Preparing an entire meal doesn’t have to be completely overwhelming. When preparing an Italian dinner, you can go beyond the standard spaghetti and still keep it manageable. The menu for this Italian meal includes:
- Chicken Marsala
- Penne with Garlic, Tomatoes, Basil, and Buffalo Mozzarella
- Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Before getting started with this menu, you need to have a plan of attack so you’re not putting everything together right before serving.
- On a notepad, outline your menu and jot down prep start time, cook start time, and prep time projections for each course.
- Cook your pasta ahead of time, and store in a bowl of water in the refrigerator.
- Mix your dry ingredients ahead of time and store in a zip-lock bag, such as the flour for the chicken marsala.
- Peel your garlic, clean and slice your mushrooms, pound your chicken ahead of time, cut your vegetables; and store in the refrigerator.
- Pre-measure separate ingredients ahead of time, and place in individual ramekins or bowls prior to preparing.
- Make the tiramisu the night before and store in the Refrigerator.
When preparing this course, you want to have it set up as a production line. Have the chicken in the first position, the flour bowl in the second position, and the pan with the olive oil in the final position. Once you cook the chicken, you’ll want to have the other pre-measured ingredients to the other side so you can just add them when it’s time.
- 2 Skinless Chicken Breasts / or 4-6 Chicken Tenderloins (you can use more chicken, but may need more oil when cooking)
- 1 Cup White Flour
- 8 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 t Kosher Salt
- 1/2 t Fresh Ground Pepper
- 1/2 t Dried Thyme
- 15 Cloves Garlic
- 2 Cups Sliced Brown Mushrooms (I use crimini)
- 1/2 Cup Marsala Sweet Wine
- 2 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1 T Brown Sugar
- Cooked Pasta or Rice to be served with the Chicken
Flatten the chicken to just under 1/4″ thick (place in a zip-lock bag when flattening). In a shallow bowl mix the flour, salt, pepper, and thyme together.
In a large deep skillet (~4″ deep), heat the olive oil and garlic cloves over medium-high heat. Stir the garlic until very lightly browned. Remove the garlic from the pan; keep the heat on (increasing the heat to high).
Increase the heat on the stove to high. Placing the bowl next to the pan, coat the flattened chicken in the flour, coating both sides. Place chicken into the pan, cooking each side 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness of chicken). Remove the chicken to a plate, leaving the brown bits in the pan.
Add the Marsala wine to the pan, using a spatula to de-glaze the pan; this will give you some good juice in the pan. Add the chicken broth to the pan, and mix. Add the mushrooms and garlic, and continue cooking on high reducing the fluids down by about 25%. The sauce should thicken. You can mix 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture with equal parts of water, and mix into the sauce to thicken further (it will need to boil to thicken).
Taste the sauce. If you like more sweetness, then add the brown sugar. It’s now ready to serve. Just plate the chicken, add the sauce on top with cooked mushrooms and garlic cloves. Serve with pasta or rice, and some vegetables; and you have yourself a complete meal.
This is a very quick and easy pasta dish to make, with lots of good colors to decorate any plate.
- 2 Cups Penne (measured uncooked)
- 4 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 8 Cloves Garlic (diced or finely grated)
- 1 Bunch Fresh Basil (julienned)
- 1 Can Diced Tomatoes (~15 oz.)
- 1 Cup Buffalo Mozzarella (cut into ~1/4″)
Prepare your penne, following the directions on the package. When it’s cooked, strain, rinse, and place to the side.
In a skillet or large sauce pan, add the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, and cook it for a minute or 2 (don’t let it brown). Add the can of tomatoes with the juice. Reduce the liquid down a little, and add the pasta and mix it in to heat the pasta.
Right before you remove from the heat, mix the julienned basil in for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pasta to a serving bowl.
Mix the mozzarella in right before taking the serving dish to the table. This will help ensure the cheese doesn’t all melt together.
These brussel sprouts are easy to make. You can pre-mix everything, and have it siiting in a bowl until ready to place on a tray and cook.
- 1 Cup Brussel Sprouts (cut in half)
- 4 Cloves Garlic Crushed (dry roasted garlic can be substituted)
- 1 – 2 t Kosher Salt
- 3-4 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pre-heat the oven to ~400° (or broil). Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, and place brussel sprouts (flat side down) on a tinfoil covered tray. Put the tray in the oven for 10-15 minutes. I like to see some browning color before I take them out. I don’t like brussel sprouts overcooked, but cook them to your preference.
An alternative cooking method is to cook them stove top in a saute pan, using the famous flipping wrist action to saute them (same ingredients. Again, I cook them to get some browning on them.
This is a delicious Tiramisu recipe that isn’t too difficult to prepare. Make this the night before to avoid last minute scrambling.
- 6 Egg Yolks (use pasteurized eggs)
- 3 T Sugar
- 1 lb. Mascarpone Cheese
- 1 1/2 Cups Espresso (chilled)
- 2 T Dark Rum
- 2 T Coffee Liquer (i.e. kahlua)
- 24 Lady Fingers (shop ahead for these…can sometimes be difficult to find)
- 1/2 Cup Chocolate Shavings
In a large bowl, whisk egg and sugar until thick and pale yellow (about 5 mins.). Add mascarpone and beat until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon of the espresso and the 2 T of Kahlua, and mix until combined.
In a shallow dish add the leftover espresso and rum (liquid should be about 1/4″ deep). Dip 12 lady fingers in for 2-5 seconds (one side only). Don’t let them get soaked all the way through, as this could result in a liquidy tiramisu. Place the lady fingers, liquid side down, on bottom of a pan (this will be used as your serving dish). The pan should be sized to just fit 12 lady fingers.
Spread half the cheese mixture over the lady fingers. Dip the leftover lady fingers in the espresso liquid for ~3 seconds on one side, and place these on top of the 1st layer of mascarpone, liquid side down. Spread the remaining mascarpone mixture on top of the second layer of lady fingers. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, top with the chocolate shavings, and you’re ready to go.
- You can buy pre-sliced mushrooms, and pre-peeled garlic cloves to reduce prep-time.