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A Simple Italian Inspired Al Fresco Evening

C. Rallo in O'Fallon has all of the items needed for a simple meal on the deck to usher in spring!

A light, quick dinner on the patio is one of my favorite ways to usher in the spring weather: Simple food, a glass of wine and great friends makes a perfect evening.

A mix of appetizers can often be a great stand-in for a full meal. Like a somewhat famous Food Network personality, I love to use a mix of prepared food with my own touch. This gives me an easy way to get out of the kitchen fast to enjoy my friends.

One place I look to for inspiration is . on Bryan Road in O’Fallon.

C. Rallo is more than just a meat market. In addition to a full service meat counter, C. Rallo stocks their freezer case with easy to prepare weeknight meals, frozen pasta and fun appetizers. Their deli case is filled with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, in addition to deli and anti-pasti salads that rival anything you would find on The Hill.

The following recipes, along with C. Rallo’s anti-pasti salad are great for al fresco dining. The toasts and gnocchi can be made an hour ahead and served at room temperature. Make sure you ask them to slice the prosciutto paper thin. That way, it melts in your mouth. The gnocchi can also be tossed with olive oil and a bit of grated parmesan cheese instead of the prepared pesto.

Prosciutto Toast

(Makes 12)

  • ½ loaf soft white Italian bread, cut into 12 slices (1/3 to ½ inch thick)
  • ¼ cup prepared pesto sauce
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
  • 12 paper thin slices prosciutto

Preheat your oven to 350. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Arrange cut bread slices on the baking sheet.

Bake bread slices in hot oven, about 10 minutes until they are crisp and somewhat dry. Remove from oven and turn the oven to the broiler setting.

Spread 1 teaspoon prepared pesto sauce over each toast. Sprinkle cheese evenly over each toast. Top each toast with a slice of prosciutto, leaving some of the cheese exposed.

Broil toasts for about 5 minutes, watching carefully so they do not burn. The prosciutto will be slightly crisp and the exposed cheese will be golden.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Gnocchi Appetizer

  • 1 package frozen gnocchi, cooked according to package directions
  • ½ cup prepared pesto sauce

Toss the gnocchi with the pesto sauce. Poke each gnocchi with a toothpick and arrange on a platter for easy serving.

Stacey K. April 10, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Delicious as always! I love living next door to you!
Holly Hunt April 11, 2011 at 06:34 PM
I love, love, love pesto! Patti, I just love your recipes- they are so easy and delicious.
Tera Stahlhut April 11, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Sounds delicious!! Do you have any suggestions for making homemade pesto rather than store bought?
Patti Baratta April 11, 2011 at 09:00 PM
Tera, I do! I make pestos of all kinds (traditional basil/pine nut or basil/walnut are my favorite, but cilantro comes in third place). As soon as basil comes into season, I intend to write about it ~ probably more than once. Sadly, it is so expensive right now, that I rely on pesto that I froze last fall. My favorite proportions came from a vendor at a farmers market in Washington state. They are as follows: 2 cups tightly packed basil leaves 2 - 3 garlic cloves 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts 1/4 cup olive oil (or more if I am using the pesto as a sauce instead of a spread) 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese Toss all the ingredients into a food processor and process until well blended.

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