my all time favourite thing about summer is dining al fresco. i wait for 3 full seasons each year (feels like it took a little longer this year) to be able to do it, but i’m so happy it’s finally here. the slow food mentality of italians is my jam: having an aperitivo after work and relaxing, and then eating a long, multi-course dinner around 9pm is my preference. i love that magic hour when the sun starts to hang lower in the sky that’s turning from blue to fuchsia, but it’s still 30 degrees outside, and the thick air has that musky summer smell of flowers and grass and something grilling on the bbq.
the best thing about summer is that it’s so easy to get everyone together over a meal. during the winter, especially in canada, we all become so isolated. even though i write quaint blog posts about curling up with braised meats and steaming bowls of soup, that rarely actually happens with other people – we’re all too busy trying to avoid going outside into the cold to see each other! the summer months are bliss for me because they’re always a blur of feeding my favourite people good food, good wine and laughing for hours under the stars. as often as i can i invite over my friends and friends of friends and anyone else they know who wants to eat, and i greet them barefoot in a summer dress with my nona’s apron on, ready to get the pasta on and the drinks flowing.
i love to start a meal with prosecco. it makes even the most casual of gatherings seem celebratory; when guests arrive, i pull a chilled bottle from the fridge and everyone cheers (or at least we do) when the cork comes out. prosecco is an italian sparkling wine (not to be confused with champagne) made from glera grapes. it’s commonly consumed as an aperitivo, as it’s meant to open your palette, preparing your taste buds for dinner. i love ruffino’s prosecco with it’s beautiful colour and crisp, clean notes – i find it pairs well with all types of foods, but i love to serve it along side an epic charcuterie board for the perfect start to your meal.
the best summer entertaining meals are the ones that are quick and fresh, that leave you plenty of time to relax, laugh and drink with your guests. though i love to grill everything under the sun during bbq season, summer is also the time for fresh seafood dishes. pasta con cozze (pasta with mussels) is my summer staple. it’s light and filling and easy to make for a crowd. fresh mussels are steamed with plenty of garlic and shallots, some white wine and broth, then finished with a generous sprinkling of fresh parsley. it comes together so quickly if you do the chopping before hand – just put the pasta water on and enjoy a glass of prosecco with your guests. when you’re ready to eat, light some tealights and pop inside to pull together this dish in the time it takes the pasta to cook. and don’t forget the most important part of the meal – wine! the saltiness from the briny shellfish pairs beautifully with the elegant minerality of ruffino’s pinot grigio. the notes of meadow flowers and hints of pear will honestly make you feel like you’re dining in the the veneto and friuli venezia giulia vineyards in italy where the grapes were picked. make sure to soak up the broth with plenty of good crusty bread, and keep that wine flowing as the sky gets sprinkled with stars!
i’m crossing my fingers for nice weather this weekend, so i can do it all over again, and every weekend until it gets too cold to sit outside. if you want to host your own summer italian inspired dinner party, make sure that ruffino is a part of it – you can find it at any lcbo in ontario! *and although it’s fun to get lit, please enjoy & drink responsibly*
pasta con cozze
4 pounds of fresh mussels, cleaned & debearded
4 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine (you can use ruffino or if you have an older wine that needs to be used up!)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 package dried semolina flour spaghetti
fresh ground pepper
pinch of chilli flakes
put a large pot of well salted water on high heat and bring to a rolling boil. place another large pot with a tight fitting lid over medium low heat, and add olive oil, shallots, garlic and chillies. season with pepper and cook until soft and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. add wine and vegetable stock, and bring to a boil.
add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. reduce garlic, shallot and liquid mixture heat to low, add mussels and cover. steam, shaking pot occasionally for about 5 minutes or until all mussels are open (discard any that aren’t). remove from heat and stir in butter until melted, and then stir in parsley.
drain pasta, add to a bowl and spoon mussels and liquid over top. serve with plenty of fresh crusty bread and keep the wine flowing!
sponsored by ruffino wines xo