Dinner & Discussion, Week 5

I am learning that two things really affect group dynamics: the kind of gathering and the number of people that attend. I don’t know if there really is a “right” number of people for each type of gathering but there is no denying that numbers do have an effect on the group. If you get too big then you have the problem of only a couple of people doing all the talking, among other issues. Yet the smaller groups have the potential to go much deeper than you can typically go with the larger ones. But the caveat in both situations comes down to the people themselves; how willing are they to open up and share? This week I think we hit the sweet spot for this group. We are a group of 10 but this last week we had 8. It seemed like it had the right balance of people, voices, and the space to share.

This week I decided to stick with a theme. I actually decided when putting together the Middle Eastern menu that I wanted to do Italian. While I love the freedom to make whatever I want, it can be incredibly helpful to have a few boundaries. Being the halfway point I needed those boundaries to help with inspiration.

Layering tiramisu

Ahh Italian food. Carbohydrate comfort. While putting this menu together, I truly did set out to try and make it not such a carb centric meal as to better fit my style of eating these days. I quickly realized that was going to take a lot more energy than I had the capacity pull off that week. I was tired so I gave in to the ease of carbs… and I think everyone was glad I did.

Carbs aside, I still was able to play a little with this menu. I wanted to do something very Italian for dessert. The first thing to cross my mind was spumoni. I’ll never forget the art professor who introduced me to this amazing ice cream with a weird name. Anything with a layer of pistachio ice cream is officially okay in my book! I strongly suggest you give it a try. But what about tiramisu? The one dessert Will loves that I have never made before? Sounds perfect for D&D! Did you know that it wasn’t created till the 1960’s yet is on the menu at what seems like every Italian restaurant? Well you can stop ordering it at restaurants and make it yourself. This stuff is incredible. So without further ado… the Italian menu.

The table

Rigatoni: A family recipe that I grew up eating. It’s essentially a layered pasta dish consisting of rigatoni noodles, a marinara sauce with Italian Sausage and mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. Simple.


Pear & Fig Salad: This light and simple salad paired perfectly with the rigatoni. It isn’t filled with a ton of an ingredients and highlights the wonderful figs that are in season right now. I swapped the pears for asian pears because well, asian pears are kind of awesome and there are lots at the farmers market.

Bruschetta & Prosciutto Wrapped Melon: How do you serve appetizers family style? You make them a side dish! I calculated 3 of each appetizer per person and set them out as I normally do a side dish on the table.

Prosciutto wrapped melon & Bruschetta

Garlic Bread: I picked up a nice loaf of pugliese bread for this and went very simple. Butter, fresh garlic, & garlic powder spread over a split loaf. 15 minutes in a hot oven and you are done.

Garlic bread

Tiramisu: Being that I had never made this before, I didn’t have any direction on which way to go with the recipe. I had a bit of time crunch so I didn’t spend a whole lot of time researching it and instead went with one of my trusted food bloggers. This recipe did not disappoint. I chose to not use the marsala wine and instead used a shot of espresso. Worked perfectly. Even though the recipe calls for a 9 x 13 pan, I felt it was too big as I couldn’t get 3 layers. It turned out really really good. Next time I make it I will cut back on the sugar and use a smaller baking dish.


Dinner and Discussion is a weekly gathering over a meal and discussion. Read more about this series.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dana says:

    Mmm… that looks delicious! Who doesn’t love Italian?

    P.S. In my imagination, there isn’t any meat. ;0)

    1. Italian is so universal, it’s amazing. You don’t have to think too far to get vegetarian… Remove the prosciutto from the melon, the sausage from the rigatoni (maybe sub in some more flavorful mushrooms) and viola! No meat. 🙂

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