In my Italian Easter Feast Menu, I have two options for a first course. In my introduction to this Easter menu, I mentioned that Italians enjoy eating their meal in courses, not because they eat so much”“each serving is generally small”“but because they like to appreciate the tastes and textures of each dish. So choose which of these two first courses suits you–or offer small servings of each…

The Rainbow Soups…ideal for spring…or

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna...a delicious, light first course…

The Twin Rainbow Soups are thickened with rice, or beans, or quinoa…so I’ve decided not to serve a separate carb such as rice or potatoes with the meal. If you have some gorillas coming for dinner with manly appetites, you might want to roast or mash some potatoes to serve with your main course–unless you offer the lasagna after the soup.

My Twin Rainbow Soups are variations of Cream of Vegetable soups which can be made year-round…and can be enjoyed hot or cold.  For Easter dinner I chose beets–because of their lovely pink color, carrots–which creates a soft, peachy color, and zucchini and broccoli–for some spring greens. Feel free to experiment with peas, peppers, etc. for other color options. Unless you’re having a huge group over, I would recommend just making two soups; I’ve made five here just to show you the variety but don’t feel like you have to make more than two options!

You do have to be a little flexible in making these soups as different vegetables will create some variation in thickness. Add a little more milk or cream if you want the soup thinner, or lighter in color. Adding more broth will, of course, also thin out a too-thick soup. If you think the soup is too thin, blend in some leftover rice or potatoes.

Of course you don’t have to serve these soups together, but it certainly is unique! Everyone is usually duly impressed! All you have to do is use two soup ladles, and serve both soups simultaneously into the bowls, like this…

 

 

 

 

 

I garnished them with a little dollop of plain yogurt and some fennel greens. But parsley, creme fresh or croutons work too. Or just leave it plain…garnish is just that. Garnish.

The Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna is so good! And it’s very straightforward to make. It’s actually easier than your basic, meat-and-tomato-sauce lasagna because instead of layering cheeses, meat sauce, noodles, etc., I just mix all of the filling ingredients together and layer them between the noodles. The plain Bechamel sauce, without the other filling ingredients, goes on the top and bottom of the dish.

So there are my two options for a first course for my Italian Easter Feast: Rainbow Twin Soups and Lasagna! Both of them can be prepared ahead of time, so you might even be able to enjoy your Antipasto Skewers while the first course is heating up. Now that would be novel…for the cook to be able to relax with guests while enjoying the appetizer!

I usually serve water with dinner but like to have some fun drinks with the appetizers. So below is my recipe for Italian Lemonade, the perfect accompaniment to the Antipasto Skewers which I shared in my last post.

Next week I’ll pass along the recipes for the rest of the dinner menu! Can’t wait to have you visit me!

Ciao!

Debbie

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

Yield: Serves 8 as first course dish

Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients

    Bechamel sauce:
  • 1/3 C. (75 g) butter
  • 1/3 C. (40 g) flour
  • 1 1/2 C. (375 ml) milk
  • 1 1/2 C. (375 ml) chicken broth
  • Lasagna:
  • 1 C. (40 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 C. (350 g) ricotta cheese
  • 2 C. (250 g) mozzarella cheese
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 C. (4 oz./100 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 C. cooked, chopped spinach (If using frozen, use 1 1/2 (10 oz./300 g) packages; thaw and squeeze out excess liquid)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Dash thyme, nutmeg, salt
  • Approximately 12 lasagna noodles, or homemade pasta

Instructions

  1. To make Bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour until well blended and add the milk, chicken broth, and a dash of thyme. If you use chicken broth (not bouillon) you'll need to add salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Combine 1 C. of this sauce with 1 C. Parmesan cheese. Add the ricotta and shredded mozzarella. Set mixture aside. Cover and set aside remaining Bechamel sauce.
  3. In a medium-sized skillet, saute the garlic and mushrooms in olive oil. Add the thawed, chopped spinach and saute until all liquid has evaporated. Cool slightly. Add to the above cheese mixture.
  4. Add 2 egg yolks, a pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and put in a bowl of cool water and drain again immediately.
  6. Spread some Bechamel sauce in the bottom of a 9X13-inch (23X33 cm.) baking dish.
  7. Place noodles on top of sauce. Spread one third of cheese/spinach mixture over noodles. Continue layering noodles and cheese/spinach mixture. You should have a total of 4 layers of noodles and 3 layers of filling. On top of the last layer of noodles, cover generously with Bechamel sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes at 350° F (180° C) covered with foil. Uncover and bake 15 minutes or until browned. Cool 10 minutes before cutting.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/step-by-step-cooking/soups-stews/easter-first-courses/

This recipe for Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna is on page 10 of Around Our Table.

Italian Lemonade

Yield: Approximately 4 quarts

Italian Lemonade

Ingredients

  • 2 C. water
  • 1 1/2 C. (375 g) sugar
  • 2 bunches coarsely chopped basil, about 2 C.
  • 2 C. (500 ml) lemon juice
  • 12 C. (3 liters) sparkling water

Instructions

  1. Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the basil leaves and set aside to steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the liquid into a pitcher; add the lemon juice and chill.
  4. Add the sparkling water and pour over ice to serve. Taste the lemonade after adding about 8 C. (2 liters). Some like the lemonade stronger than others, so find the strength you like.
http://ciaofromdebbie.com/blog/step-by-step-cooking/soups-stews/easter-first-courses/

This recipe for Italian Lemonade is on page 19 in Around Our Table.

 

 

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