Any good Nonna will tell you that being a good Italian is not just in your blood, it’s a lifestyle. Knowing how to throw a pasta party of epic proportions goes with the territory. In honor of October being National Pasta Month, we sat down with our friends at Osteria Via Statoand il Porcellino to get some tips and tricks to throwing an Italian Pasta Party for your friends and family.
The first and foremost tip from Osteria’s Chef David DiGregorio was the importance of ingredients.
“Let the season determine your menu. Use the best ingredients and prepare them in a way where they are the star.”
When he was young, he understood how truly delicious a ripe tomato straight from the garden could be. That mentality toward fresh ingredients has carried through to his cooking. Use that type of thinking when planning for your pasta party! Choose ingredients that are seasonal and don’t need much work to be extra delicious.
Vino e salute
Close your eyes and imagine that your dinner table is between the vines of an ancient vineyard in the hills of Italia. The sun has begun to set and your friends and family are all arriving ready to experience a true Italian Pasta Party. Welcome your guests with a glass of wine. There’s no such thing as a pasta party without generous pours of vino. Use the bottles on deck as the centerpiece to your table. Your guests will easily be able to serve themselves and those next to them.
Ryan Arnold, Wine Director at il Porcellino, weighs in on his recommendation for the perfect purchase when buying wine for a dinner party.
“Grab a bottle of Cerasuolo Di Vittoria from Sicilian winery COS! Their wine has bright aromatics and is full of energy – not only does this wine pair well with red sauce, but it can carry inspire conversation,” Arnold says, “In my opinion, Sicily is one of the most wild and rustic places to visit in all of Italy. The number of trips and events you can plan over a plate of pasta and a glass of COS are endless. Great conversation, pasta and lively wine.”
Chef David suggests starting with antipasti since it can be prepared ahead of time and gives you the chance to enjoy your guests’ company. Find a large wooden cutting board and fill it with your favorite salty and creamy cheeses, a variety of salumi, and accompaniments such as Chianti Jelly and Marcona almonds. Your guests can mix and match the different pairings as they pour their first glasses of wine. Keep an eye on everyone’s glasses as the night progresses and make sure it’s never empty.
We don’t discriminate whether it’s rigatoni, linguine, or ravioli. Bring on the pasta. Give your guests a sampling of 3-4 different styles of pasta and sauces. Keep it simple so as not to overwork yourself. Vary the shapes of your pasta and colors of your sauce to make them pop on your table. We recommend a Cacie e Pepe, a rigatoni with meat sauce, and seasonal pasta. Think pesto in the summer and heavier sauces in the winter. Don’t be afraid for those sauces to mingle on the plate. You’ll find new flavor profiles with each unique bite. Check out the menus for Osteria Via Stato and il Porcellino for a little inspiration.
Chef David shares few tips on how to best prepare pasta:
- Cook al dente (a little underdone) in salted boiling water.
- Drain, reserving some of the cooking water for later. Coat the pasta lightly with olive oil.
- NEVER rinse pasta. Rinsing ruins the texture and washes away the nutty flavor of the wheat.
- Toss pasta with your sauce and cook lightly, allowing the pasta to absorb some of the liquid and finish cooking.
- Use some of your reserved pasta cooking water to adjust the consistency of the sauce.
La Dolce Vita
No party, Italian or otherwise, is complete without a sweet ending. You can stick to the more traditional practice of espresso and a plate of Italian cookies, or take it to the next level with a chocolate tart to die for. Osteria Via Stato’s Chocolate Tart with candied oranges is available to be picked up and nobody has to know you didn’t slave away in the kitchen baking it.
Want to have an Italian-style party but not up to hosting? Osteria Via Stato and il Porcellino are both located in River North in Chicago, IL and offer family-style menus meant for sharing. Invite your nearest and dearest in to experience what it’s like to live the Italian lifestyle. Now THAT’S amore.