Wednesday, October 16, 2019 / Toronto, ON, Canada

All You Need for the Perfect Italy-Inspired Dinner Party

When I think of Italian cuisine, my mind automatically runs to pasta and charcuterie (specifically prosciutto). If you’re the same as me, you’re in for a real treat. Today, I’m sharing two simple recipes that will blow your dinner party guests away. You’ll start them of with a bouquet of the best types of roses – prosciutto roses, might I add – and end off with a classic cacio e pepe. All of this with a glass of wine? I’m sold! Now let’s get into it.

Prosciutto Roses

First things first, let’s talk ingredients. Here I’m using only the best – Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto di San Daniele. Both of these ingredients have a PDO status, which is a European Union certification that stands for Protected Designation of Origin. It’s “designed to protect the names and traditions of high-quality European foods that are made according to traditional methods in a specific geographic region”. AKA… It’s basically a stamp of approval that you’re getting the best!

In order to know what makes Prosciutto di Parma stand out, we’ll have to go back to its history and region. This prosciutto specifically can only be produced from the hind legs of specially selected pigs that are raised in 11 regions of Italy. They’re of only the ‘highest standards’ and are monitored, inspected, and traced. The only producers of Prosciutto di Parma are in Parma (hence the name, obvs) and they pride themselves of having no additives or preservatives – just sea salt, air and time. Similarly, Prosciutto di San Daniele is also completely natural and is actually matured for at least 13 months exclusively in the San Daniele del Friuli area in Northern Italy.

So now, how do you take a perfectly sliced Prosciutto di Parma or Prosciutto di San Daniele and make it become this?

Let me show you ;)

Honestly, it is that simple. You take the prosciutto, fold it in half, twist it, roll it, and ta da! You can also roll it the traditional way, but what’s the fun in that?

In order to keep it’s shape, place a little dollop of cream cheese on a cracker and place your delicate prosciutto rose on top. My fave combo is either prosciutto from San Daniele or Parma, with herbed cream cheese on a sea salt bagel crisp, sprinkled with chopped up chives on top. Just perfection!

With appetizers as cute as these, they’ll be sure to disappear right before your eyes!

Cacio e Pepe with Grana Padano

Next up – my favourite pasta of all time: Cacio e Pepe, made with Grana Padano PDO.

Cacio e pepe is literally stands for ‘cheese and pepper’, and the ingredients are just as simple as that. All you need is peppercorn, cheese, butter, and a pasta. I personally prefer the bucatini – it’s basically a spaghetti with a hole through the center, which is perfect for sopping up more sauce. But let’s talk about the best cheese for this dish.

Typically, people use parmesan in cacio e pepe; but, I prefer Grana Padano. It makes the sauce more creamy and has a particular nutty flavour to it. Again, Grana Padano holds the PDO certification and is well-recognized in Italy. To break it down, ‘grana’ actually means grainy texture and ‘padano’ is the area in northern Italy it’s produced. Grana Padano is generally aged from 9 to over 24 months, where it gets more grainy and rich in flavour as it’s aged longer. It is also naturally lactose-free!

Oka, all this talk about Grana Padano has got me drooling! 

Here’s how you make my favourite Cacio e Pepe with Grana Padano:

Start by boiling your water for your pasta. The key here is to heavily salt your pasta, as you’ll be using some of the starchy, salty pasta water to create your sauce. Once it starts boiling, throw your pasta in.

While your pasta is cooking, crush your peppercorns and melt butter on your pan. Add in your crushed pepper to the melted butter, and watch it bubble. 

Once your pasta is almost half-way ready, take a scoop of your starchy pasta water and pour it into your pan. It should bubble up immediately. Mix everything and it should thicken your butter and pepper concoction a little bit. You can then add in your pasta to the pan. The KEY is to take the pasta directly from the pot to the pan. You want the pasta water – so do not strain the pasta, remember that!

And now… For the main event, add the CHEESE.

It should start to smell absolutely amaaaazzzzeee right about now, if not before. Immediately incorporate the Grana Padano into your ‘butter/pepper/starch water’ sauce, and you’ll see it start to thicken up right away. The sauce will start looking creamy and silky as you continue mixing.

Continue adding in more cheese and pasta water to get your desired thickness of sauce. Once you think you’re good, add a bit more cheese. NOW, it is ready to plate and eat :)

Oh how I love easy recipes that only use a small number of ingredients! I truly believe that if you have quality ingredients, like these PDO certified Italian delicacies, you are good – to – go! I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!

Enjoy! Xx
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