Quintessential Italian Cuisine, Such as Risotto And Braised Beef, Highlights Olive Garden's New Menu

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Online cooking demonstrations and vodcasts share culinary secrets with guests.

The traditional cuisine of Italy, characterized by its fresh, simple ingredients, regional influences and timeless preparations, has again inspired the chefs at Olive Garden to introduce such dishes as risotto, a first for the company, and braised beef, part of an exciting new menu set to debut on July 3.

Olive Garden’s new dishes include Chianti Braised Short Ribs, Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto, Tuscan Garlic Chicken and Braised Beef & Tortelloni, all inspired by its Culinary Institute of Tuscany. In addition, Olive Garden will debut two new desserts, Chocolate Gelato and a no-sugar-added Torta di Chocolate.

“This new menu represents a monumental effort from our culinary team, whose extensive travels in Italy and idea exchange with master chefs and experts throughout have culminated in our ability to introduce our guests to traditional dishes that are found on menus throughout Italy,” said John Caron, executive vice president of marketing for Olive Garden. “These are dishes that Italians have enjoyed for generations and now our guests can too.”

Braising, a slow-cooking process that seals in flavor and moisture so the meat becomes extremely tender – especially popular in the cooler, northern regions of Italy – is the technique behind Chianti Braised Short Ribs. These boneless beef short ribs are slow cooked in a Chianti wine sauce and accompanied by a savory Portobello mushroom risotto, with a hint of Marsala wine. A bold, rich wine, such as Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva, matches the wine used in the dish and provides a nice contrast to the savory mushroom and sweet Marsala.

Risotto is a staple dish enjoyed throughout Italy, using the ingredients and wines of the region. Olive Garden takes its inspiration from the coast for Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto, made from carnaroli rice, large sautéed shrimp and fresh asparagus. This piatto principale (main dish) pairs well with a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, or a blend of both varietals, such as Bertani Due Uve, literally translated as “two grapes.”

Olive Garden brings back one of its most popular dishes, from the heart of Tuscany, as a permanent menu addition. Tuscan Garlic Chicken is a blend of herb-seasoned chicken breasts sautéed with oven-roasted garlic, sweet roasted red peppers and spinach. It’s served in a white wine and garlic cream sauce and tossed with curly fettuccine, known as eleiche or mafaldina in Italian. A full, buttery Italian Chardonnay, like Bertani Le Lave, works especially well with the texture and flavors of the garlic cream sauce in Tuscan Garlic Chicken.

Olive Garden’s Braised Beef & Tortelloni rounds out the new entrée offerings with fork-tender, sliced boneless beef short ribs and Portobello mushrooms, tossed with Asiago-filled tortelloni (large, ring-shaped pasta popular in Bologna and Italy’s central regions). The dish is finished in a basil-Marsala wine sauce, one of 24 sauces made fresh at Olive Garden every day. Rocca delle Macie Sangiovese is a great accompaniment to this dish.

Throughout Italy, gelaterie and pasticcerie offer gelato in a rainbow of colors and an assortment of flavors. Olive Garden’s Chocolate Gelato is a frozen, creamy dessert, more dense than ice cream, topped with caramel sauce and chunks of dark chocolate. Olive Garden also introduces a no-sugar-added Torta di Chocolate. Made only with naturally occurring sugars, the moist double chocolate cake is topped with a warm chocolate genache and garnished with sliced fresh strawberries and a vanilla cream sauce.

Olive Garden’s executive chef team also spends several weeks a year traveling throughout Italy and working in the kitchens of some of the country’s finest and most eclectic restaurants.

“Our chefs’ time in Italy is spent learning, and sampling, the ingredients and cooking preparations that reflect each region’s traditions,” said Terry Stanley, senior vice president of culinary and beverage for Olive Garden. “We always return to our kitchen with hundreds of ideas for creating delicious, distinct and authentic dishes to introduce to our guests. With this menu, we’ve zeroed in on four that we know they’ll love.”

Olive Garden’s Culinary Institute of Tuscany, located in a restored 11th-century village in Castellina in Chianti, serves as the main source of inspiration for the new menu items. Olive Garden brings more than 100 managers here every year to train and learn the time-honored traditions of Italian cooking, such as selecting only the freshest ingredients, how to properly layer sauces to build flavor, perfecting al dente pasta, and pairing sauces and pasta to create the most flavorful meals.

Beginning July 10, Olive Garden will offer a series of online cooking demonstrations with vodcast capabilities for three of the new dishes, available to view or download at http://www.olivegarden.com/recipes/ or http://www.iTunes.com. Olive Garden Senior Executive Chef and Sicily-native Paolo Lafata hosts the step-by-step segments and shares with guests the secrets of fresh, simple and delicious Italian cooking.

Olive Garden is the leading restaurant in the Italian dining segment with 582 restaurants, 70,000 employees and more than $2 billion in annual sales. Olive Garden is a division of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI), the world’s largest casual dining company. Visit Olive Garden’s Web site at http://www.olivegarden.com.

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Katie Lennon
Olive Garden
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