Updated: Sep 6
In this week’s blog post we wanted to highlight one of our customers favorite food options when requesting our team to cater an event, Italian cuisine. When it comes to cooking Italian food, Enck’s Plus Catering has mastered it with our Soups, appetizers and entrees. No matter the event, Italian or Italian/American cuisine is sure to be enjoyed. So, I thought I might share the experience of one our long time customers, the Martin family, who are big Italian food lovers and then leave you with some of our recipes to try at home. Who knows, maybe next time you need an event catered you will opt for Italian fayre.
The Martin family has been a long-standing customer of ours. We have been cooking and catering their family for events that spanned three generations. At every one of their events, they chose to have an entirely Italian menu. Back in 2015 at the wedding of Greg and Natasha Martin we catered a feast for 185 people at the Eden Resort. It was an elegant and timeless theme which the Eden’s ambiance added great luster to with their water fall and piano ballroom. The wedding menu was bowtie Florentine soup, chicken marsala and vegetable lasagna. The tables were set with focaccia and seasoned aioli for dipping. The whole room smelled savory and delicious. For dessert there were fresh cannoli from a bakery in South Philly. It was a truly enchanting wedding reception with dancing, fine wine and laughter.
In 2018 at The Martin family reunion, we were requested to cater a picnic in Lancaster, PA at Long’s Park. We thought the wedding was big but the family reunion amounted to nearly 300 people. It was a joyous occasion. We prepared a light lunch with fresh caprese salad, charcuterie of Italian meats and cheeses and cold cuts on Philly baked Italian breads. I loved sampling the spicy prosciutto, sharp provolone and fried Italian long hot peppers. Truly a pallet tantalizing flavor combination. The Martins are truly a gregarious bunch and had the park echoing with family stories and laughter.
In the summer of 2021, we were honored to cater one of Martin's more somber events. That was the celebration of life held for the patriarch of the family, the late Gerrald Martin. Although I had only met the man at the wedding in 2018 and had nothing but good things to say about our encounter, I was overwhelmed by the countless members of the family and close friends of Gerrald's who took the podium to share all the wonderful things he had done for his community and for those in need. A successful man in business but more so a good Christian and man of charitable spirit. That day we catered this event with a hot pasta bar complete with marinara, alfredo and scampi sauces. And of course, one of Gerrald’s favorites, our bruschetta.
Italian Cuisine Recipes:
While there are endless choices of Italian influenced dishes, I thought I would share with you just a couple of staples enjoyed by most.
Pasta Fazool Soup:
4 ounce slab pancetta or bacon, finely diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Two 15-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 cup ditalini
One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, torn basil and crusty bread, for serving
In a large saucepan, cook the pancetta in the olive oil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine to the saucepan and cook over moderately high heat until nearly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the pasta and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with shredded cheese, torn basil and crusty bread.
1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into small dice
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 French baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar, or to taste
Stir tomatoes, basil, 3 tablespoons olive oil, red onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, and pepper together in a bowl; let tomato mixture stand at room temperature for 15 minutes, then place in the refrigerator to marinate for 45 minutes.
Set oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source and preheat the oven's broiler.
Brush one side of each slice of bread with remaining olive oil. Place bread slices, oiled-side-up, onto a baking sheet.
Broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes; remove from oven. Spoon tomato mixture evenly over the top of toasted bread slices; drizzle balsamic vinegar evenly over tomato mixture. Serve immediately.
1/3 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Two 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 bay leaves
1 large sprig basil; plus 1/4 cup leaves, coarsely chopped
1 large sprig thyme
One 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 pound ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 pound shredded low-moisture whole-milk mozzarella (4 cups)
For the sauce: Put the olive oil and garlic in a medium pot over low heat. Cook the garlic, stirring occasionally at first and more often as it colors, until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-low, add the onions and a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, basil sprig, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt, raise the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a lively simmer. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until quite thick (if you draw a spoon through the sauce, you'll see the bottom of the pot for a few seconds before the sauce fills back in), about 30 minutes. As the sauce thickens, turn the heat down a bit so the bottom doesn't scorch. Stir in the chopped basil. Let cool to room temperature before assembling the lasagna. (Makes 1 quart.)
To assemble: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Squeeze the spinach in your hands to remove as much liquid as possible. Put it in a large bowl, and stir in the ricotta, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, the egg, 1 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg.
Spread 3/4 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Lay 3 lasagna noodles across the sauce (they won't touch). Spread 3/4 cup tomato sauce on top. Dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture (about 1 cup) across the sauce and use the back of a spoon to spread it (it will smush into the tomato sauce, which is fine). Scatter 1 cup of the mozzarella on top.
Repeat the layering 2 more times. Top with the last 3 noodles, spread the last 3/4 cup tomato sauce over them and scatter the remaining 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan over the top. Spray a large piece of foil with cooking spray and cover the baking dish.
Bake until the noodles are soft, and the cheese has melted, about 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is bubbling, and the lasagna is slightly browned around the edges, about 15 minutes more. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.
As you can see, we at Enck’s Plus Catering love our Italian foods, but even more so we love to build long and lasting relationships with our customers. Food is often the glue that holds memories and experiences together. The poignant journey we have shared with the Martins is just one of many. If you haven’t had the opportunity to work with us yet, we hope you will choose us to provide food and service for your next event. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week.