Linguine & clams is a dinner that I have wanted to do all summer long. In May, Greg and I were stuck at the Cabo airport and I spent the time making lists of all of the parties I wanted to do this summer, and this menu was at the top of the list. So when my friend Brittany asked me to help put together a surprise dinner party for her friend’s birthday, and mentioned that pasta is her favorite, I knew this was the moment. Italian food is just so good for a party because it’s simple, seasonal and comforting to all. Being obsessed with bright green castelvetrano olives, I’ve been wanting to try Chris Cosentino’s roasted version from his inspiring cookbook Beginnings: they did not disappoint. In the same way that warming nuts makes them extra special, the olives took on a deeper layer of flavor after spending fifteen minutes in a hot oven. Unsure of what to do with the cute baby zucchini and patty pan squashes that I bought at the farmers market, I decided to fill them with the toppings I normally put on top of crostini. I’m excited to have a new vessel for appetizers. The menu got rounded out by some of my summer go-to sides and finished off with my new favorite dessert for entertaining. I’ve been noticing semifreddos on the menus of several restaurants and pulled out a recipe that I clipped from the June 2011 Bon Appetit but had yet to try (there is a messy stack of hundreds more such clippings in my desk). The creamy cool layers of strawberry, pistachio and vanilla were a fantastic end to an el fresco Italian summer dinner. Click on links to the recipes for the olives & semifreddo below.