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These Tuscan wines will inspire some great conversation at any dinner party you throw
The rich fields of Tuscany, Italy offer some of the most delicious wines we enjoy in America
Frescobaldi is one of the oldest family-owned wineries in the world — in fact, it's quite possibly one of the oldest wineries in the world, period, dating back to about 1300. Yet, the Tuscany-based company continues to evolve with new brands and new areas of production.
Here are four of its current releases.
2012 Frescobaldi Castello Pomino Chardonnay ($19). Pomino is a little-know appellation residing within the Rufina region of Chianti. But chardonnay isn’t a recent addition to Pomino seeking to capitalize on international taste. In fact, the Frescobaldis planted the French varietal here in 1855. The wine itself is very chablis-like with slightly chalky and minerally characteristics, yet fresh with good apple fruitiness. A good shellfish wine.
2012 Frescobaldi Ammiraglia Vermentino ($16). Very fragrant with pastel fruit aromas and flavors — almost minty, apple/grapey ones — and good acidity.
2011 Frescobaldi Terre More dell’ Ammiraglia Maremma Cabernet ($16). Pleasant cabernet flavors, on the darker side with mature blackberries with burnished wood notes and good finishing acidity.
2011 Frescobaldi Pietra Reglia dell’ Ammiraglia Morellini di Scansano Riserva ($23). Citrusy fruit with light black raspberry flavors, a medium-weight body and light, pleasant tannins.
Alfresco Dinner Party Menu with Recipes
Follow this alfresco dinner menu and you’ll be ready to entertain at home. This menu is easy, fresh, and delicious! I prepared it for a lovely dinner party alfresco, and you can find the easy recipes for the menu here.
A Most Amazing Tuscan Al Fresco Dinner Party
Hello there, or should I say: Ciao! Come and visit A Most Amazing Tuscan Al Fresco Dinner Party!
I have been away in Italy again for the past 3 months. I have not written a blog post since last November, although I have wanted to, it’s just been so very hard to get back into the swing of things.
It was a year on June 18 th that my dear husband, business partner, lover, and best friend, Steve, passed to the other side, completely unexpected, from kidney cancer. I know there is another world, purely energetic, but very real. I cannot accurately express how big the hole is in my heart. He was the love of my life, and I was his. I thought that the one-year mark would mean my grief would ease, but it has not. Instead it’s reared its ugly head even more forcefully.
Fortunately I have two great sons and two great daughter-in-laws and (drumroll please), a new grandson named Steven Malcolm, who is completely beautiful, adorable, full of love and the happiest baby ever. We call him Stevie. We don’t know why he is always so happy and loves to laugh so much but we sure love him. He makes me laugh. A lot.
Meanwhile, my friends in Italy are all so amazing and have taken such good loving care of me. I am so very grateful for all of them.
My final evening in Tuscany last week was a most marvelous dinner party, al fresco, in a tiny town called, Valtrito, overlooking Cortona. Marzia and her husband, Giorgio, hosted it at Marzia’s ancient family house, built in 1720. Giorgio is my good friend Tiziana’s, brother.
Marzia’s just picked figs as sweet as honey.
My friend Tiziana with her bounty of just picked figs to make her own jam.
What we call Italian purple plums, they call them “cosce di monaca”, which translates to “thighs of a nun”!
Tuscan sun-dried “cosce di monaca” and Marzia’s crostata con marmellata – with her own homemade plum jam.
Everything Marzia cooked or baked was made with ingredients grown in her garden! We started with incredible roasted peppers and eggplant, just picked incredibly sweet figs from their trees with prosciutto and sausage, sundried tomatoes and plums. Insanely good. Buonissimo. All with Marzia’s still warm, just baked bread, one whole wheat – pane integrale – and the other white – pane bianco toscano
Marzia’s beautiful table in a gorgeous setting…
Marzia and her DELICIOUS homemade, still warm breads. Tuscan bread has no salt. One explanation I heard is that in the 12 th century, salt had become scarce due to a high tax put on it and they decided to save the salt to use to cure the hams and sausages, so that none was left to also use for bread.
My first course or “starter” plate – so delicious!!
Marzia then served a marvelous lasagna, (most of us had seconds) followed by roasted chickens and potatoes along with a most delicious sausage stuffed zucchini half – my favorite – and the meal finished with a delicious crostata con marmellata made with her own homemade plum jam. In Italiano, the plums are called cosce di monaca, which translates to “thighs of a nun”! Don’t ask…
Our table was filled with Italian friends, a couple from Norway and even one other Americana, besides myself, so the conversation was wonderful and lively. I immediately spoke my limited Italian, but to the Norwegian couple who didn’t have any idea what the hell I was saying, being that they do not speak any Italian at all, which my Italian friend had to explain to me. It was a wonderful twist in that I knew more Italian than someone there!
All of our wines ending, of course, with Vin Santo on the far left.
Everyone brought wine and one guest was a sommelier while the other had worked at a winery nearby so the vino was free flowing and all so special and delicious with interesting stories to accompany each bottle.
Just feast your eyes on these pictures and my apologies for not getting all of the food, there was just too much goodness all around that as the evening progressed, conversation ruled, rather than photos.
The delicious roasted chickens.
Our view while eating!! #nofilter
Shots from the ancient main house, built in 1720.
The original kitchen. Just look at how big that fireplace is!!
The currently used kitchen with yet another fireplace. And every good Italian kitchen has a meat slicer!! (I want one too!)
Marzia’s grandmother’s stove. It looks like a toy! (I love the floor!)
An overview of the table from a house window after the dinner.
A magical evening to be sure, a most memorable end to my three month journey in life learning more about myself, attempting to heal, enjoying the food, wine and most importantly the friendships I have in this spectacular setting. For that, I am so grateful.
Since it’s Mother’s Day, I am dedicating this post to my incredibly loving mother who is in my opinion an exceptional host and entertainer. I have been fortunate enough to observe her throughout the years, and her taste, execution and grace make her a natural in the hospitality department. A few weekends ago she hosted some lovely ladies for “a night in Tuscany” in the backyard. The tablescape pictured above included an olive tree as the centerpiece surrounded by candles, sunflowers and fresh rosemary from her herb garden. The menu included an antipasto station, truffle reggiano greens, eggplant parmesan and of course lots of vino. I owe all of my domestication to her and continue to be inspired by her daily — she is the cutest! Below you will find a few more snap shots from the al fresco evening + links to purchase similar items pictured + recipes from the party. A night in Italy doesn’t have to be a plane flight away… bring the tastes of Tuscany to your home.
Links to similar items pictured above: olive tree | striped cushions for less | striped cushions for more | amber goblets | woven winery jugs
Here is a shot of her antipasto station // Antipasto (plural antipasti) means “before the meal” and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian lunch or dinner. Traditional antipasto includes cured meats, olives, peperoncini, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts, various cheeses (such as provolone or mozzarella), pickled meats, and vegetables in oil or vinegar.
She used a pizza board as the base and layered appetizers on top — always try to add different height levels as well… the pita chips are actually in a wicker cake stand with a olive motif cloth napkin.
Antipasto menu: herb garden hummus (click for recipe) | light & dark red grapes | sopressata & salami | assorted olives | bread sticks & pita chips | scattered basil & rosemary | adjacent to this and not pictured was a bar with various wines and prosecco
Links to similar items pictured above: wooden pizza board | wicker cake stand | olive boat | mini topiary tree | tiered votive holder
In the kitchen was a beautiful and simple flower arrangement of sunflowers at the base with pretty pops of purple the dinner display surrounded this on the kitchen island… and hanging above is her ever growing copper pot collection…
To start building your own copper collection click here for a suspended pot rack and here for copper cookware. I received this as a wedding gift and use it all.of.the.time… love it!Click the photo to purchase.
The dinner consisted of a delicious truffle reggiano salad and eggplant parmesan with toasted garlic baguettes.
Truffle Reggiano Salad – serves 8
- combine the following ingredients in a large salad bowl
- two bags of prewashed spinach leaves – tear them into smaller pieces
- scatter thinly sliced red onion
- two diced avocados
- half of a small container of shaved parmesan reggiano
- the juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon truffle oil
- cracked sea salt and black pepper
Martha Stewart’s Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- Olive oil, for baking sheets
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 large eggplants (2 1/2 pounds total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
- 6 cups (48 ounces) store-bought chunky tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- fresh basil for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup Parmesan, oregano, and basil season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1/2 cup mozzarella. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil springs. It should look similar to this..
My mom added a little condiments station as well… butter, salt, pepper (personalized wine bottle pepper mill – this makes a great hostess, birthday or shower gift), dried oregano, and of course extra parmesan cheese.
And after dinner they continued to sip on wine, chat and have a fun evening in the backyard… check out Restoration Hardware for similar outdoor furniture if you are ready to turn your patio into a new entertaining spot.
4 of 15
The evening starts in the living room with champagne, skewers of grilled shrimp and Padrón peppers, and avocado-and-grape bruschetta. An amuse-bouche of caviar on corn cakes begins dinner, followed by an endive and pear salad, brown-butter-laced pumpkin risotto, and a main course of coq au vin, Hasselback potatoes, and glazed carrots. A dense, delicious apple pie finishes the meal.
Altogether, it's a culinary experience made richer by excellent wine and easy conversation&mdasha harvesttime celebration of nature, family, and friends.
4 Delicious Wines To Pair With Your Pork Dinner
Pork has to be one of the most versatile foods when it comes to wine pairing. It’s rich but can be very light, and is generally not as fatty as steak. The best wine for pork will be something high in acidity. This could be white or red, or even rosé.
Acidity is essentially what makes wine food-friendly. A wine’s acidity is determined by various factors, but climate and grape variety are of utmost importance. Cooler climates, like Chablis in France, the Finger Lakes in New York, or Tokaj in Hungary, will generally produce higher-acid wines because the grapes ripen slower and later. Proximity to an ocean can also help wines develop acidity, because the cool breeze coming in will prevent the grapes from ripening too much.
Certain grapes are naturally higher in acid. For white wines, these include Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Furmint, and Chardonnay that hasn’t gone through malolactic fermentation. For reds, Gamay and Cabernet Franc. Earthiness in a red wine can also make it pair excellently with pork—so a grape like Nerello Mascalese, for example, which comes from the volcanic soils of Mount Etna in Sicily, is a great choice.
This Is The Last Corkscrew You’ll Ever Buy
To test out pork and wine pairings, I teamed up with professional chef Paul Harrison, and he whipped up a fantastic porchetta that is ideal for a chilly night when you just want to kick it at home and try out a slightly more advanced recipe. A porchetta, essentially, is pork loin wrapped in a bundle of pork belly. Complete awesomeness, in other words. Paul got up at 8am to brine the porchetta, and made a mustard cider sauce to go with it. The result was absolutely amazing. This is a recipe to impress your significant other, for sure (Paul’s girlfriend, in fact, said something like, “This is why I fell in love with you” when eating the dish). Check out Paul’s very thorough recipe here.
These are the high-acid, earthy, and affordable wines we enjoyed with the porchetta. They will be perfect alongside any iteration of pork.
Reyneke Sauvignon Blanc Stellenbosch, 2013: $26
Coastal Region, South Africa
Sauvignon Blanc is a versatile wine that’s also very unique in its flavor profile. It’s typically bright and grassy, with green pepper notes on the nose and palate, and balanced acidity. Former semi-pro surfer turned winemaker Johan Reyneke took over his family’s farm in 1998 and has since established Reyneke as the first biodynamic winery in South Africa. This is a fresh-drinking Sauvignon Blanc that exhibits all the typical characteristics of the grape with minerality and finesse. It’s truly an excellent value.
Forge Cellars Riesling Les Allies, 2013 :$24
Finger Lakes, New York
Riesling is native to Germany (where it’s commonly paired alongside pork) but New York’s Finger Lakes region is making itself known for producing quality Riesling wines that are dry, mineral, and full of wonderful acidity. Forge Cellars is a relatively new winery — their first vintage was 2011 — that makes delicious wine. One unique thing about this bottle is that it’s aged in barrels for a year, as opposed to just stainless steel vessels, which adds richness and structure to the wine. Another cool thing is that Forge Cellars is building a solar-powered, geothermal winery with the goal of being net-zero in energy production and consumption. This wine is great because it’s fuller-bodied, but also has beautiful acidity, ideal for pork.
Jean-Claude Chanudet, “La Cuvée du Chat,” 2013: $18
Gamay from Beaujolais, France
A Gamay wine from the Beaujolais region of France is a great choice if you’re in the mood for red. Gamay is one of the lightest red grapes, and outside France it’s grown in California and Oregon, amongst other places. Because of the cool climate in Beaujolais, Gamay from that region will have lively acidity and a fresh, mineral earthiness, which makes it perfect when paired with pork. This bottle is a fantastic example of Gamay from Beaujolais, but if you can’t find this exact producer there are many others to look for around this price-point.
Tenuta delle Terre Nere, “Etna Rosso,” 2014: $20
Nerello Mascalese & Nerello Cappuccio
The grape Nerello Mascalese, which grows on the volcanic soils of Sicily’s Mount Etna, makes an under-appreciated food wine. It has robust fruit notes, including ripe cherries and dark currants, and a smooth, silky quality that marries beautifully with meat in your mouth, as well as bright minerality thanks to the elevation on Mount Etna and the volcanic ash in the soil. Tenuta delle Terre Nere is an outstanding producer of Enta Rosso, as the blend of Nerello Mascalese with a small amount of Nerello Cappuccio is called. Try it if you want a slightly fuller-bodied red that’s still relatively low in tannin.
If you’re searching for stunning Italian recipes which will bring the authentic taste of Italy right to the heart of your home, it’s hard to beat the inspirational cooking of Gino D’Acampo, the UK’s most popular Italian chef.
Gino’s Italian recipes are a true homage to the country of his birth – this is Italian home-cooking as it should be, using delicious fresh ingredients and with simplicity of preparation at its core.
Gino makes the art of cooking uncomplicated and achievable, allowing you to create mouth-watering Italian cuisine which always packs a huge flavour punch.
Whether you fancy a light snack, or one of Gino’s rich, hearty soups – or perhaps Salsicce e Lenticchie (the Italian version of bangers ‘n’ mash!), you’ll find everything you need right here.
And if you’re seeking the full Italian experience, this is where you’ll find a huge range of ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Simply browse through Gino’s recipes and get cooking the real Italian way!
You can search by category, type of dish, main ingredient and by the name of the recipe your choices include antipasti, starters, soups, mains, sides and desserts – and whatever you choose to make, you’ll find the recipe will be easy to follow and will guarantee you success on a plate.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get into the kitchen and start cooking some fantastico food – Gino style!
Best posh pasta recipes
Looking for a pasta dinner recipe to serve at a dinner party? Our impressive pasta recipes are easy to make but are ideal for Italian themed dinner party, a special lunch or even a date. Try our delicious posh pasta dinner recipes to really impress without too much hassle.
Homemade butternut ravioli with brown butter and sage
Learn how to make the silkiest, smoothest dough to create out-of-this-world pasta at home, with step-by-step tips from our cookery team.
Crab pappardelle arrabbiata
Make this fuss-free impressive pasta dish with fresh crabmeat and homemade confit chilli oil from 26 Grains in Covent Garden.
Macadamia pesto pappardelle
Ramp up your classic pine nut pesto with toasted macadamias and toss through long ribbons of pappardelle. Make this for an easy yet impressive weekend pasta recipe.
Lamb ragu pappardelle
Check out chef Louis Korovilas’s melt-in-the-mouth pappardelle with indulgent lamb ragu. This easy yet impressive recipe comes from Italian restaurant Bancone in Covent Garden. We have a full dinner party menu from Bancone here…
Vincisgrassi (pasta baked with parma ham)
Vincisgrassi, a type of baked pasta, comes from the region of Le Marche in Italy. It’s attributed to both General Windischgrätz (who fought Napoleon at Ancona), and to princisgrassi (meaning fat for the prince). In either case it’s very rich – some versions being even richer with the addition of sweetbreads and a pasta dough made with vin santo or marsala.
Baked lobster fideo pasta
Try this baked lobster fideo from David Gingell of Western’s Laundry, one of London’s hottest new restaurants. This recipe not only looks impressive, it’s packed with flavour too. It may take a little bit of effort but it’s definitely worth it. Try our full Western’s Laundry menu here…
Slow and low goat ragu with orecchiette
Check out this rich and flavoursome melt-in-the-mouth goat ragu served with al dente orecchiette pasta and a topping of nutty parmesan. This may take a little time but you’re sure to impress your friends and family at your next dinner party.
Cauliflower and fontina cannelloni
This recipe for cauliflower and fontina cannelloni comes from the chefs at Cantino Corvino, London. It’s a delicious, comforting pasta dish that’s great for a vegetarian dinner party (try our other recipes here).
Prawn orecchiette with roasted-shell olive oil
Check out our easy orecchiette recipe with large juicy prawns and punchy chilli. Impress your friends with this simple yet flavour packed pasta recipe this weekend.
Duck livers with caramelised onions, red wine vinegar sauce and pappardelle
This pasta recipe has bold flavours from duck livers and sweet caramelised onions. Duck livers make a simple, rustic sauce, perfect for a wintery dinner.
Linguine with samphire and prawns
The best recipe for samphire. This easy dish is made with linguine and pairs the sea vegetable samphire with king prawns in a super-quick pasta sauce that looks really impressive. Looking for linguine recipes? Try one of our favourites here…
Spaghetti with chorizo and rosemary pangritata
Check out this quick and easy spaghetti recipe with crispy chorizo and crunchy pangritata. Pangritata, sometimes called poor man’s parmesan, is a mix of fried breadcrumbs and herbs used add flavour and texture to pasta dishes.
Fideuà is a Spanish dish similar to paella that uses short strands of pasta instead of rice. If you can’t find fideuà, break angel hair pasta into short pieces.
Pheasant ragu for pasta
A great introduction to pheasant: and makes a special sauce for pasta. This pheasant ragu goes well with tagliatelle for an impressive dinner party dish for friends.
Open spinach and ricotta ravioli
This classic blend of flavours is a favourite for a reason. Making it an open ravioli means that it’s quick and easy too, while it looks really impressive for a dinner party. Use dried pasta if you can’t find fresh, and cook according to packet instructions.
Posh porcini lasagne
Our posh porcini lasagne recipe is easy to make, vegetarian and feeds a crowd, perfect for family dinners or easy entertaining. Try our other vegetarian lasagne recipes here…
Angel hair pasta with lobster
Impress at your dinner party with lobster. Lobster tails are a good value way to buy lobster, though if you have access to whole lobster add the claw meat to the recipe as well.
Spaghetti alle vongole
Vongole or clams make a classic Italian pasta dinner tossed with linguine and herbs. The clams are cooked in dry white wine, which combined with the natural clam juice make a lovely rich sauce for the pasta. Serve as a smart main for 2 or a starter for 4.
Saffron mussels with orzo & tomatoes
This recipe for saffron mussels with orzo & tomatoes is really easy – it’s a one-pot – and takes under and hour but it looks fantastic and is packed full of delicious flavours. It’s a great new way to make the most of mussels and tomatoes.
Beef shin macaroni
This epic slow-cooked beef dish comes from legendary London steak house, Hawksmoor. Beef shin is cooked in red wine and stock until meltingly tender then macaroni and cheese is added and baked to golden, bubbly perfection. Make one of our macaroni cheese recipes from our collection here…
Crab and saffron linguine
Feeling fancy? Impress with this sophisticated linguine dish, flecked with fresh crabmeat, red chilli, lemon zest and saffron.
3rd COURSE – Florentine-style Steak
An authentic Italian dinner menu should include a Florentine steak.
You can’t spend five days in Florence and not have a Florentine Steak! Tuscany has some of the best beef in the world from Chianina cattle, and they are proud of it.
The steaks, aka La Bistecca, are a Porterhouse cut. The thing that makes it so unique is how simply it’s prepared, how thickly it’s cut, and how rare it’s cooked.
I re-created that experience with some Porterhouse steaks I got from the butcher. They’re not as thick as those in Italy but they give your guests a feel for the lifestyle.
These are sharing size so for a party of six you’d cook 3 steaks that are at least a pound each, with bone in. We followed these instructions for cooking.
Wine pairing for steak
Chianti is king when serving La Bistecca! It’s the quintessential pairing in Tuscany. Get the highest quality you can afford so you get the best experience. Chianti Classicos should be easy to find, and if you are looking to splurge, grab a Chianti Classico Riserva. Made from Sangiovese grapes, Chianti Classico has the perfect amount of tannins and acidity to cleanse your palate after all that juicy steak.
Bonus Wine Tasting Party Tips
Now that you have your wine tasting party ideas, wine tasting food menu, and equipment lineup all set, there are just a few other details to attend to for the most tasteful event.
- Right-size your gathering. A smaller group size encourages conversation and means you won’t have to supply several of the same bottles. Aim for a guest list of six to 10 adults.
- Try this order of operations. It’s not a must, but if you’re able to select the order of the wines to taste, start with sparkling, then work your way from lighter to heavier (light whites, full-bodied whites, rosés, light reds, then bolder and heavier reds).
- Remember the five S’s of wine tasting. To examine each wine, follow the sommelier tasting strategy of See (examine the color and viscosity), Swirl (to allow air to infuse into the wine), Sniff (take in the aroma), Sip (sample a small taste, allowing it to linger on your tongue for a moment), and Savor (think about what flavors you just noticed).
- Attempt to eliminate (or at least decrease) the intimidation factor. Because party hosts must always expect the unexpected, ready to make last-minute changes to the game plan, have fun, make jokes, and encourage everyone to ask questions,” DiMarino says. And remind everyone that there’s no right or wrong answers with wine. If you like the flavor, it’s a good wine for you, even if it doesn’t earn rave reviews from critics.
- Go virtual. If your guests prefer to join safely from home, DiMarino and several other wine pros can actually help take on the hosting duties for you. “People enjoy the comfort of their own home while partaking in libations and seeing others virtually it’s a great time,” he says. Seek out Facebook events or search “virtual wine tastings” online to find one that fits your price point and schedule, or host an event yourself online through Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook Rooms, Google Chat, or your preferred virtual conference software. (In case you missed it, online game nights are a blast too!)
Now that you know how to host an unforgettable wine tasting party, start assembling your guest list and raise a glass to all the fun to come. (And if you want to give back while having a good time, consider these charity-supporting wines.)