- Two days before the party, do the shopping: buy the groceries, wine, and any other things you need (candles, cocktail napkins, place cards, etc.).
- One day before, start cooking: you can make the sausage ragù (it's actually better made a day in advance); the batter for the bittersweet chocolate pudding cakes (pour into the ramekins and cover with plastic wrap); and the fig-olive tapenade. Cover everything and store it in the refrigerator. Roast the pine nuts and the pistachios and store them at room temperature. Peel and slice the oranges for the salad and chill. Blanch the broccoli rabe, drain, pat dry, and chill.
- The morning of the party, set the table and make sure the house is picked up! Bake the crostini, let them cool completely, and store them in a sealed Ziploc bag at room temperature.
- Two hours before guests arrive, finish the food prep: thinly slice the garlic for the broccoli rabe, thinly slice the red onions for the salad, and marinate them in white Balsamic vinegar. Cover tightly and chill. Make the Grand Marnier whipped cream and store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- One hour before, bake the bittersweet chocolate cakes and let sit out at room temperature until ready to serve. Assemble the crostini and set out on platters. Set out pre-party wine glasses. Place the ragù back in a pot on the stove and let simmer until ready to serve. (Added bonus: your house will smell amazing when people arrive!)
- Once guests arrive, everyone can hang out with a glass of wine and some crostini, while you plate the salads and finish up the rabe and polenta. Enlist a couple friends to stir the polenta, sauté the broccoli rabe, and help you bring the plated salads over to the table. Make sure there is water and wine on the table as well.
- Once the salads are on the table, everyone can sit. Post salad course, I like to plate the polenta and ragù, with the broccoli rabe passed on a platter family style. Alternately, you could serve the main course buffet-style. For the desserts, reheat the cakes for a couple minutes and garnish with the Grand Marnier whipped cream, and chocolate shavings.