treat the italophile in your life with a homemade italian gift basket this holiday season with the plays well with butter holiday gift basket series! pair a beautiful bottle of italian vino with homemade kale pesto, some specialty pasta, & a hunk of parmigiano-reggiano, the king of italian cheeses, & you will give the gift of italy – with no passports required!
’tis the season for holiday parties at work, secret santas, family gatherings, & one-too-many wintery cocktails with friends.
& along with these many joyous reasons to get together & celebrate with friends & loved ones during the holiday season comes the need to pull together thoughtful gifts to show gratitude & appreciation for the special people in your life.
i am SO very excited to help ease away some of the gift-giving stress this holiday season with a plays well with butter holiday gift basket series, which continues today with a italian gift basket that’s chock full of italian-inspired treats & will knock the socks off any italophile in your life!
in case you missed the first post in this series, “how to build the ultimate holiday gift basket for your favorite foodie”, you should totally check it out here. i talk about some of my gift basket essentials, as well as the overall approach i take to building a gift basket – which can be boiled down into four simple components:
#1. think about your gift basket recipient: what does your recipient LOVE? you don’t have to know their life story, but think about some of the things you know that they appreciate & really hone in on them as a theme central to your gift basket.
#2. start with something store-bought: it’s the holidays, we’re all busy, & we definitely don’t need to over-complicate our lives by setting out to diy everything. think about your gift basket’s theme & choose a couple of things that you know you can simply grab at the store. the key here is choosing a couple of easy things that will tie into the theme perfectly. keep it simple!
#3. add in something with local or artisanal flare: think about your favorite local treats & how they could tie into your gift basket’s theme. a couple of hand-selected favorites from your favorite local spots will not only be a great conversation starter when you give your gift basket to your recipient, but will also give your favorite small businesses some great business this holiday season.
#4. & finish with a homemade touch or two: what can YOU add to the mix? make a small batch of something that you know will kick ass. add it to your gift basket (& be sure to include the recipe as well!). the time & effort you take to include an extra handmade touch will totally knock the socks off of your giftee & make them feel absolutely spoiled.
today we’re talking an italian gift basket – the ultimate holiday gift for any lover of all things italian in your life.
my love for all things italian is deep-rooted in the time i spent working at a family-owned italian fine dining joint in downtown milwaukee for a couple of years after i graduated college. the simple & seasonal approach to italian cooking is so honest & comforting, & is so approachable for the home cook. because of my passion for italian food & wine, i knew this gift series would have to be kicked off with a seriously kick ass italian gift basket.
is your co-worker planning an italian honeymoon adventure? will your neighbor not stop raving about their trip to venice? did your little sister fall in love with italian cuisine while she worked as a server in college? is your bestie’s favorite way to spend date night cozied up with her guy, twirling pasta together at her favorite neighborhood italian restaurant?
building a homemade italian gift basket is the perfect way to show them how much they mean to you this holiday season.
like anything in italy, this italian gift basket starts with wine.
italian wine is the perfect store-bought element to your italian gift basket. i love, love, love the history of italian wine. there is nothing more romantic or amazing than drinking wine from vines that are centuries old. italy has so many unique varietals that are fun to explore (& really fun to drink).
one of my favorite italian whites is gavi (pronounced “gah-vee”). gavi, which hails from the piedmont region (aka real-deal italian wine country) of northwest italy, is a medium-bodied dry white wine. gavi often has great minerality & lemony citrus notes.
the owner of the italian restaurant at which i used to work once described gavi perfectly: cheap & cheerful. it’s a pleasant drinking wine that doesn’t require much thought or contemplation – it’s just a tasty & approachable wine.
gavi is a great option for any wine drinker who wants to explore italian wine & enjoys a pinot grigio or white burgundy – just make sure you buy a bottle labelled docg (meaning it meets a stricter set of criteria in order to be labelled as such).
if you’re not familiar with italian varietals, you should absolutely be able to rely on the expertise of anyone who works at your local wine or liquor store, but some of my other favorite italian wines to gift include:
- prosecco (perfectly festive italian bubbly)
- soave (pronounced as though it follows the word “rico”, a citrusy light-to-medium bodied dry white great for anyone who enjoys a pinot grigio or a lighter, unoaked chardonnay)
- verdicchio (acidic, citrusy italian white, recently considered some of the best white wine of italy – great for any sauvignon blanc drinker!)
- primitivo (aka old world red zin)
- super tuscan (bamf chianti. an oaky, full-bodied red great for any cab drinker!)
- barbaresco or barolo (the queen & king of italian wine, respectively – a pricier option that will absolutely be well-enjoyed by any serious wine lover)
next comes the pasta…
an awesome pasta makes for a great store-bought or artisanal element to your italian gift basket.
if you have a go-to neighborhood italian market that sells bulk pasta or if your favorite italian restaurant sells handmade pasta out of their kitchen, do it; your italophile will go nuts.
i went the simpler route & grabbed a pound of dried pasta from the pasta aisle at my supermarket. fancied up in a cello bag, no one will know the difference (promise!).
when shopping for a short pasta, the shape is very important. the more nooks & crannies the noodle has, the better saucy goodness will stick to it, creating a more flavorful bite. for this reason, i opted for trottole.
trottole has a tapered, spiral shape that is optimal for saucy goodness. (& fun fact! in italian “trottole” means “top,” like the spinning toy. do you see it?)
& the cheese…(duh!)
because you can’t not.
a good italian cheese also makes for a great store-bought or artisanal element to your italian gift basket.
i grabbed a hunk of parmigiano-reggiano, the high & mighty king of italian cheeses, from my favorite local cheese shop.
if parmigiano-reggiano is a little expensive for the purpose of your gift, a good pecorino romano would work well too. think of pecorino as parmigiano-reggiano’s first cousin. it has the same hardness & saltiness, but gets a little extra flavor from the sheep’s milk cheese from which it is made.
i also grabbed some pine nuts & popped them in the cutest little weck jar.
they make the perfect pair to the main star of this italian gift basket….
homemade kale pesto
a great sauce will pull all of the elements of your italian gift basket together, & homemade kale pesto totally fits the bill. (check out the recipe here!)
enhanced with the nuttiness of toasted walnuts & a pop of brightness from fresh lemon, my kale pesto will wow your italian food lover. you should suggest a pairing of grilled shrimp or seared sea scallops for the perfect light, italian dinner.
if you wanted to go a different route, you could gift a batch of fresh pomodoro or homemade bolognese. (check out my bolognese recipe here!) if you go with a heartier sauce for your pasta dinner, be sure to also choose a bolder wine that can stand up to the flavor of your sauce.
no matter which direction you take your pasta dinner gift, print out the recipe so your italophile can make it over & over again!
pull all of the elements together for an italian gift basket that will absolutely wow.
what are your favorite italian foods? are there other additions you’d make to an italian gift basket for the italian foodie in your life? let me know in the comments below – i would LOVE to chat!
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ummm can you just ship this entire basket to me?! I haven’t tried that wine before but “cheap and cheerful”? yea it’s now on the top of my list. and same with that pasta – how adorable!! And obviously the cheese, because… cheese – duh!
aw, ellie! thank you girl. you definitely need to try gavi soon – it’s amazing with a light seafood dinner. (and of course, cheese. always cheese.)