Menu Planning: Italian American Birthday Feasts

No one in my family is the least bit Italian, but it seems this has become a traditional birthday feast choice around here. I didn’t realize how much so until I started writing this out.

Italy, like India and many other countries with drastic climate differences and a very long history, has a wide variety of regional cuisines. I do not claim any useful knowledge of these specifics, especially not for menu planning.

I try to pick recipes I think balance well and over time we’ve seen what dishes aren’t worth the bother, at least for a really big meal. In the future perhaps I’ll begin researching regional differences and develop my menus towards authenticity.

I’ve posted all the Italian menus (or Italianish ones) I can remember here. You can see from browsing down some recipes repeat over and over, others were not as successful.

I think the most recent menu was just about perfect. I might have added the lentils with salt pork back in for filler, but everything was great without being too much work.We had 2 days to plan, shop, and prep so we aimed for simplicity. Five  of the 7 things that needed to be made from scratch used 5 or so ingredients and 3 or fewer steps, sometimes with some make-ahead options.

Mom, 2012:Italian Birthday Dinner

  • Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna awesome, takes some extra work, but worth it every time!
  • Roasted Rosemary Chickenso simple, so good
  • Parmesan Garbanzo Polenta Cakesalso simple, really easy with a make-ahead step
  • Kale Salad with Feta & Pomegranate seeds in a Raspberry vinagrette – so good!!
  • Peaches – we freeze these when they’re in season 
  • Italian Sodas – syrups + club soda
  • Lemon Granita – like Italian Ice, easy to make with 10x the fresh lemon flavor
  • Plum Kuchen – not at all Italian, but still great!

Brother #2, 2012:Italian Birthday Plate

  • Insalata Caprese – simple ingredients, as pretty as you like
  • Roasted Chicken with Juniper Berries – too fussy
  • Garbanzo Polenta – good, tried again & improved
  • Roasted Peppers – not worth the bother with tiny peppers
  • Lentils with Salt Pork – so good, need to do again soon
  • Broccoli – good to add some basic greens
  • Lemon Granita – YUM! My favorite thing from this meal
  • Espresso Granita – Making a large batch took a HUGE quantity of espresso. Good thing Boyo works at SB!
  • Mocha Cheesecake – not Italian, just suited to the boy

Brother #1, 2011:Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna Setup

Houseguest Birthday, March 2011:Italian Dinner

  • Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna – how many times will this one appear?
  • Spinach Gnocchi – so good, but a bit fussy
  • Garlic Toast – keeping it simple
  • Fruit – keeping it simple
  • Strawberry Lemon Cake – not Italian, her choice

Brother #2, 2011:Italian Birthday Dinner

  • Roasted Rosemary Chicken sensing a theme?
  • Stuffed Baked Fish – don’t actually remember this 
  • Ravioli (purchased frozen)
  • Mushroom Risotto – delicious, pretty fussy though
  • Tomato Focaccia (purchased)
  • Salad
  • Italian Sodas

PostChristmas/PreNew Years 2010

Italian Dinner(a way to celebrate with friends who couldn’t see us at either official holiday):

  • Roasted Chicken with Fennel & Bacon – another great roast Chicken recipe, if fennel is to be had
  • Pumpkin Ravioli – not worth the bother for this recipe
  • Mushroom Risotto – another fussy dish, though delicious
  • Roasted Rosemary Potatoes – delicious & simple!
  • Insalata Caprese – a simple dish easy to make look very pretty
  • Amaretto Semifreddo – good stuff, a bit on the fussy side
  • Panettone (purchased)

Brother #2, 2009:


  • Stuffed Pork Loin – we don’t usually go for big hunks of meat, but this was good
  • Roasted Red Pepper Lasagna – hey, again!
  • Blue Corn Polenta Cakes with Mushrooms – not worth the bother
  • Roasted Rosemary Potatoes – always worth the time, very simple
  • Bruschetta and bread – yum!
  • Salad
  • Pistachio Cake with White Chocolate frosting – a little on the dry side, but actually Italian, I think

Mom, 2008Roasted Chicken with Fennel

  • Roasted Chicken with Fennel & Bacon – so good!
  • Red Pepper Lasagna – always delicious
  • Salad
  • Roasted Rosemary Potatoes – YUM
  • Apple Kuchen – not as good as the plum kuchen

One menu I did that I did not photograph also had stuffed spinach shells and a pumpkin frozen dessert I thought was fairly fabulous. I know I did the roasted rosemary potatoes too.  And somewhere back there we did Italian for Christmas Eve. I don’t remember the menu and there are no photos, but I do remember the homemade cheese herb ravioli in sage butter was sublime!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. sumbum says:

    haha! “Pies (American!)” made me laugh, and the big chunks of meat comment.

  2. kitchentourist says:

    Haha… I wasn’t sure anyone would bother to read through all those but I’m glad you found it amusing. I suppose there are some Italian pies to be had somewhere, but they’ve probably got fancier titles and I doubt my brother would make them. He does make a mean butter crust though – we had some of it for our Christmas dinner and I had to remind myself to stop nibbling on it while rolling it out until I had the pie in the oven.

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