My sister is obsessed with all things Italy, and has been since she was a little girl. I can remember her being about 8 years old and requesting a "Pictures of Tuscany" calendar for her Hanukkah gift. Once she graduated high school, she and my mom and stepdad took a two-week tour of Italy, and have raved ever since about how amazing the food was there, and how there's not much here in Chicago that rivals it. I'd love to host my sister and her boyfriend, another blogger friend, and my best friend and her family over for a Buitoni pasta party to prove to my sister that there IS good Italian food in Chicago...right at my house! This would be particularly fun as my sister and her boyfriend both work in the Chicago restaurant industry, and always look forward to a home-cooked meal outside of their restaurant kitchens.I never thought it would get accepted, but lo and behold, a couple weeks later, there was the congratulations email! I had been selected to be one of 10 bloggers to host a Buitoni pasta party! Next thing I knew, I had received coupons for Buitoni pasta, and I began planning my menu and wine pairings...particularly interesting because I know next to nothing about wine! I quickly selected the Buitoni Riserva pastas I'd be using: The Three-Cheese tortellini were a must, as I had to make a batch of my favorite bolognese sauce and it would be a perfect way to feature the deliciousness that is that sauce. I had to try the Chicken and Four Cheese Ravioli since it sounded delicious, and I also knew that the Wild Mushroom Agniolotti were delicious, as I'd tried them before. I knew Lizz would love them too, as she loves everything mushroom. My mom helped me brainstorm some sauce ideas for each of these lovely pastas, and we came up with some combinations that were sure to please, and yet were easy enough to pull off on a Tuesday night. Why a Tuesday? Well, it's the only day that my sister is guaranteed to have off! Luckily, my blogger friend, none other than Jenn from EatingBender, as well as Lizz and Skylar were able to make it as well! I selected my wines based on a very scientific method: Cute labels and fun names, as well as one suggestion from my mom. First, a bold merlot to go along with the bolognese sauce, since it has about a bottle of wine in it.
Yes, it's called Mad Housewife... I'm choosing to think she's more mad in the "crazy" sense than in the angry sense. It was quite delicious and very full-bodied. It meshed with the sauce very well.
I chose to make a light sauce for the chicken ravioli out of sauteed roasted red peppers, baby portabella mushrooms, and thinly sliced chicken sausage. Since there was chicken involved, I went with my mom's suggestion of a Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc to complement the lighter flavors.
Oddly enough, the combination worked. I say oddly enough because, like I said, I know NOTHING about wine! The pasta was a hit as well, and the creamy cheese and delicate chicken flavors meshed well with the roasted red peppers and sausage.
The piece de resistance, in my opinion, was the wild mushroom agniolotti paired with this rich, sweet, and delicious Cupcake Vineyard Malbec. And, it was purchased simply because of the name and label.
I made a brown butter, sage, and garlic clove sauce to top the agniolotti, put the whole thing on top of some fresh organic arugula, then topped it with some chiffonade fresh sage.
I set the table with flowers, the wine bottles, my new printed tablecloth, our new wedding wine glasses, and mini Acqua Panna.
A quick appetizer was enjoyed of a lovely steamed artichoke and melted butter... it was supposed to be 3 artichokes for everyone to share, but the darn things didn't stay fresh, so I only had one.
As an additional option, we got some Buitoni pesto to top the cheese tortellini. I went a little creative and heated it up in our fondue pot.
Everyone truly enjoyed the rich flavors of all the Buitoni pastas, as well as the sauces I chose to pair them with. Luckily, the recipes for each sauce were simple: slowly melted butter with a crushed clove of garlic and a few leaves of sage, slowly browned over a low heat for the mushroom agniolotti; thinly sliced chicken sausage, diced roasted red peppers, sliced baby portabella mushrooms, and a bit of olive oil sauteed together for the Four Cheese Chicken Ravioli.
Finally, (my regular readers knew this was coming) I made some tiramisu cupcakes for dessert. I made a simple genoise cake into small cupcakes, then topped them with a liquour/coffee/sugar mixture, and then a whipped cream and marscapone frosting. They rocked!
I used these pastas:
And served these wines:
And this lovely Italian flat water:
Thank you so much Buitoni and FoodBuzz for the chance to host this wonderful dinner for my closest friends and family! Everyone LOVED the food, and my sister was very appreciative! I'm honored to have been chosen for this experience of cooking for so many people... it's something I'd love to do again! The experience helped me realize that I'm really capable of entertaining. I'm just not so good at cleaning up after myself!
In all, a wonderful night. I'm going to finish my wine and go to bed...