The Best Quick Italian Recipes

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The Italian dinner consists of 5 courses and does not have to include a pasta dish. Here are a few recipe ideas that are easy to prepare, taste great and are part of a healthy diet.

Antipasto: A Little Nibble Before Dinner

An Italian dinner always starts with an antipasto or some other light appetizer.

Antipasto is a selection of cheeses, meats, breads and vegetables arranged on a platter. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cubes or slices of mozzarella, parmesan, provolone or fontina cheese.
  • Thin slices of ham, prosciutto, pepperoni,Genoasalami, cooked shrimp or anchovies.
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes.
  • Marinated artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers.
  • Black and green olives.
  • Pears, melons, figs and grapes.
  • Breads, breadsticks and crackers.

Stuffed Mushrooms are a change of pace if a hot appetizer is desired.

  • Remove the stems from 30 large white mushrooms. Chop the stems.
  • Sauté stems with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon butter and 1 chopped onion.
  • Add 1/2 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Mix well and remove from heat.
  • Add 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Ready for Planting Finished Product

Il Primo: Appetizers as a First Course

The first course of an Italian dinner starts with a small serving of pasta, soup, rice or polenta.

Cannellini Bean Soup can also be served with bread and a salad to make a meal in itself.

  • In a large pot, sauté 2 medium chopped onions and 3 tablespoons olive oil until translucent.
  • Add 8 cloves crushed garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Add 2 cans rinsed cannelloni beans and 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth. Cook until beans are tender.
  • Add 1 bunch escarole. Cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add 1/4 cup dry white wine and 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese. Cook 10 minutes.

Il Secondo: A Simple Second Course

The main course is usually a simply prepared small portion of chicken, meat or fish.

Lamb Chops

  • Rub lamb chops with olive oil.
  • Cut slits in the meat. Stuff with garlic cloves.
  • Place lamb chops in a baking dish. Add dry white wine to cover the bottom of the dish.
  • Cover the baking dish.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. The juices should run clear.

Italian Meat(less)balls

  • Mix 1 cup breadcrumbs, 1 cup cooked bulgur, ¼ cup grated Romano cheese, 1/2 cup chopped basil, 2 cloves minced garlic and 1 egg.
  • Form into meatballs.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a fry pan.
  • Brown meatballs in the fry pan.
  • Place browned meatballs into a greased baking dish.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with a marinara sauce.

Lemon Shrimp

  • Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a fry pan.
  • Place 12 large shrimp in the pan.
  • Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Deglaze with 1/4 limoncello liqueur.
  • Add the juice and zest from 1 lemon.
  • Cook for 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp.
  • Cook 3 minutes longer.
  • Top with chopped parsley.

Il Contorno: The Side Dish

The main course is served with a simple vegetable dish as a side. Here are three easy vegetable dishes.

Fresh Tomato Salad requires no cooking and takes only minutes to put together.

  • Slice 2 small tomatoes. Place in a bowl.
  • Mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon chopped oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour the olive oil mixture over the tomatoes. Mix well.
  • Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Ratatouille is a Mediterranean dish that is loaded with vegetables, low in fat and high in nutritional value.

  • Peel and cube an eggplant, a zucchini, a green or red bell pepper, an onion and 2 tomatoes (or 1 can stewed tomatoes).
  • Layer the vegetables in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish. It’s easy to remember how to layer the vegetables for Ratatouille by remembering a simple mnemonic – EZPOT (Eggplant, zucchini, pepper, onion and tomato).
  • Chop fresh basil and thyme. Sprinkle over the vegetables.
  • Pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetable mixture.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until tender.
  • Garnish with fresh parsley and grated Romano cheese

Roasted Red Potatoes are another easy to fix side dish.

  • Wash and quarter 8 small red potatoes. Place in a mixing bowl.
  • Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 cloves minced garlic.
  • Remove the stems from 2 springs of rosemary. Add to the potato mixture.
  • Toss the potato mixture. Layer on a baking sheet.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until browned and tender.

Le Dolce: A Sweet to End the Meal

An Italian dinner ends with a small sweet dessert. This can be as simple as a biscotti and espresso. Here are a couple of quick desserts.

Chocolate Salami is also called Torta di Castagne. This dessert takes 10 minutes to prepare.

  • Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 pound sweetened chestnut puree.
  • Fold in 1/2 cup chopped almonds and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
  • Pour mixture onto a piece of waxed paper and roll into a log.
  • Wrap the log tightly in wax paper.
  • Refrigerate overnight.
  • Slice into 1/3 inch slices.

Italian Melon Fruit Salad makes a refreshing dessert. Use any combination of watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydew, papaya, casaba, Crenshaw or other melons.

  • Place 4 cups of melon balls into a bowl.
  • In a blender, make a dressing using 1 bunch fresh mint, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup simple syrup, and a splash of amaretto. Blend until smooth.
  • Pour the dressing over the melon balls and toss well.

To bring the perfect Italian meal to the perfect ending, serve an after dinner dessert liqueur. Offer your dinner guests a fond “Salute!” with a cordial glass filled with amaretto, grappa, limoncello or sambuca. These liqueurs are guaranteed to settle the stomach.

Last Updated: January 16, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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