I have never been to Italy but it is on my ever growing list of destinations I must visit. I helped my parents plan a trip a couple of years ago and it definitely sparked an interest in this country full of historic sites and delicious food. So here we go, date night in with an Italian theme!
What to Eat:
When most Americans think of Italian food you may envision a big plate of pasta smothered in red sauce but I’m finding that there is so much more to Italian cuisine. The Amalfi Coast uses lemon a lot in their cooking and it brings a brightness to many dishes. This recipe is perfect for a date night in. Bright, zesty flavors and not super complicated. Surprisingly I didn’t take any pictures of this dish when I made it, so just take my word for it…it’s delicious and pretty
Lemon and Chicken Risotto
(recipe adapted from Milk Street’s Lemon and Shrimp Risotto)
- 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 12 oz chicken thighs or breasts cut into 1/2 inch strips
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
- Salt and Pepper
- Optional, fresh grated parmesan
- Using a vegetable peeler remove the zest from one of your lemons in long wide strips. Try to remove only the yellow part of the peel you don’t want the bitter white pith. Using a fine grater, grate the zest from lemon number two. Set aside separately.
- Cut the lemons in half and squeeze about 1/4 cup of juice from them.
- Cut up your chicken into 1/2 inch strips. Season with salt and pepper
- Place a large dutch oven over medium, heat 2 teaspoons oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes and then flip. Once chicken is cooked through remove from pan and cover with foil.
- While chicken cooks add 5 cups of water to a medium saucepan, the zest strips and ½ teaspoon salt, then bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove zest strips, cover and keep on low.
- Once chicken is removed from your dutch oven, add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains are translucent at the edges, this doesn’t take long maybe a minute or two. Pour the wine and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping any brown bits from the bottom.
- Start to add your lemon broth a ladle at a time. Stir often and briskly, once most of that ladle seems to be absorbed, add another. Continue this process until a spoon drawn through the mixture leaves a trail, about 10 to 12 minutes. (You may not use all of your broth, taste test your risotto as you get down to about 2 cups of liquid left and continue to add until you get to the consistency that you like)
- Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the lemon juice, egg yolk, cream, basil, and the grated zest. The risotto should be a little loose but not soupy! Taste and season with salt.
- Add in your chicken.
- Serve drizzled with additional oil and if you have it some fresh grated parmesan.
For dessert you could go super simple with a couple of different gelato flavors. We have some great local gelato options nearby but it’s very common to find quality gelato at your local grocery store. Stick a Pirouline or similar wafer cookie on top and you’re in for an easy and delicious treat. You If you love to make desserts try your hand at Tiramisu or Panna Cotta. Tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts, serve with an after dinner espresso and imagine you’re in a small cafe in Venice.
What to Drink:
An Italian wine such as a Barbera or a Sangiovese is a nice choice or if you like bubbles Prosecco or Lambrusco. A nice and easy cocktail is an Aperol Spritz. This slightly bitter but refreshing beverage was invented in Venice to pair with ciccheti (small snacks that are served before dinner). Perfect for your Apero hour so if you want to invest in a bottle of this Italian bitter apéritif here is the basic recipe for the spritz.
- 3 oz Aperol
- 1 oz club soda
- 3 oz Prosecco
- orange slice for garnish
Fill a wine glass with ice, add Aperol, Prosecco, club soda and a slice of orange. Voila! Super easy Italian cocktail.
What to Listen To:
When I think of Italian music my brain goes straight to American Italian singers, like Dean Martin or Louis Prima singing “That’s Amore” or “Mambo Italiano”. I love to listen to the Italian Cooking Music playlist on Spotify and it has these guys all through it, another fun playlist is Italian Cafe, it has fun Italian artists like Fred Buscaglione, Renato Carsone, and Rita Pavone. For more mellow dinner music I also really like Trattoria Italiana which is full of beautiful mandolin tunes.
What to Do:
If the weather is nice, take your Aperol Spritz outside and enjoy a game of bocce. It’s the perfect game for two players and the rules are simple. You throw the smaller ball “boccino” and then bowl your larger balls. The object of the game is for a team to get as many of its balls as possible closer to the target ball (boccino) than the opposing team. The team with the closest ball to the jack is the only team that can score points in any frame. The scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that is closer to the jack than the closest ball of the other team. The length of a game varies but is typically from 7 to 13 points. Here are more official rules. If lawn games aren’t your thing try the card game Scopa or have a movie night. Some of my favorite movies set in Italy are Under the Tuscan Sun, Roman Holiday, La Dolce Vita, The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Tourist. They can all be found on Amazon, either included with Prime or under $4.00
I hope you enjoy my Italian themed date night in. If you have any date night in ideas please share them with me! I am on April Break and I think we’ll be revisiting some of these fun date night in ideas this week. I’m hoping for good weather so I can kick Andrew’s butt at bocce!