Dinner parties always seem like a great idea. Good food, good company, no corkage fees, and no need to leave your home. But if you’re the host, throwing a dinner party can easily turn you into a ball of stress.
Often, you spend half the day prepping, and it always takes longer than you think it will. The guests arrive on time, and you’re still frantically zooming around in the kitchen.
Not to mention, sometimes that beautiful recipe you found ends up looking like a Pinterest fail and tastes mediocre at best. Just like that, going out to dinner feels well worth the splurge.
But there’s no need to throw in the towel. We’ve got tips on how to throw a successful dinner party. Hosting a dinner party can be a blast — and these 19 fancy-looking but super-simple dinner recipes prove it.
Meat and poultry entrees
1. Slow-cooker beef ragu with pappardelle
Slow cookers are the secret ingredient to happy cooking. The magic happens in the pot, and you don’t even have to be home while it does.
Prep the meat in the morning, let it simmer for 6 to 10 hours (leaving plenty of time for a workout, massage, and more), and the rest can be prepped in less than 10 minutes.
Your house will smell like heaven, you’ll hardly be in the kitchen, and the end result will taste anything but effortless.
2. Soy-lemon flank steak with arugula
A grill is a dinner party host’s best friend. Make the marinade in the morning for the best flavor.
And then you’re ready for the party.
The steak will need just a few minutes of grilling on each side and a few more minutes to rest. Make this meal more special by getting the arugula and cheese from a farmers market.
3. Sweet potato noodles with chorizo, roasted red pepper, and spinach
Nothing says “Dig in!” like a plate of veggie noodles. Throw in some chorizo, hearty vegetables like spinach and red pepper, and a slew of herbs and spices, and you’ve got a real crowd-pleaser.
Feel free to swap in Italian sausage if chorizo isn’t for you, and experiment with bitter greens like broccoli rabe. Baking the noodles gives the squash an al dente texture and tempts us to never go back to wheat pasta.
4. Salami, jalapeño, and olive pizza with honey
Pizza dinner party? We’re in. Homemade pizza is easy when you use store-bought dough and jarred sauce. Just remember not to overload the dough with toppings, so you don’t end up with a soggy crust.
Sprinkling the outer rim with “everything bagel” seasoning gives the crust a special crunch.
5. Spicy sausage, kale, and whole-wheat orecchiette soup
If you’re feeding a big group, this recipe will make a big batch of a hearty soup in just one pot. We’re big fans of the genius soup hack used in this recipe: mixing grated cheese into the broth to add flavor and richness.
Pair with a crusty loaf of multigrain bread.
6. Baked chicken meatballs with garlic-dill yogurt sauce
Homemade meatballs in less than 30 minutes? ’Tis true. Simply combine ground chicken, panko breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, herbs, and spices. Roll the mixture into bite-size balls and bake.
While we’d usually tell you to prep the sauce in advance, this one can be made while the meatballs are in the oven. We love serving this over zucchini noodles or in warm pita bread.
7. Easy weeknight chicken curry with cucumber yogurt and roti
Entertaining a bunch of spice-lovers? This simple curry creates an awesome aroma of Indian spices. Your guests will be drooling when they walk in the door.
Pro tip: Prep in advance. That way all you have to do is toss things into the pot and give it an occasional stir. Start cooking the chicken about 20 minutes before guests are set to arrive.
8. French onion chicken
Don’t let the cooking time fool you: This recipe is a breeze. The majority of the time is dedicated to simmering the onions in butter (hello, savory house scent!) and roasting shortly before serving.
Aim to add things to the oven right before guests arrive so you have time for a glass of wine and a chat before it’s time to assemble and serve the meal.
We’ll never turn down melted cheese, but feel free to opt out of the Gruyere topping to keep things cheese-free.
9. Maple-glazed sheet pan salmon
Take 15 minutes to prep this dish ahead of time, and then put the salmon and veggies on a sheet pan and cook for 25 minutes. You’ve got an impressive, healthy, company-worthy entree loaded with Brussels sprouts, delicata squash, and radicchio.
Plus, you’ve only got one pan to clean.
10. Seared ahi tuna with chimichurri sauce, arugula, and avocado
This recipe calls for sushi-grade tuna. It’s important to use high-quality tuna because the inside remains mostly raw.
Shopping is the hardest part of this tuna recipe. Nothing, and we mean nothing, is as simple and quick as searing. This is a good dish for dinner parties that start with an appetizer, since it’s easy to leave the crowd and come back minutes later with the main dish.
The arugula and chimichurri can be prepped in advance in minutes.
11. Moules à la marinière
Mussels steamed in white wine are absolutely delicious. And they couldn’t be easier. Toss the mussels in a big pot with wine, onions, and fresh herbs and cook on high heat for 5 minutes, until the mussels open.
Serve with oven fries or a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the buttery juices.
12. Roasted sweet potato pitas with arugula and garlic dressing
This vegetarian dish gets its robust flavor from the homemade garlic dressing and is filled with beautiful, fresh ingredients like lightly dressed arugula, red onion, and roasted sweet potato.
The dressing can be made ahead to shave off prep time, and the rest is a matter of roasting followed by quick, easy assembly.
This dish is perfect for vegetarians and meat eaters alike and friendly to both the waist and the wallet. Heat the pitas right before serving for a freshly baked texture and an extra-nice touch.
13. Cauliflower steak with olive and caper salsa
It doesn’t get simpler or more beautiful than roasted cauliflower steaks. The salsa can be made well in advance — the more time it gets to marry, the more flavor it yields. The steaks are done in two simple steps: Slice and then roast.
Pair with a simple side salad and farro or quinoa.
14. Grilled bruschetta portobello mushrooms
We’re all about anything with garlic butter. We’re also all about dishes that can be thrown together in 15 minutes flat. To cut down on cooking time, prep the tomato mixture (sans basil) the morning of and leave it in the fridge to lightly marinate.
Serve with an equally easy-to-prep Caesar salad and fresh multigrain bread — trust us, you’ll want it to soak up every last drop of garlic butter.
15. Eggplant cannelloni
This dairy-free recipe uses cashews in a tasty spinach and basil filling. It requires soaking the cashews the night before. And soaking yields the best result, so don’t skip it.
Another favorite trick: going with store-bought tomato sauce. All you have to do is roast or grill the eggplant slices, fill ’em, top with sauce, and pop them in the oven right as guests arrive.
Pour glasses of wine and relax until the timer goes off.
16. Stuffed za’atar-roasted acorn squash with pepper-lemon tahini sauce
Za’atar is one of our favorite Mediterranean spices — or rather, mix of spices, which can include thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.
We also love that this flavorful dish is packed with nutritious ingredients like chickpeas, kale, and quinoa.
17. Zucchini bake with farro and ricotta
How do you make zucchini and grains delicious? With melted cheeses — ricotta, mozzarella, and fontina, to be exact.
This recipe requires minimal effort in the kitchen, but it’s important to start cooking well in advance since the recipe takes about an hour from start to finish.
Whole grains taste better when they’re toasted before cooking. Heating the dry farro gives it a nuttier flavor.
18. Creamy roasted red pepper tomato soup
Soup made from scratch doesn’t have to be a pain. The heaviest lift in this vegetarian recipe is grilling (or broiling) the red peppers, which takes only 5 to 15 minutes.
Everything else happens in the pot, and most of the magic happens while it simmers — meaning you can drink that much-deserved glass of wine and even set the table.
To keep things simple, opt for an immersion blender since transferring the ingredients to a standing blender means extra labor (and likely a lot of spilling).
19. Veggie black bean enchiladas
Surprise your guests with the bean-and-veggie filling in these enchiladas. Sometimes the tastiest meals come from the least-expected combos.
Double the recipe for a big group (or for leftovers), and make the sauce in advance to keep things easy the night of the party.
This recipe is easily adapted. For folks who eat meat, use rotisserie chicken in place of the black beans. If you’re looking for even more veg, add mushrooms to the veggie mixture. Serve with extra napkins and don’t be shy about licking your plate.
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