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Italian Dinner al Fresco Menu with Free Printables

Italian Dinner al Fresco Menu with Free Printables

Pregnancy cravings are no joke. Add to that my desire to entertain… well, a simple craving for an Italian meal turned into a multi-course extravaganza. I researched formal Italian meal courses and found out that Italians, they know how to dine! Out of my research (and cravings) came a 9 course meal that lasted four hours long!

I can’t say that the entire inspiration for this party was my pregnancy cravings… though, they certainly took a big role! The other inspiration was Kohl’s. When Kohl’s asked me  how I celebrate summer I knew the answer was “Dinner al Fresco” and went shopping with that in mind. After coming across the Bobby Flay Home collection of melamine tableware I knew that I’d be serving an outdoor Italian feast.

Read on for my Italian dinner al fresco menu, table decor resources AND free printables so you can throw your own outdoor Italian feast!

Italian themed dinner menu and free printables — A Well Crafted Party

Italian themed dinner menu and free printables

Free Printable Wine Tag

Resource List

Menu for an Italian Dinner al Fresco

Italian Dinner al Fresco:

In my massive craving for Italian food I went on a research binge to find out different ideas for a coursed out Italian meal. What I discovered is that Italians LOVE their food! A formal Italian meal has several different courses to it. Now, typically they wouldn’t list the aperitivo course on a menu because it is meant as a sort of opening to the meal. But, I just love a big full menu, so I included it. Below is what I did for our Italian meal. Please note that I am not Italian, nor have I had the pleasure of going to Italy. I wrote my Italian menu from researching different ideas and coming up with recipes. They may or may not be authentic Italian food. However, the menu items are delicious. Also, I used Google Translate to help me figure out how to word the menu items on the menu I created.

Apertivo Ideas for Italian Dinner

Aperitivo:

The opening course that usually features a cocktail, Prosecco, champagne, wine  or sparkling water may also be accompanied by light appetizers. I served Prosecco, Italian Olives & Caprese Bites.

parmesan stuffed grilled artichokes

Antipasto:

The antipasto course is slightly heavier than the apertivio course. Sometimes you’ll see either an aperirtivo or antipasto course offered at restaurants, but I went all in and did both. I chose to serve my garlic and parmesan stuffed grilled artichokes for this course.

Primo or first course in Italian meal

Primo:

The primo course is a heavier course than the antipasto, but lighter than the secondo course that comes next and is often served hot. Typically it is a pasta dish, risotto or soup. I chose to serve a clam spaghetti or Spaghetti alla Vongole. I’ll be sharing my recipe for this soon because I make my Spaghetti alla Vongole a tad different than other people out there, but in the meantime you should check out the Spaghetti Vongole from Jamie Oliver! YUM.

Secondo or second course in Italian meal is usually the meat course.

Secondo: 

The secondo course is quite a bit heavier than the primo course and is typically the meat dish. It is often served alongside a contorno which is a vegetable side, either cooked or raw. An insalata (salad) can be served with this or after this course. I chose to serve my meat on top of my insalata or contorno (whichever you please) with a beautiful grilled flank steak served on a bed of arugula with freshly shaved parmesan and lemon. (Recipe coming soon!)

Italian inspired fruit and cheese plate

Formaggi e frutta:

A cheese and fruit plate comes next in this extravagant meal. While most of our meal was served family style I prepped individual plates for the cheese and fruit course. I served a beautiful Italian gorgonzola and fontina cheese alongside grapes and grilled figs that were drizzled in honey. Just so you know… figs and gorgonzola are beautiful together.

Dolce Course or dessert course is one of the most important courses in my opinion.

Dolce: 

One of my dear guests asked if she could bring anything to the event and I happily took her up on making a dessert because she is one of the best people in the world to ask to bring dessert. She never disappoints and didn’t disappoint on this lovely evening. She brought locally baked shortcakes to top with local strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Such a nice way to round out the meal.

Caffè:

Just when you think you are done… there is more! The caffè course is typically served last unless followed by an ammazzacaffè. I got this part wrong on my menu originally but fixed this for the printable. I put the digestivo after the caffè. It honestly didn’t make much of a difference though. We served a nice rich espresso. For all those non-Italian palates in the room (everyone) we had some whipped cream to top the strong coffee and sweeten it a bit.

Digestivo or Ammazzacaffè:

The digestivo is a drink to conclude the meal. It is typically a liqueur of some sort. We served Limoncello.

To say we were full after this evening would be an extreme understatement.

 

Dinner al Fresco menu and free printables

Free Italian Dinner Printables:

If you’ve been reading long then you know that I’m obsessed with the ease of printables. This party was no different. I created up some fun Italian-inspired printables to bring together the table. Today I’m giving them away… for free! If you like free printables then please take a moment to sign up for my newsletter. All of my newsletters promise never before seen content, goodies, opportunities or printables for subscribers ONLY. And, of course, if you use some of my free printables I’d love to see them in action! #awellcraftedparty on any social media images so I can see and share. Now… onto the goodies:

Instructions are listed on the printables. To download, click on your selected printable, hit download, and save to your computer. Print according to instructions. Printables are for personal use only.

Free Printable Wine Tag

 


 

A big thank you to Kohl’s for asking me how I celebrate Summer. This was a lot of fun to put together. Kohl’s provided me with a gift card to help in celebrating summer. Thank you for reading posts that help support this blog. I only talk about companies that I have used, liked and feel that my readers would benefit from knowing in my blog posts. I regularly shop at Kohl’s for their great selection and prices. Please refer to my policies for more information. 

 

Easy Antipasto Recipes

Easy Antipasto Recipes

Antipasto (plural antipasti) means ‘before the meal’ and is the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. ” — Wikipedia

I’m a big fan of this traditional first course of a formal Italian meal. Heck, I’m a fan of ALL courses of a formal Italian meal, but this one holds a special place in my heart because of how darn easy it is to put together a great antipasto recipe or three. And, really, antipasti just sounds so fancy!

Caprese Bites

My favorite antipasto recipe to make is barely even a recipe it is so darn simple. It is also incredibly delicious and looks great on a platter! The recipe for my caprese bites is below along with a round up of some awesome Antipasto recipes from around the web. Think of this your one stop antipasto shop. (Don’t forget to Pin for later reference because, believe me, you’ll want to come back here and make these for guests!)

Caprese Bites

Caprese Bites

Caprese bites are an easy way to wow your guest for antipasto course!

Ingredients

  • 24 toothpicks
  • 24 mozzarella balls packed in water
  • 24 leaves of basil
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of dried Italian seasoning
  • Balsamic Glaze or Balsamic Vinegar Reduction for drizzling
  • Optional red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Drain your mozzarella balls and put in a bowl with the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Italian seasoning. Mix up so that all mozzarella balls are covered in the mixture.
  2. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half.
  3. Spear your basil, mozzarella and cherry tomato half with a toothpick. With the big leaves of basil I like to pierce the basil, put the mozzarella on the tooth pick, and then pierce the other end of the basil sort of sandwiching my mozzarella between the top and bottom of the leaf. I end with the cherry tomato half, cut side down, so it can stand on a platter.
  4. Drizzle with a balsamic glaze and serve!
  5. If you want to add a little spice then sprinkle some red pepper flakes across the finished dish!

Notes

You can purchase a balsamic glaze or you can make it yourself! To make your own balsamic vinegar reduction simply by taking a cup of balsamic vinegar, cooking until boiling over medium-high heat (stirring occasionally), and then turning down the heat to medium-low and cooking until the vinegar has reduced by half. Some people like to mix in honey in their balsamic reduction... me, just give me vinegar!

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 Easy Antipasto Recipes

Amazing (and Easy) Antipasto Recipes:

 

Okay, I promised a one-stop antipasto shop and that is what I plan to give you. Some of the below dishes would make for the perfect antipasto course all by themselves, others are the perfect addition to a beautiful antipasto platter.

Antipasto Platter Makings:

 

Stand on their own Antipasto Dishes:

 

Antipasto Salads:

 

Have any favorite Antipasto Recipes or Tips to add? Comment below with your favorite links, tips, dishes to serve when you do your own antipasto course!

Parmesan & Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes Recipe

Parmesan & Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes Recipe

Growing up I was one of the children on the free lunch program at school. I often ate peanut butter and sugar sandwiches or hamburger helper because that is all we had available in our home. While we never starved—due to great programs available to us and parents and grandparents that worked very hard to make sure we were okay—we never did really get to try new things or enjoy different kinds of vegetables. A lot of what we ate was frozen, in a can or fast food.

The times that I did get to experience great foods, often at my grandmother’s home where she would spend hours over the stove making home made spaghetti and meatballs or fresh strawberry topped pancakes, introduced me to a world with which I would someday fall in love. As I grew up and began to earn my own money and buy my own meals, I discovered my deep love for food— fresh, different, amazing food. My first year of marriage I think my husband and I spent $800 a month on groceries for just the two of us. YIKES! (Although, it sure is nice to have a partner that values good food as much as I do!)

We can’t spend that much on food nowadays with more bills and a kid (and one on the way). Though, even when we struggle with money, our food budget is one area that I work hard to maintain enough budgeted money so that we can enjoy fresh fruit, vegetables and quality proteins daily. I meal plan weekly to make sure that we are spending our food budget wisely and getting to try new things. Trying new things, enjoying great food, and sharing that experience with others is pretty much what my life is about. Which brings me to this post… I just had to try artichokes because I had never really had any success with them before!

Parmesan & Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes

These crazy looking vegetables have always alluded me. I love them in an artichoke spinach dip, but the one time I tried making them myself I had no clue how to even approach eating them, much less cooking them! Recently I was craving a really amazing Italian meal. At this point in my pregnancy I just knew I had to give into the craving before it drove me really mad, so I planned an Italian themed dinner party with friends. I knew that this was the perfect opportunity for me to give artichokes another try. After googling how to eat the suckers, I researched several different recipes to get the knack of how to cook them, and then tackled the project for the party.

Note: Seasoned home entertainers will tell you to never make your guests your guinea pigs for meals. Thankfully, my guests never seem to mind… even the one time my husband burned the spaghetti! It is a good thing our friends love us because I like to experiment often and I often make my guests my guinea pigs.

 

After discovering just how easy artichokes can be, I’ve now made them a few times and love them more and more! Below are some tips for cooking (and eating) artichokes plus my recipe for Parmesan and Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes.

 

Parmesan & Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes

 

Tips for cooking an artichoke:

 

The first time I tried cooking an artichoke I tried trimming, cutting and de-choke before cooking the artichoke. This led to a lot of pricks on my fingers, a bunch of furry bits all over my kitchen and most of the heart of the artichoke in my waste bin. It was an utter disaster and made me not want to try again. Thankfully, I found that doing just a tiny bit of prep and then steaming the artichoke makes the whole thing go much smoother.

  1. Trim your artichoke. Trim your artichoke by first cutting off the first inch or so of the tip of the artichoke. This one swift action will take care of much of the prickly parts! Then taking a pair of kitchen shears and cut the tips of all of the outer leaves. Trim the stem to about an inch or less.
  2. Steam your artichoke. Drop into a steamer basket with the stem side down. Steam for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The bigger an artichoke is, the longer it will take to cook. I put a knife in mine to test doneness. Once the knife easily slipped into the artichoke I called it good!
  3. De-choke your artichoke. You can then eat the artichoke as described below, taking out the choke once you get to it. Or, you can cut in half, remove the choke (the furry looking bit right above the heart of the artichoke) with a spoon and then eat the artichoke.
  4. Make it even tastier! For an extra tasty artichoke check out my recipe below!

 

Tips for serving artichokes:

 

  1. Serve with dip, lemons or olive oil drizzled across them. Artichokes have a great flavor, but really can be amazing with a little something extra.
  2. Serve with a discard bowl. There are parts of an artichoke you just don’t want to eat… give yourself and your guests a bowl or plate to toss their leaves so that the inedible bits don’t end up back on the dinner plate.

How to eat an artichoke:

 

  1. Go from the outside of the artichoke to the inside. Take the outer leaves of the (prepped and cooked) artichoke and pull from the stem. They should come off easily. The only edible part of the artichoke is actually the part that was attached the the stem. It will be lighter in color and look meatier than the rest of the leaf.
  2. Dip (or not) into your favorite condiment and place the edible end in your mouth. Scrape the meaty bit into your mouth and discard the rest of the leaf. Note: As you get further into the artichoke you’ll find that more of the leaves are edible and you’ll get to enjoy more and more of the artichoke meat.
  3. Get that heart! Once you get down to the heart of the artichoke (basically what is left of a prepped and cooked artichoke after all the leaves and choke have been removed) eat the heart whole! YUM.
  4. What about the stem? The stem of the artichoke is also edible if trimmed and cooked, but can be stringy and woody.
Parmesan & Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes Recipe

Parmesan & Garlic Stuffed Grilled Artichokes Recipe

This recipe makes 12 quarters of artichokes that make for a great appetizer for a party of 8 to 12 guests or a hearty side for a meal for 6-8 guests.

Ingredients

  • 4 large artichokes
  • 1.5 cup shredded parmesan
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 lemons - 1 halved to use for juice and the other two cut into 1/8ths for serving
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim the tip, leaves and stem of your artichoke.
  2. Place in steamer basket over boiling water, cover pot and steam for 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife can easily pierce the artichoke.
  3. While cooking artichokes prep your stuffing by mixing the minced garlic, parmesan and about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a bowl.
  4. Remove artichokes from steamer pot and let cool.
  5. A squeeze of lemon here will help preserve color a bit more and give the artichoke a great flavor. Use 1/2 of a lemon.
  6. Slice artichokes in half.
  7. Remove the choke (the stringy, fuzzy bit of the artichoke) using a knife to cut out around the heart area and then scooping it out with a spoon. It should come out fairly easily, but be careful not to take the heart with it.
  8. Cut artichokes halves in half to make quarters.
  9. Stuff the heart area and between the leaves with the garlic and parmesan cheese mixture.
  10. Drizzle with olive oil and then place on a grill with medium heat with the hearts facing up (you don't want the mixture to fall out!)
  11. Grill until the parmesan cheese mixture has fully melted, be careful to not leave the artichokes on the grill too long as they will easily burn.
  12. Serve with lemon wedges and a drizzle of olive oil!
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Great posts on artichokes with instructional photos:

 

  • — “Life lessons, artichokes, and hearts” from The Spicy Bee — Great photos showing how to cut the tips of an artichoke and a really sweet story that actually made me want to try artichokes again. Hers is so different from mine because she had been enjoying artichokes since she was a child. I hope my son looks back on food with the same fond memories!
  • — “How to cook and eat an artichoke” from Simply Recipes— Step by step directions for cooking and eating an artichoke. I loved the pictures for how to eat an artichoke. I would never have ordered an artichoke out before due to fear of having no clue how to eat them! This post can keep you from looking like a fool at the dinner table.
  • — “Prickly Treat” from Illustrated Bites— I love this illustration of how to cook and eat an artichoke SO much.

 

What was your first experience with artichokes like? Comment below!

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