food

‘I’m a chef who loves to entertain. These 3 easy recipes are the ultimate crowd-pleasers.’

I’m a chef and new mum who loves to entertain.

Back before I had my darling daughter, Winter, (moment of silence for my free time) I would spend hours in the kitchen prepping to have friends and family over for a meal. 

As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, it wouldn’t be abnormal for me to spend an entire afternoon tweaking one recipe until I knew it would be a crowd pleaser.

Watch the trailer for Mamamia's food podcast, What I Eat When. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Although I knew I would have to shift some priorities when I became a mum, I also knew that I wanted to keep cooking and entertaining as much as possible. 

I now find myself leaning towards my quick and simple recipes - anything I can prep while Winnie is napping is a winner! I’ve also developed hacks that simplify my more time intensive recipes.

Whether you’re a new mum like me, short on time, or just not a natural in the kitchen - these recipes are simple, quick to put together, and always lead to empty plates at my dinner parties.

Read on for my crowd-pleasing favourites that will have your friends and family begging for more. I promise you’ll want to remake them time and time again!

Chicken Sandwiches

ADVERTISEMENT

I make these when I have friends over, when I’m going to a picnic, or if I’m going anywhere that requires me to take something along (and even when it’s not required, because they’re delicious and any excuse will do to share and enjoy them). 

They disappear so quickly, and never without at least one person asking me for the recipe.

This recipe makes around 20 sandwiches.

Ingredients:

For the aioli:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 20g lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 50g extra virgin olive oil
  • 75g vegetable oil (or another neutral oil)

For the sandwiches:

  • 2 rotisserie chickens, shredded and chopped
  • 6 small stalks finely chopped celery
  • Half spanish onion, finely chopped
  • Large bunch dill, finely chopped
  • Bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt flakes and black pepper
  • Butter
  • 2½ loaves buttered bread (thickly sliced low GI loaf from Bakers Delight hits the spot with these.

Hack: ask for the bread sliced lengthways to save time on cutting crusts!)

Method:

1. To make the aioli, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt

2. Whilst whisking, slowly drizzle in oil

3. Taste and season, then whisk in water or lemon juice (to taste) until the consistency thins out a little

4. For the sandwiches, combine all ingredients, taste and season

5. Assemble sandwiches (butter one side), remove crusts, cut into 3 rectangles each. Try not to eat them all before your guests arrive

Bolognese

ADVERTISEMENT

My Bolognese is kind of a big deal! A couple of simple steps along the way and it’s rich, it’s decadent, it’s hands down the best Bolognese I’ve eaten. 

I can also say this having eaten Bolognese in Bologna. 

I’m eating this most weeks, very often with minimal effort - defrosted from a weekend batch I’ve made and frozen. 

Given the response I’ve received on my Bolognese from my Instagram followers, I can confidently vouch that it’s a recipe your friends and family will rave over and demand the recipe so they can recreate it at home.

Serves 6-8 (it makes a big batch, because I know you’ll want leftovers to freeze)

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 60g (4 tbsp) olive oil
  • 500g beef mince
  • 500g pork and veal mince
  • 150g unsmoked pancetta, finely diced
  • 2 cups dry white
  • 220g double concentrate tomato paste
  • Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano (the rind for the sauce, plus the Parmesan for serving)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, finely grated
  • 1L chicken stock
  • 400g tomato passata
  • 125g (½ cup) cream
  • 400g dried pasta, such as rigatoni, tagliatelle or spaghetti

Method:

1. Roughly chop onion, celery and carrot

2. Process above vegetables in a food processor until very finely chopped

3. Mix beef mince with pork and veal mix in a bowl to combine

4. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat

5. In at least two batches, shape meat into 4cm-ish long pieces, add to a large pot and season with salt. Fry each side until brown (they don’t need to cook through, just brown on the outside - approx 2 mins per side). Once browned, transfer to a bowl

6. Remove oil and wipe out residue from the pot using a paper towel or sponge

7. Add pancetta and cook on medium, stirring often, until fat renders down and pancetta is crispy (5-10 mins)

8. Add vegetable mix and cook until beginning to lightly brown (5-10 mins)

9. Add beef and white wine, reduce heat to medium low.

Hack: If you have a stand mixer, right before this step, you can put the browned mince in with the whisk attachment and run it on the lowest setting, until the mince has been broken up to your liking.

10. Reduce wine by half, (10-15 mins). Whilst reducing, use a wooden spoon (or a potato masher) to break up the meat until it’s finely ground

ADVERTISEMENT

11. Add tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme, and nutmeg and cook, stirring often, until colour deepens (5 mins)

12. Add stock, tomato passata, and Parmesan rind and a good pinch of salt and pepper

Tip: store Parmesan rinds is in the freezer for use in Bolognese, soups and stews

13. Reduce heat to very low and cook, at barely a simmer, for at least 1½ hours (ideally 2+ hours)

14. Discard bay leaf, Parmesan rind, thyme sprigs

15. Stir through cream

16. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salty water, reserving ½ cup of pasta water

17. Strain pasta and add back to pot, spoon in Bolognese and toss through pasta

18. Serve with a green salad and more Parmesan

Mac and Cheese 

Does my ultimate mac and cheese recipe need an intro? I guess it does. 

It starts with me: I’m obsessed with mac and cheese. 

I’ve tried almost every recipe you can imagine, and I understand the elements which I believe work together in harmony to make the best mac and cheese ever. 

ADVERTISEMENT

A toasted roux to thicken and flavour the sauce; melty, nutty, flavoursome cheeses; shallots and garlic because they never fail me in an Italian recipe; lots of butter; nutmeg and thyme; crunchy Parmesan panko breadcrumbs on top (in all honesty, I could eat these in a bowl on their own). 

Must be served with a simple, acidic salad to cut through the richness. Tell me it’s not the best mac and cheese you’ve ever tasted, I’m ready.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 300g short pasta such as macaroni, small shells, fusilli, cavatelli

For the breadcrumbs:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 cup panko
  • 30g Parmesan, finely grated

For the sauce:

  • 80g butter (30g + 50g)
  • 4 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 50g plain or 00 flour
  • 500ml full cream milk
  • 150g Comté, finely grated
  • 170g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
  • Pinch of finely grated nutmeg

To serve:

  • An acidic salad to accompany this is a must! Something simple like butter lettuce, good balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil is perfect.

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C

2. Cook pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water until very al dente (it will cook further in the oven), reserve some pasta water, strain and set aside

3. For the breadcrumbs, melt 50g butter in a fry pan over medium heat and toss through Panko, stirring often, until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl and stir through 30g Parmesan, season with salt flakes and set aside

4. In a saucepan, melt 30g butter over medium heat

5. Sauté shallots, garlic and thyme until tender, then remove to a bowl (use a spatula to make sure the pan is empty)

6. In the same pan, melt 50g butter for the bechamel

7. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to go golden (like Caramilk golden). It will smell biscuity and give your mac and cheese a toasted, nutty flavour

8. Bit by bit, whisk in the milk over medium heat. Continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and noticeably thickened (10 mins)

9. Turn off the heat and stir in Comté, Parmesan, nutmeg and your sauteed garlic, shallots and thyme. Loosen with about ½ cup pasta water

10. Stir the sauce through pasta and season to taste

11. Spoon the mix into a baking dish, top with your toasted panko and bake for 15 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and golden at the edges.

Tori Falzon is a trained chef and nutritionist turned recipe developer and social media manager. Under her brand ‘Into The Sauce’, Tori shares her obsessively tried and tested recipes, providing inspiration for everything from weeknight meals to entertaining. Tori’s other skills include finding hacks and efficiency in life and the kitchen, fashion and style, and finding amazing products at the best price. You can follow her on Instagram @intothesauce.

Feature Image: Instagram / @intothesauce