There are rare times when you meet someone new and you just *click* and you are a little bit angry because you hadn’t met them sooner. Nate is that friend for me. We met through our mutual friend Marco, who is also truly wonderful, and hit it off right away. With our shared love of food and wine and the finer things we had a lot to talk about and that led to us planning our Sunday evening Italian dinner.

As I’ve written on the blog many times, I love dinner with friends. Good wine and conversation over candlelight is good for the soul and an even better way to start the work week. Making time for what you love is part of a wanderful lifestyle, add some Italian wine and you have yourself a good night in the making.

For the side salad I decided to go simple with grilled romaine and a light vinaigrette paired with a mozzarella, tomato and basil salad with balsamic. Grilling the romaine is highly recommended. Even without a traditional grill, charring it on the stove adds a smokey depth of flavor that makes it memorable.

This is a bit of a secret recipe given to Nate by his adopted nonna, a lovely lady he met in Italy via a cooking class who taught him the beauty of a hearty, homemade lasagna. Once we decided cooking together had to happen, he suggested we make this and I of course jumped at the opportunity. I will tell you that even this ‘pescetarian’ enjoyed the minced beef and Italian sausage that he spent the afternoon making. Layering the lasagna with noodles, mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan, parsley and a delicious béchamel sauce. He came over having everything ready so all we had to do was put it together and put it in the oven.  There is just something about Sunday dinners. The aroma wafted through the house and Nate commented that the smell and the taste was so similar to when nonna made it in Italy, “it’s like I’m back in her kitchen” he smiled as he took a bite and I think we all wished we were in her kitchen at that moment but were happy to just be together in mine.

For dessert, I tried my hand at Ferran Adria’s simple chocolate cake. No ganache, no gold flakes, no foam – just simple, traditional ingredients . Begin by melting 60% cocoa over a double boiler, stirring slightly until melted. Add 6 oz of chopped butter and let it melt into the chocolate. Meanwhile, separate 6 egg yolks from egg whites – saving them both. This process is a bit like making chocolate mousse, you almost want it the same consistency. Add two tablespoons of sugar to the egg whites and mix until soft peaks form. For the yolks, just stir and pour overtop the egg whites and fold them together. Take the chocolate off the heat and let it cool slightly. Take the egg white mixture and fold that into the chocolate, blending and folding until you have a light and airy consistency.

Place the chocolate in a pastry bag if you have one and pipe into a mini cupcake tin. Bake in the oven at 365 for 12 minutes. The cakes came out rich, fluffy and pretty much the perfect bite. However, I am no baker so they weren’t as *beautiful* as I had hoped. Regardless, they were eaten up with none left over.

It was the perfect night with wine flowing, good conversation and decadent Italian food. I highly encourage you to enjoy your own experience of sobre mesa with bonus points if you have your own Italian grandmother to participate.