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How to host a vegan dinner party

  • 7 min read

There's nothing quite like hosting a dinner party for your nearest and dearest. So we've teamed up with our pals Pasta Evangelists to give you the ultimate guide on how to host a vegan Italian-themed dinner party.

Apéritivo
In Italy, it is tradition that before a hearty meal, an aperitivo is served. The aperitivo, the name of which stems from the latin root “aperire”, meaning “opener” usually consists of a drink and a small bite, known as stuzzichini, and is designed to stimulate a diner’s appetite. But the aperitivo is so much more than a mere first act. It is a moment, a ritual perhaps, observed for centuries by Italian natives, who understand the importance of leisure, of savouring the smallest of occasions, unfettered by urgency. A signifier of the day drawing to a close, an aperitivo is best enjoyed in good company.

We’ve chosen two delicious vegan recipes to kick off your italianesque soirée in style.

Espresso Martini Recipe

Ingredients:
65ml Vodka
75ml Tia Maria (vegan coffee liqueur)
75ml Freshly brewed espresso
Coffee beans to garnish

Method:

  1. Add the vodka, coffee liqueur and the espresso to a cocktail shaker - or any tightly lidded container - with a few ice cubes and shake vigorously (if your espresso is still hot that’s fine as it will give your drink a nice creamy head)
  2. When the ingredients are well-combined and nicely chilled, pour through a strainer (to remove the ice) into two Martini glasses
  3. Garnish each drink with 3 coffee beans to serve

 

Stuzzichini- Rosemary Focaccia Recipe

Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour (or 200g durum wheat flour + 300g plain flour)
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
375ml water (lukewarm temperature)
7g dry yeast (1 sachet)
½ tsp sugar
2tsp salt
Sprinkling flaked sea salt, to top
2tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, removed from sprigs (can use dried rosemary too)
A little extra olive oil to drizzle on top

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar (if you’re using fresh yeast, dissolve it in 2tbsp water).
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and gently pour in the olive oil and the water, you might not quite need all the water, so add it slowly. Stir the mixture with a spoon or by hand. The dough will become very sticky.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured work surface. Knead for 5-10 mins until it becomes softer and less sticky. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with cling film or a tea towel. Let it prove in a warm spot until the dough has tripled in size.
  4. The rising time may vary depending on the temperature but it could take up to 4 hours.
  5. After the dough has risen, transfer it into a pan or tin, about 30cm in diameter, that has been greased with a little olive oil.
  6. Let your focaccia rise in the pan for 1 more hour.
  7. When risen, push your fingers firmly into the dough to make small dents in the top of your focaccia.
  8. Finally, brush the top of the dough with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle over the rosemary and flakes of sea salt.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C (180°C in a fan oven) for about 25 minutes until golden in colour. Buon Appetito!

 

Now that the appetites have been whetted it’s time to introduce your friends to the show stopper of the evening - a mouth-watering Aubergine & Sun-Dried Tomato Tortelloni. Not to be confused with tortellini, which are the much smaller version. Although filled pasta can be a labour of love, it is always worth it.

La Pasta - Aubergine & Sun-Dried Tomato Tortelloni Recipe 

Tools
Pasta Machine or Rolling Pin
Pasta cutter or sharp knife

Ingredients
​For the filling:
2 aubergines, halved lengthwise
⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful fresh basil, finely chopped
50g breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

For the vegan pasta dough:
400g semolina flour or durum wheat flour, finely ground
200ml warm water
Pinch of salt

For the caper sauce:
80g dairy-free butter
20g capers
A bunch of fresh parsley

Garnish: (optional)
Vegan hard cheese alternative



Method
Make the tortelloni filling:

  1. Place the aubergine face up on a baking tray. Generously salt the flesh, and set to one side for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
  2. In a frying pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add your minced garlic sauté gently until softened and golden in colour. Set this to one side, ensuring the garlic doesn’t continue to cook and burn.
  3. Pat your aubergines dry with a paper towel, before brushing lightly with olive oil. Flip the aubergines, so the cut side is facing down, and place on a parchment-lined baking tray. Roast for around 20-30 minutes, until the aubergines have softened and shrivelled slightly. Set aside to cool.
  4. Once cooled, scoop the flesh out of your aubergines, and place in a large mixing bowl. Once all the flesh is removed, add the minced sun-dried tomato, shredded basil, and breadcrumbs. Add the garlic and oil mixture and mix until well combined. If the mixture seems a little dry, add more olive oil as necessary. Taste and season with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice. Be cautious with the salt here - the sun-dried tomatoes and caper sauce are both fairly salty in flavour, so you shouldn’t need much.
  5. Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so, while you prepare your vegan dough.


Make the vegan dough:

  1. On a clean marble or wooden work surface, pile your flour and pinch of salt into a mound.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the mound large enough to contain the water and gently pour the water into the well.
  3. Using a fork, gradually add the flour to the water by slowly incorporating it from the sides of the well. As the mixture thickens, start using your hands with a scraper to continue incorporating the flour.


Knead the dough

  1. Clean the work surface of any excess flour or dough bits that were never incorporated. Then lightly flour your clean work surface.
  2. Knead the dough by pressing the heel of one hand into the ball, keeping your fingers high.
  3. Press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you. The dough should stretch and roll under your hand to create a shell-like shape.
  4. Turn the dough over, then press into the dough with your knuckles, one hand at a time. Continue kneading for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch.
  5. Roll the dough into a smooth ball, cover with cling film and allow the dough to rest for 15-20 mins at room temperature.


Roll out the dough

  1. Using a pasta machine:
  2. Dust your work surface with a sprinkling of plain white flour.
  3. Cut your dough into 4 equal parts and loosely form one section into a ball (make sure you cover the rest of the dough with cling film, or it will dry out).
  4. Set the pasta machine to the widest setting (setting 0) and roll the ball of pasta dough through it.
  5. Click the machine down to the next thinnest setting (setting 1) and continue to roll the pasta through each setting until it is translucent (usually setting 6).


Using a rolling pin:

  1. Rolling by hand follows much the same process as the machine, albeit with a little more elbow grease, or olio di gomito, as the Italians say.
  2. Cut your dough into 4 equal parts and loosely form one section into a ball (remember to cover the rest of the dough with cling film)
  3. Lightly flour your rolling pin and begin rolling the dough as you would with a pastry crust, starting in the centre and rolling away from you to the outer edge.
  4. Turn the dough slightly and repeat, working your way around, until the sheet of dough is about the thickness of a 2p coin.

 

Shaping the Tortelloni   (Here's a helpful video!)
With a non-serrated pasta cutter or sharp knife, divide the sheet up by folding the sheet over to form a square. Cut, and repeat. Next, put a generous teaspoon of filling into the centre of each square.

 

Now comes the tricky part – how to fold tortellini. Start by taking a square and folding it diagonally to make a triangle, pressing the edges down firmly and squeezing out any trapped air. Use a teaspoon to poke any filling back into the centre if needed.

 

If the pasta doesn’t stick that well, put a little water on the edges before trying to fold again. Once you have made a triangle shape, take the bottom corners and fold around your index finger so that they meet.
Squeeze the corners together so that they bind and again, use a touch of water to help if needed. Repeat until all the pasta and filling is used up.

 

  • Leave on a wooden board to firm up for around 10-15 minutes - this will help prevent the pasta from falling apart in the water. 

 

Cooking & Serving the Tortelloni

  1. Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil, add in the pasta and cook for 3 minutes.

  2. While your water is boiling, add your vegan butter to a saucepan. Allow this to melt, before adding your capers and fresh parsley. Cook for around 3 minutes.

  3. Once your tortelloni is cooked, gently lift the pasta into the saucepan using a slotted spoon. Toss gently until the tortelloni is well coated in the sauce.

  4.  Garnish with extra fresh parsley, and vegan hard ‘cheese’ (if using) and serve. Buon Appetito!

 

FANCY WINNING SOME UPCIRCLE AND PASTA EVANGELISTS GOODIES? Head over to our Global Food Waste Day competition: https://bowercollective.com/pages/global-food-waste-day-competition

Closes Thursday 5th May 2022. T&Cs apply.

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