Have you ever pictured yourself sitting somewhere in the Italian countryside enjoying a sumptuous meal outside, passing bottles of wine across the table and laughing with friends? This is a common daydream of mine and a scene that I find so relaxing and full of the best that life has to offer. The goal of this Under the Tuscan Sun dinner is to capture that scene and filter it into real life, wherever you might be.
The title says dinner party, but if you’re truly following the spirit of this book, you’ll make this a lunch-dinner-breakfast-the-next-day party. Frances Mayes gives us a LOT of material to work with as far as what to serve and how to serve it. Under the Tuscan Sun is her account of buying and restoring Bramasole, a house in Italy, and making a home there. Naturally, this journey centers and revolves around fresh food, cooking and eating. It’s the kind of book that just begs for a themed party. How could I say no? Below you’ll find pictures and details about the Under the Tuscan Sun party I threw, as well as some hints for your own. Here’s the first one: be sure to have a lot of wine!
I say party (and to truly imitate Mayes, you’ll want to invite friends, family and neighbors) but mine ended up being scaled down to a dinner for two, which of course can be just as pleasant. The portion sizes for my dinner were smaller as there were fewer mouths to feed, but all of the recipes Mayes gives are prepared to feed a crowd. Keep that in mind if you’re planning your own Tuscan feast. She also has available an entire cookbook based on her Tuscan cooking if you’re interested in having even more dishes to choose from! Either way, if you decide to do a dinner of your own, you’ll first need a copy of Under the Tuscan Sun, which you can find here.
Mayes likes to do as much of her eating outside as possible, and with scenery as amazing as she describes, one can hardly blame her. As someone who lives in a climate with four seasons, I really enjoy eating outside as a novelty. There are only so many months of the year where it is not too hot, cold or mosquito-infested to enjoy a meal outdoors. Luckily, we ended up with a nice evening on the night of the Under the Tuscan Sun dinner.
For this course, I chose to go with her recipe for red peppers melted with balsamic vinegar. I served them on pieces of toasted baguette rubbed with a little olive oil and garlic clove.
This ended up being the favorite dish for both of us! I had purchased some fresh mozzarella and basil for the table and these little bites of heaven were perfect alone or paired with those treats.
Mayes describes her cold pasta salad recipe as decidedly not of Italian invention, but the American import is certainly delicious and refreshing on a warm day. Combining steamed vegetables (carrots, red pepper, zucchini, hot pepper), thyme chicken and colorful pasta made quite a lovely dish for the table, as well. Mayes serves hers with baked tomatoes on the side, which sounded delicious, but I opted not to include them with mine this time.
For the main event, I prepared basil and lemon chicken. It was a light combination, again perfect for summer. I served it with cut fresh tomato and of course that mozzarella was still hanging around and went nicely with this dish as well (duh).
For dessert I had planned to make some of the cherries steeped in red wine that I had heard so much about through the book. Alas, as I feared, there were no cherries available at the store so I substituted plums on Mayes’ own suggestion. The fruit is simmered shortly with red wine, left to sit for a few hours and then spooned over a dollop (or two) of decadent mascarpone.
We thought it was lacking in flavor a bit, but I think this was partly due to the plums not being quite at peek ripeness and therefore not being quite as sweet. I think this would be even better with cherries and look forward to giving that a try!
For wine, I rummaged through our latest collection and found a Chianti Classico, which was more robust than anything we were eating called for, but was the only Italian wine I had on hand, which seemed only fitting.
I didn’t find it to be too much, but of course something like either a Pinot Noir or a white white might have been more appropriate with the basil and lemon chicken. I love and prefer red all the year round, so I was not bothered by this at all and thought the flavors actually did quite well together.
I hope you enjoyed this look into a very delicious and enjoyable evening! May you have the chance to recreate your own similar night soon!