When I think Italy, I envision my favourite food destination in the world. In the autumn of 2013, I traveled to Tuscany for a holiday, which included two days at a Chianti cooking school. On that trip, I fell in love with San Gimignano white wine and handmade gnocchi.

For this blog I’m sharing with you three GoBarley recipes for an Under the Tuscan Sunset themed dinner you can create for friends and family over the fall season.

Usually, the traditional Italian dinner has five components or courses; starting with Antipasto, then Primo, Secondo, Contorno and ending with Dolce. For your ‘Night in Tuscany’ dinner, I’m giving you recipes for the Primo, Contorno and Dolce. For the Antipasto, which consists of small starter dishes served before the pasta, I recommend prosciutto wrapped melon ball skewers. Then for the Secondo, which is the main course, you can make fish, pork, rabbit, veal or beef.

Primo (Pasta) Course

In Italy, pasta is a served as an appetizer, not as the main course. Soup, rice, and polenta are the other options for the Primo.

Barley and Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Gnocchi is not that difficult to make, however it takes planning and it’s an fun dish to make with friends or family. The sweet potatoes add a wonderful seasonal orange colour to the meal. I recommend using a gnocchi paddle or fork to add the grooves to act as a cradle for olive oil sauce with the crushed pumpkin seeds.

Jane’s Meal Planning Tip
Double the gnocchi recipe and just before the cooking stage, put the extra in a container, then store it in freezer for up to one month.

Contorno Course
This is a vegetable side dish that usually accompanies the Secondo course of meat, rabbit or fish. It highlights the simple goodness of the vegetable.

Eggplant Tomato Barley

With the addition of barley to this dish, traditional Italians may suggest it’s a hybrid of the Primo and Contorno courses, but I say “delizioso” either way with fish or veal. The whole grain barley adds a complementary flavour and texture to the other vegetables making it an appetizing autumn side.

Jane’s Meal Planning Tip
For your Italian Inspired meal, I recommend making a simple tomato sauce from scratch. Because of the peppers, garlic and onions in this course, you only need a few ingredients including tomatoes, olive oil and some spices.

The Dolce
This is the final course of sweets or dessert served with coffee. There are endless possibilities including tiramisu, panna cotta and gelato.

Pear Hazelnut Tart

Fruit and nut desserts are popular in Italy. This GoBarley recipe reminds me of a warm fig and pear tart I ate on my first trip to Italy in 2003 – yummy food memories! If you’re like me, you have a couple of these special occasion dessert in your recipe file. Enjoy this fabulous fall dessert as the finale to your Under the Tuscan Sunset dinner event.

Jane’s Meal Planning Tip
In addition to your Italian inspired meal, this tart is an alternative to the traditional pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.
When cooking a multi-course meal, plan ahead, stay organized and recruit some helping hands in the kitchen. Finally, have fun picking out the wine and decorate in the rich fall harvest colours to make your ‘Night in Tuscany’ a dinner to remember.

Buon Appetitio!