So you think you could never pull off a four-course Tuscan-style meal for a party of 8 or more? I would have certainly been in that boat not too long ago. But I was recently in Miami visiting my sister and she took me to the a great cooking class that demonstrated how easy it can be to create amazing meals.
The class was taught by Chef Sandra Stefani, owner of Casa Toscana, an amazing Italian restaurant my sister and her husband frequent. It was the perfect cooking class for me – Chef Sandra Stefani states that Tuscan cooking is the ability to create something special utilizing simple basic ingredients – I love the simplicity in these recipes that are quite spectacular in taste and presentation. We also have very similar cooking styles – hardly anything is measured exactly but rather by the senses: taste, touch, smell, and sight.
The class also reminded me of perhaps my favorite “by-product” of good food – the ease of sharing a lovely meal and engaging conversation with complete strangers. We were there with several other lovely ladies and probably spent a good two hours eating and talking.
It was the first time I’ve made homemade pasta and it was divine- melt in your mouth soft and tender. It was also surprisingly easy to make, so long as you have a pasta press/roller (note to self – place on wish list!). I will certainly use this menu in the future and already have some pasta and semifredo recipes in mind I hope to try.
The menu (a perfect Tuscan-style dinner party menu) ~
Antipasti: Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
Pasta: homemade quadrucci pasta with arugula pesto
Main course: Baby Lamb Shank Ossobuco
Dessert: Lemon semifredo
Below are the recipes for each dish and photos from our class:
Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
I absolutely loved these – wonderful flavor and a delicate texture. They are very easy to make – if you’re doing the full menu, you can grill the eggplant and make the filling earlier in the day so they are ready to prepare right before your guests arrive.
- 2 large eggplants, sliced length wise about 1/2 inch thick
- ~1 1/2 cups goat cheese
- Dash heavy cream
- Finely chopped parsley & basil
- Baby greens, chopped
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic and S/P and brush each eggplant slice on both sides and grill until tender (you can also pan fry or bake). Set aside to cool.
- Prepare the filling by mixing goat cheese with a dash of heavy cream and add the chopped herbs and pepper to taste. Place in fridge to cool until ready to fill eggplant.
- When ready to fill (don’t fill when eggplant is hot), place a small amount of greens and about a tbsp. of prepared filling at the top corner of each eggplant slice and gently roll up.
- Arrange all prepared rolls in a serving platter, garnish with remaining chopped greens and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and serve.
Homemade Quadrucci Pasta
This pasta reminds me of torn paper in shape but is soft and delicate in taste. Here is the recipe and some tips along with the photos.
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Pasta press/roller
- Mix the flour in a bowl making a hollow in the center and break the eggs one at a time, mixing with a fork.
- Once all the eggs have been incorporated into the flour, begin to knead with your hands until the dough is stiff and elastic.
- Divide the dough into golf size balls and cover with plastic wrap to avoid from drying out. (only if not rolling immediately)
- Mold your dough balls into a log shape then squish the log a bit thin so the roller with take it up.
- Begin rolling the dough one piece at a time through the pasta machine using the highest dial first and ending with the lowest dial in order to achieve thin and elastic pasta sheets.
- Cut each sheet into even squares (quadrucci) and place each piece on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- To cook simply cook pasta in boiling water for a minute, drain and mix with the arugula pesto.
- You can freeze in containers or ziplocks (in separate portions) – thaw for the day and prepare at night.
After the first roll through, fold the sides into meet each other so the edges are straight – that’s how you get the square shape. As you’ll see in the pictures below, with each roll, your dough will get thinner and longer (and require a little teamwork)!
For an extra treat, you can fold your sheet of dough in half and sandwich basil leaves in between and then roll the dough out to get something like the picture above – beautiful!
Me, my sister, and the finished product!
- Arugula (about 3 cups)
- 6-8 garlic cloves
- olive oil
- grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)
- Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse into smooth. Add olive oil in small amounts to achieve your desired consistency. Add S/P to taste. You can also add pine nuts or walnuts if you like these in your pesto.
- The pesto can be stored in the fridge and reheated with a dash of heavy cream right before serving the pasta. For long term, you can store in individual servings in the freezer and just thaw and reheat.
- Lamb shanks (about 2 per person)
- Olive oil
- Fresh thyme, rosemary, sage
- Tomato puree
- Garlic cloves
- About 3-4 shallots
- 2 large fresh tomatoes
- About 1/2 cup red wine
- Cup white wine
- Cup chicken stock
- Dash sugar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Flour each shank and season with S/P and fresh thyme leaves. Heat a dash of olive oil and a pat of butter in a pan over medium heat and lightly sear (about 15 secs each side) each shank on all sides. Place seared shanks in an oven pan (round side of bone up, triangle side down).
- Deglaze the pan by adding a cup of white wine and a few crushed garlic cloves. Add one cup chicken stock, splash of balsamic and about 1/4 cup of tomato puree. Flavor with fresh thyme, rosemary, and sage. Cook for a few minutes and then pour over the lamb shanks. Cover the pan tightly with saran wrap so it forms a “steamer.” Then cover the pan tightly with a layer of aluminum foil so it covers the saran completely. (This is how we did it in class, but I think you could also achieve the same results from preparing the dish in a dutch oven)
- Heat in the oven at 450 degrees for about 2 hours or until the meat starts to separate from the bone.
- For the sauce, roast the shallots in olive oil and add the chopped tomatoes until thick. Add the red wine, some fresh herbs, a dash of tomatoe puree, a dash sugar and a dash balsamic and cook for a few minutes. Season with S/P. Puree with a hand blender or transfer to a food processor/blender to puree. Return the sauce to the stove and add a generous pat of butter to thicken the sauce.
- Keep the sauce warm if serving soon. You can also make the sauce a day or two before and just reheat on the stove before serving the lamb.
This was so good – I’ve been looking for ways to achieve an ice-cream like texture without the ice-cream maker and this was spot on. It reminded me of frozen custard but was so light and refreshing with the lemon flavor. This recipe makes about 8 generous servings.
- 6 egg yolks
- 6 tbsp sugar
- The zest from 2 lemons and 1 orange
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon extract
- Optional: 1/2 cup limoncello liquor
- 2 cups heavy cream
*If using the limoncello, you may have to play with the combination of juice, extract and liquor to acheive your desired flavor and consistency.
- Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very cream and fluffy, several minutes. Add the zest, juice, extract and limoncello if using. Set aside.
- Whip the heavy cream with the sugar and fold into the lemon egg mixture.
- Place in individual glasses or inside the shell of a lemon.
- Freeze for a few hours in the freezer (this can be made a day or more before your dinner party).
- Serve directly from the freezer with lemon cookies.
These recipes served generous portions for a group of 8. All recipes are by Chef Sandra Stefani.