I love the outdoor cocktail season. Italian cocktails, like Italian fashion, are glamourous and inviting.
Below I share with you my four favorite summer drinks. So save time in your evenings to relax and enjoy an aperitivo.
Figs Roasted with Orange Zest over Mascarpone
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 ½ tbsp honey, melted
2 tbsp raw sugar
Mascarpone, to serve
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut each fig in half lengthwise, then place them cut-side up in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with the juice of the orange and the honey. Scatter with the zest and sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.
Serve over a spoonful of mascarpone.
Costoletta alla Valdostana
Veal Chop with Fontina Cheese
4 veal chops
4 oz Fontina cheese
1 egg, beaten
3 oz butter
white truffle (optional)
salt and pepper
Butterfly the veal chops, leaving them attached to the bone. Flatten then slightly and place slices of Fontina in between each two pieces of meat. Add salt and pepper to taste and pound the edges together with a mallet. Dip in the beaten egg and then roll in breadcrumbs. Melt the butter in a skillet and when hot, place the chops in and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Heat over the 450F. Place chops on baking tray and cook in oven for another 3 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange on a serving platter. Add a shaving of white truffles over them and serve.
1 oz Campari
1 oz Gin*
1 oz red Vermouth
1 oz Prosecco
Fill rocks glass half way with ice. Add Campari, gin and vermouth. Stir and top with Prosecco.
*(I like to swap out the gin for vodka)
Pasta alla Norma
Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini adored this dish with such a passion that it was eventually named after his 19th century opera “Norma.”
- 1 lb penne
- 2 large firm eggplants (about 1 lb each)
- 2 tbsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
- 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
Trim the stems from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1” wide, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant into 1” cubes and toss in a large bowl with the 2 tablespoons of coarse salt. Place into a colander and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with half the olive oil. Turn the eggplant cubes onto the baking sheet, toss to coat with olive oil and spread them out in an even layer. Bake until the eggplant is very tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Turn and stir the eggplant cubes gently once or twice during baking so they cook evenly.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the penne. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir the penne into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. When it is al dente, drain the pasta. Pour in the sauce, tossing lightly to coat the pasta. Stir in ½ cup of the grated cheese and the basil. Add half of the roasted eggplant and toss, then add the ricotta, stirring it gently into the pasta. You want the ricotta to be warm, but you do not want it to blend with the sauce completely. Plate the pasta and spoon the reserved sauce over each serving.
Chocolate Panna Cotta with Glazed Cherries
This delicious pane cotta needs to be chilled for a day, but you can make it two days ahead of time to have ready for an afternoon get-together or for an elegant evening dessert under the summer stars in your own backyard.
- canola oil
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 2 cups whipping cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 5 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 lb cherries, stemmed, pitted
- 3/4 cup ruby Port
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
For the panna cotta
Brush six 3/4-cup glass custard cups with canola oil. Pour milk into medium bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the milk and let stand until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.
Stir the cream and sugar in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high flame, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until melted. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Stir in vanilla. Working in two batches, transfer mixture to blender. Do not over blend, so use only three on/off turns to just fully blend the mixture. Divide mixture among custard cups. Cover and chill for 24 hours.
For the cherries
Stir the cherries, Port, sugar and balsamic into a large heavy skillet over a high flame, until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the flame to medium and simmer until the cherries are soft and wooden spoon leaves a path in sauce when drawn across bottom of skillet, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Set the custard cups in deep baking dish. Pour enough hot water into the dish to come halfway up sides of the cups. Let stand 1 ½ minutes. Take the cups out of the water and wipe the bottoms dry. Invert each onto plate, shaking gently to dislodge the panna cotta. Spoon cherries and sauce over panna cottas and serve.