Here are the recipes we used to make our scrumptious Italian dinner for Valentine’s Day. I recommend them all highly!
This was the easiest part of our meal. We purchased a salumi combo pack from Trader Joe’s and arranged the meats on a platter with a loaf of French batard (oops, not Italian!) from Hungry Ghost Bread. The salumi combo pack comes with Calabrese salame, capocolo, and prosciutto – yum! A simple and delicious start to the evening.
This appetizer was inspired by a recipe from Emilia-Romagna in Epicurious’s Italy issue. The original recipe called for ripe figs and mozzarella; figs aren’t in season so we had to go with dried figs. Since it was a special occasion we opted for creamy, gooey local burrata instead of mozzarella. If you have real-deal balsamic vinegar this is the time to use it! We are lucky enough to have aceto balsamic tradizionale, gifted to us by my brother who picked it up from Acetaia Leonardi di Modena in Italy.
12 dried figs, stems removed and halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon lemon zest
pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 large ball of burrata
Mix zest, salt, pepper, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and thyme and toss with figs. Arrange figs on a plate with burrata in the middle; pour remaining balsamic liquid over burrata and figs. Enjoy!
Inspired by Chef John’s porchetta recipe & the porchetta recipe from Epicurious’s Italy issue
Mmm, porchetta – a delicious roast from the central Italian regions of Lazio and Marche. Fatty, flavorful pork butt is the cut you’ll want for this dish. This version is a simplified and quicker roast, rather than the usual hours-long roasting that this dish calls for.
2.5-3.25 pounds boneless pork butt (pork shoulder)
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
zest of 1 orange
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed slightly
Butterfly the pork butt so that it opens like a book (you can also have your butcher do this for you). The meat should be relatively even in thickness.
Make small slashes in the meat with a knife so that the seasonings adhere, then drizzle meat with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Rub the oil in with your hands then add all seasonings, reserving 1 teaspoon of salt for later use. Press seasonings firmly into the meat.
Roll up the meat and tie with kitchen twine in 5 to 7 places spaced evenly apart. Sprinkle with reserved teaspoon of salt. Refrigerate uncovered overnight for optimal dry-aging (or cheat like us and do it for approximately 7 hours).
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Set the meat in a greased baking dish and rub meat with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Place dish in the preheated oven until outside is seared, about 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 250 F and continue to roast until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees F. The length of time to achieve this temperature will depend on the size of the roast and your oven. For us, it took about 1 hour 45 minutes.
When the meat reaches the optimal temperature, remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly to serve and drizzle with a mixture made of pan drippings, white vinegar, red pepper flakes, and parsley (dried is fine) – all to taste.
Spinach with Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Seeds
This easy, colorful, and tasty side dish comes from Sicily by way of Epicurious’s Italy issue. This healthy recipe is perfect to experiment with – I subbed in pomegranate seeds for currants and am thinking chopped pistachios would make a nice addition next time.
1 bag of spinach (8-10 oz.)
3/4 to 1 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and pine nuts, cooking until the nuts are slightly browned and taking care not to burn the garlic, approximately 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add the spinach, tossing until wilted.
Remove from the heat, season with salt and lemon juice, and toss with pomegranate seeds. Serve warm.
Panna Cotta with Lemon-Orange Marmalade
Inspired by Lemon Panna Cotta with Lemon Marmalade from Epicurious’s Italy Issue and Panna Cotta from Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte
Sweet, creamy panna cotta comes from the far north of Italy in Piemonte. This region borders Switzerland and France, both of which have played a role in Piemonte’s culinary history.
For panna cotta
10 grams/ 1/3 ounce gelatine leaves
scant 2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
3/4 superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 large lemons
1/3 cup fresh lemon/orange juice
3/4 cup sugar
For panna cotta
Submerge the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water. After about 10 minutes, squeeze the leaves to remove excess water, then place in a small saucepan with 4 tablespoons of water. Keep the heat on low and stir gelatine leaves until fully dissolved in water.
Mix the cream and milk together in a separate saucepan and add the sugar. Bring gradually to a simmer, stirring constantly. Stir in vanilla extract and remove from heat. Stir in gelatine, mixing thoroughly.
Pour into small ramekins or a small circular serving dish. Let cool at room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and chill at least four hours. To serve, invert on a dish garnished with lemon-orange marmalade (recipe below).
Use a knife to cut long strips of peel and pith from lemons and orange. Remove any flesh from peel, keeping pith.
Juice lemons and orange to measure 1/3 cup and reserve.
Add peels to a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Keep at a rolling boil for a full minute, then drain. Fill up pan again and repeat boiling/draining process two more times. Let peel cool, then slice into strips 1 inch long by 1/4 inch wide.
In a small saucepan, combine sugar, lemon-orange juice, and 1/4 cup water over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a simmer and add peel. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes, until liquid has reduced and thickened and a thermometer reads approximately 225 F. Remove from heat and let cool, then chill; the marmalade will thicken in the refrigerator. It can be stored for up to two weeks.