Italian and Greek foods are both considered fine cuisine and not many people attempt to cook them at home, but there are many traditional Italian and Greek dishes that are surprisingly easy to whisk up for an elegant home-produced dinner.
From traditional Italian pastas, chicken dishes and soups to tasty Greek lamb and fish, there is no need to be in these countries in order to taste their delicious cuisine. There are plenty of dishes that are not only easy to cook but will impress your guests and taste amazing at the same time.
Many Italian foods are starch or meat based and filled with rich and creamy flavours. Here are some great Italian dishes that are great to try at home.
Chicken parmigiana: A classic dish that also works as a sub sandwich. It consists of a breaded chicken breast topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella, parmesan or provolone cheese.
Fettuccine alfredo: A popular pasta dish made from fettuccine pasta tossed with parmesan cheese and butter. As the cheese melts, it blends with the butter to form a smooth, rich and heavy sauce on the pasta.
Linguine with clam sauce: Clam sauces vary, but the two most popular varieties are white clam sauce –
usually featuring minced clams, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and parsley – or red, which is a thin tomato sauce with minced clams. You can also use whole clams for a stronger flavour.
Veal Marsala: A good Marsala wine sauce is loaded with mushrooms and scallions. Although, many people do not like veal so a refreshing twist to this dish is a Sirloin Marsala.
Chicken Saltimbocca: ‘Saltimbocca’ is a combination of Italian terms that means, “jumps into one’s mouth”. Most of these dishes combine a meat, such as chicken or veal, lined or topped with prosciutto ham, spinach, mozzarella cheese and sage or basil.
Shrimp fra diavolo: ‘Diavolo’ is Italian for devil and this style of red sauce relies on crushed red pepper and garlic. The best fra diavolo sauces are tomato-based and use chili peppers. Making this at home is ideal as you can decide how spicy to make it. You can put the shrimps and sauce over pasta or have it on its own.
Pasta primavera: One of the most well-known Italian vegetarian dishes. ‘Primavera’ means springtime and can include any combination of vegetables over pasta in a variety of sauces. This is a great dish to make if you want to experiment with different sauces from classic tomato-based to cheese or cream-based.
Greek food is made to be a social event and so is served in smaller, sharing portions with a strong focus on light dips such as tzatziki (yogurt, cucumber and garlic), melitzanosalata (aubergine) or fava (creamy split pea purée) and breads.
Taramasalata: A fish roe (fish egg) dip. This creamy blend of pink or white fish roe with either a potato or bread base is best with a drizzle of virgin olive oil or a squeeze of lemon.
Dolmathakia: Grape leaves stuffed with rice, pine nuts, and fresh herbs. These take some time to prepare, but the end result is worth the effort. They make great appetizers and can be served warm or cold.
Lamb Kleftiko: A rustic, traditional Greek dish made with slow-cooked lamb, marinated in garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, then cooked with infused sweet onions, roasted peppers and tomatoes. Serve it with fluffy potatoes and a delicious white wine sauce.
Souvlaki: This term is used to describe “little skewers” of meat that are marinated in a red wine marinade and then grilled. They are traditionally wrapped in pita bread and then topped with a variety of condiments like lettuce, tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce.
Baklava: This delicious dessert is a favourite in Greek circles. The pastry, made with flaky phyllo dough, is layered with a cinnamon-spiced nut filling (walnuts and almonds make this version unique and flavourful), and bathed in sweet syrup, making it crunchy and sweet.
If you are hopeless in the kitchen or are just too tired to try and cook up some fine foods, there are plenty of restaurants that will be able to serve you traditional Italian or Greek food, from local cafés that are all about cooking the food according to strict tradition and chain Italian and Greek restaurants to four and five star hotels and restaurants that create the finest Italian or Greek cuisine.
By Sarah Coughlan