Italian Side Dishes: Simple Enough to Make, Impressive Enough to Serve

italian side dishesBasil and rosemary and oregano, oh my! It’s no wonder Italian food is so popular, given the delicious spices that are present in every meal. If you find yourself eating out too much or heating up a can of soup for dinner just because you don’t think there’s a chef hidden inside of you, think again. You’d be surprised how easy it is to whip up delicious Italian side dishes, and many of the ingredients are probably hiding in your pantry right now! From meat lovers to vegans, there’s something that will be sure to delight everyone in the family. The next time your in-laws invite themselves over at the last minute, there’s no need to fret. Simply add one of these dishes to your meal and you’ll impress the entire family!

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Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

You know how awesome bacon is? Come on, I know you do. Prosciutto is like bacon’s saltier, wiser older sister. Everything is better when wrapped in prosciutto, and asparagus is no exception. All you need to make this delicious recipe is:

  • 1 pound of asparagus
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 slices of prosciutto, sliced in half (a total of 16 after slicing)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Snap off the ends of each asparagus stalk. They should snap easily about an inch up from the bottom. Alternatively, you can chop the ends off with a knife.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  4. Roast approximately 15 minutes, until asparagus is tender. Let cool.
  5. Wrap each piece of asparagus with one piece (1/2 slice) of prosciutto and serve.

This recipe makes 6 servings. Keep in mind that the prosciutto is a salty meat, so you may not want to add too much salt to the asparagus before wrapping.

Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini

I’m such a sucker for vegetables stuffed with almost anything. But stuffing a vegetable with cheese, ooh boy, I am all in. Did you know that ricotta literally means “re-cooked” in Italian? Why would they name a cheese that? As it turns out, ricotta is actually a cheese made from the leftover milk whey from the production of other cheeses. The more you know!

  • 3 zucchini
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese (plus a little extra, to top)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Slice your zucchini in half, and then scoop out the pulpy insides to create little zucchini ‘boats’. Place them on a baking sheet and forget about them for a couple of minutes.
  3. Finely chop up basil and parsley leaves. Mix the chopped leaves with the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  4. Fill the zucchini with the cheese and herb mixture, adding in an equal amount of the mixture to each ‘boat’. Sprinkle each with a dash of parmesan.
  5. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until zucchini is tender. Serve!

This recipe makes 6 servings.

Roasted ‘Smashed’ Potatoes

I can’t forget about all my meat-free, dairy-free friends out there. Who says you can’t still enjoy a good meal on a restrictive diet? This recipe will sit especially well with the kids and picky eaters of the family. After all, it’s hard not to like roasted potatoes. For those who aren’t following a vegan diet, feel free to top with a dollop of sour cream or a handful of shredded cheese.

  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Scrub each potato and place them on the baking sheet, baking for approximately 15 minutes – until they are tender enough to pierce with a fork. Once they are slightly tender, take them out of the oven and let cool.
  3. Using a fork, smash each potato firmly until it gives in. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, minced garlic and rosemary.
  4. Return to oven and roast until browned, approximately 30 minutes. Serve while warm.

This recipe makes approximately 3 servings, although it’s so good you might accidentally eat them all yourself.

Cheesy Biscuits

If you came here looking for something hearty but all you found were vegetable dishes, I apologize. Hopefully this one makes up for it. It’s pretty hard to beat that first bite of a warm, flaky buttermilk biscuit. These ones will surely live up to all of your expectations.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp melted butter
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and Italian seasoning.
  3. Slowly cut in the shortening until the the dough resembles fine crumbs, and then stir in buttermilk until the dough is soft and sticky.
  4. Lightly flour a surface – such as a large cutting board or kitchen table – and knead the dough approximately 15 times. Roll dough 1 inch thick. Cut with a 2-inch cookie cutter, cutting out 6 biscuits. Flatten dough as necessary.
  5. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on a baking sheet. Brush each with a small amount of melted butter.
  6. Bake 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Serve immediately.

This recipe makes 6 servings.

It’s not hard to find an Italian side dish that will work for you and your family. If someone doesn’t like rosemary, why not try parsley instead? If someone doesn’t like garlic, omit it from the recipe! Mix and match different vegetables and spices until you find the combination that suits you the best. By practicing with these simple side dishes, you’ll realize that cooking in the kitchen isn’t as scary as it once seemed.

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