An Italian Feast with Axel and me

by Michelle

Whenever I design an elaborate Italian menu, my goal is always to balance flavour, texture and color. The most important consideration is taste. It would be easy to throw together a bunch of familiar dishes with big bold flavours. The problem with that approach is over kill. By the time your guests reach the third course, they are starting to have difficulty distinguishing what they are eating. I like to use a slow build approach that allows my guests to gently move from subtle flavours, that excite and ready the palate, to bold and complex flavours. The meal then becomes a complete and whole experience leaving your guests happily satisfied rather than uncomfortably stuffed!

Balancing the meal’s textures ensures digestive ease and provides crunch and snap. Including fresh vegetables, grains and  herbs, to an elaborate meal of pasta, meats and cheeses will ensure happy guests.  

Color is critical! We eat first with our eyes. If a dish is dull and grey, it is unappetizing. Therefore, no matter what it tastes like, we are influenced by our first impression.

Italians are masters of balance. They use Nature as their guide by pairing foods that come from the same season and region: then embellish with treasures of wine, cream and cheese.

The dinner that I have designed for Axel and I to prepare will be served during the summer. Local vegetables will be in abundance, so we will start our evening, celebrating the earth, with a selection from the garden creatively served.

The next course will be a hand made pasta. Summer and pesto are interchangable. Nothing is more delicious than just picked basil pesto tossed with roasted tomatoes and steaming hot tagliatelle.

During formal Italian dinners there is a course between the first and second called Piatto di Mezzo in-between plate. It always consists of an elaborate vegetable presentation.

The ‘secondi’ or second plate is meat or fish served alone. If a vegetable contorni is served, it is on a seperate plate. I have chosen a leg of lamb stuffed with vegetables and cheese.

The cheese course is served with fruit to cleanse the palate and balance the richness of the cheese.

Italians are not big dessert eaters often preferring a glass of Vin Santo with contucci small bicotti. However, when in Rome… In Saint John, we love our desserts so I chose a classic!

We will finish, in true Italian style, with tiny steaming cups of espresso…



Prosecco con nocciole tostate con timo e sale – Ice chilled Prosecco served with roasted hazelnuts tossed in thyme and sea salt

Pane di Toscano con EVOO – Handmade Tuscan bread served with extra virgin olive oil

Antipasti di Verdure

Pomodoro fiorentino al forno – Roast tomatoes with garlic and thyme

Zucchini scapece – Marinated then fried zucchini

Fagiolini con prezzemolo – Green beans with parsley and red wine vinegar

Peperoni riieni – Roasted yellow bell peppers stuffed with bread and parsley

Finocchio trifoliate – Braised fennel

Primo Piatto

Tagliatelle al Pesto – Handmade pasta tossed in basil, garlic, pine nut sauce with smashed and roasted grape tomatoes

Piatto di Mezzo

Sformato di spinachi con animelle – Warm spinach flan with pan seared sweetbreads


Arrosto ripieno cosciotto di agnello – Roast leg of lamb stuffed with grilled artichokes, anchovies and rosemary

Fromaggi e Frutta

Selection of imported Italian cheeses served with seasonal local fruit


Tiramisu – Layers of espresso and Tia Maria soaked ladyfinger biscuits and mascarpone chesse topped with shaved chocolate


Thanks for reading.