dessert. Poached figs and ricotta is the ultimate light dessert, perfect after lots of pasta and wine! And you can make this dessert ahead of time, just keep it chilled in the fridge and plate it all together after dinner.
For a lighter style dessert such as this one, you don't want the sweetness in your wine to overpower the dessert. We recommend going with a wine that has a slight sweetness such as Asti Spumante or an off-dry white.
- 10 oz. figs (approx. 10 figs)
- ¾ lb. fresh ricotta cheese
- ¾ cup of sugar
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 orange peels
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
- ½ cup of pistachios (chopped)
- A dash of cinnamon
1. In a medium saucepan combine 3 cups water, sugar, cinnamon and sticks, orange peels, orange juice, honey and bring almost to a boil then add in the (whole) figs.
2. Reduce heat to medium and cover partially for about 8- 10 minutes.
3. Remove figs and transfer to a bowl to cool.
4. Also remove the saucepan from the heat and cool, you’ll want to use this fig simple syrup when plating the dessert. You’ll have enough of the simple syrup leftover that you’ll probably want to refrigerate it and make fig martinis!
5. While the figs are cooling, chop about 1/2 cup of pistachios.
6. Once the figs are cooled, remove the stems and slice in half.
7. Using a small dessert plate or bowl, arrange 2-3 dates, a dollop of ricotta cheese, a spoonful of the fig simple syrup and garnish with pistachios.
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