Bruschetta (Traditional)

Bruschetta is a fantastic appetizer.  There are so many different ways to prepare it with infinite flavor combinations.  You can get as creative as you want or you can keep it simple.  I served a traditional and simple bruschetta at my recent summer Italian dinner party.  Fresh tomatoes in August never let me down!

Bruschetta - LiveDineParty

Serves about 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Approximately 1 Tbs of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbs olive oil, plus additional for brushing the bread
  • 1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, cut in 1 inch slices
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil over the tomato mixture, mix gently and let sit at room temperature.  The longer you let this sit the more flavor it has so preparing this the night before a party works great.  If you are going to let it sit for longer than 30 min, refrigerate and remove from the refrigerator at least 10-15 min prior to serving.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the cut bread on a cookie sheet. Brush each piece of bread with olive oil.  Toast the bread until lightly golden brown.

Place the bread on a serving platter, top with the tomato mixture and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.  You can also mix in the balsamic in the first step instead of drizzling at the end.  I prefer to drizzle it as the last step because I like the flavor to stand out and the drizzle also makes it look a little fancier 🙂

Another great thing about bruschetta is you really can’t mess it up.  This recipe can be altered very easily…if you like a stronger basil flavor add more basil or if you like a stronger balsamic flavor add more balsamic.  Just remember to always taste test!

Homemade Basil Pesto

Homemade Basil Pesto - LiveDineParty Homemade Basil Pesto - LiveDineParty

Unfortunately, I wasted most of my life not eating pesto and I only started eating it in the last couple of years.  So, now I am trying to make up for all of the lost time.  The sad part is that I don’t think I really have a reason for not eating it besides I never really tried it.  I grew up as a very very picky eater and have since evolved to try so many new things, but I will admit to still having some picky-eater tendencies.   Regardless, I am extremely happy I have discovered pesto.

For the last couple of years my Nana would use the last of her basil at the end of the summer and make ridiculous amounts of pesto and we would freeze it in individual little zip lock bags.  I’m talking enough to make it through the winter for multiple family members.  The Italians don’t do anything in small batches!  This year, I finally decided to grow my own basil on our patio, and was rather successful, as it is the perfect ingredient to so many summer recipes.

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This pesto is super easy and quick to make and it is fairly healthy too.

Adapted from my Nana

Makes about 1 cup, serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed
  • ¼ cup pignoli (pine nuts)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
  • About 1/3 cup olive oil, add more if needed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

**I am not a huge fan of cheese so I skip it in my recipe, but feel free to add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese if you like or just sprinkle it on top of your pasta

Directions

Combine the basil, pignoli, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor (a blender will also work if you don’t have a food processor).  Pulse until finely chopped.  With the food processor on, slowly add the olive oil.  It should have a smooth, thick consistency.  Add in the red pepper flakes and pulse until it is mixed in.  If you choose to add cheese, stir in the cheese as the final step.

Homemade Basil Pesto - LiveDinePartyHomemade Basil Pesto - LiveDineParty

Now that you have the pesto made you can enjoy it on a nice dish of pasta, on a homemade pizza, or as a spread on sandwich.  As I mentioned before, pesto can be refrigerated or frozen for later use so don’t waste it!

Summer Italian Dinner Party

Summer Italian Dinner Party - LiveDinePartySummer Italian Dinner Party - LiveDineParty

I recently invaded my friend’s kitchen and threw a little Italian themed dinner party for a couple of our girlfriends.  I guess I do onsite dinner parties now too!  Since it was a warm summer night, I wanted to keep it on the lighter side.  And, it was the perfect summer Italian menu, using ingredients that are currently in season.

Great food and great company…thanks for a fun night girls :)!

The Menu

Appetizer: Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and a balsamic drizzle &

Antipasto with prosciutto, cheese and olives

Main Course: Homemade Basil Pesto with Fettuccine

Dessert: Lemon Sorbet & Georgetown Cupcakes (these may not be “Italian themed”, but cupcakes go with any menu!)

Cocktail: Lots of Wine (and one of my friend’s special bottles of wine for her first dinner party 🙂 )

Summer Italian Dinner Party - LiveDineParty

**Keep checking back for recipes for all of the above menu items**

The Table Setting

Summer Italian Dinner Party - LiveDineParty

In order to play up the Italian theme, I decided to use empty cans from canned tomatoes as vases for the centerpieces. For the flowers, I chose hydrangea (my favorite!), dahlias and some red accent flowers to stick with the Italian colors.

I also filled a mason jar with breadsticks, which added to the table setting and also served as a nice snack. Since it was only four of us, I decided to skip the place cards.  A few cute options could be a mini basil plant or a mini bottle of infused olive oil at each seat with the person’s name on it.

The Plan

When having a dinner party, the thing that always makes me most nervous is how to time everything right.  I think the key to being able to get everything done on time and not being overwhelmed is planning properly.  Do as much prep work prior to the dinner party as possible.

I was able to make most of the menu items ahead of time.  Especially since I was not going to be in my own kitchen for the actual dinner and it was a workday, I wanted to prep as much as possible and this menu made that very doable.  I mixed the bruschetta topping, made the pesto and made the sorbet the night before.  All of the items store great overnight in the refrigerator/freezer.  The day of the party, I picked up the flowers for the centerpieces and transported everything to her house.  All I had to do the night of the actual dinner party was toast the baguette for the bruschetta in the oven and boil some water for the pasta so I was able to enjoy myself and not just spend the night cooking!