Dinner parties can be a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening with friends. Whether this is your first formal party or your 100th, planning is essential. You want to be able to enjoy your own party and guests, without spending hours in the kitchen over the stove.
When a host or hostess is stressed, it affects the whole atmosphere of the party. Rather than attempting elaborate meals you are unfamiliar with, choose a menu that can handle being prepared in advance. Martha Stewart might suggest Duck Confit, but most guests will be overjoyed with simple comfort food.
You can make a dinner party more formal with table settings, invitations, serving style (sit down dinner verses buffet), and decorations. The food does not have to be fancy, just good.
Make ahead tips
The day before:
- Make the sangria.
- Make the dressing for the bruschetta. Cut up the fruit. Slice and toast the baguette. Store in airtight container. Put it all together right before the party.
- Make the spinach soup WITHOUT adding the pasta. Right before you serve, reheat soup (bring to a boil), add the pasta and cook for five minutes.
- Make the pan of stuffed shells and refrigerate.
- The day of the party, grab a few loaves of fresh italian bread.
- If you want to spruce it up, turn it into garlic bread! Cut the bread in half lengthwise and add butter, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Broil open faced and slice right before serving.
- A simple green salad filled with cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and garlic croutons.
- You can also whip up an easy Caesar salad using fresh romaine, fresh parmesan, croutons, and an elegant bottle of Caesar dressing.
- If you want to do something different, try Frise lettuce with crumbled gorgonzola and thinly sliced pears and apples. Make a honey vinaigrette.
Italian themed dinner party
When guests arrive, you can serve sangria and bruschetta while people are mingling. Once you sit down for dinner, you can serve the spinach soup. The main meal consists of stuffed shells, salad, and fresh bread. Dessert is traditional tiramisu. Here is everything you need to know about preparing this meal.
Recipe for Sangria
- 1 bottle of your favorite red wine
- Lemon, lime, orange slices
- A dash of sugar
- A splash of lemonade or orange juice
- Extra fruit like strawberry slices or pineapple
- 4 cups of ginger ale, sprite, or sparkling water
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Serve over ice!
Recipe for Strawberry Tomato Bruschetta
- 1 baguette sliced into rounds, toasted lightly with butter
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 TBS of olive oil
- 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 lb ripe strawberries, diced finely
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced finely
- 5-6 fresh mint leaves
1. Combine the garlic, olive oil, and vinegar to make a dressing. Set aside.
2. Chop the fruit and mix together with chopped mint.
3. Add the dressing and place it in a bowl surrounded with toasted baguettes.
This bruschetta is outstanding! Your guests will be so surprised to hear that it has strawberries in it, but I don't even bother to make regular bruschetta anymore. It doesn't compare.
Recipe for Spinach Soup
- 1 package of spinach
- 1 large can of chicken broth
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion diced
- 1 cup of a small pasta like Acini de Pepe
- Dash of nutmeg
- Fresh parmesan cheese
1. Heat up some olive oil in a soup pan.
2. Add the garlic and onion and cook until brown.
3. Add the chicken broth, nutmeg, and spinach. Bring to a boil.
4. Add the pasta and cook five minutes more.
5. Serve in bowls with parmesan cheese on top.
600 plus reviews!!
- Tiramisu II Recipe - Allrecipes.com
Mascarpone custard layered with whipped cream and rum and coffee soaked ladyfingers.
Recipe for Stuffed Shells
- 1 package of oversized pasta shells
- 32 ounces of ricotta cheese
- 4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 jars of tomato sauce
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta according to the directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of mozzarella, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, two eggs, and a large handful of chopped parsley.
- In a 13x9 inch pan, pour a jar of sauce on the bottom.
- Stuff each shell with a generous portion of cheese and place in the pan in a single layer.
- Pour the other jar of sauce over the shells.
- Add the remainder of mozzarella cheese and sprinkle fresh parsley.
- Bake for 30 minutes covered at 350 degrees.
- Take off the foil and cook for 5 minutes more.
- Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Autumn harvest theme
Nothing says cozy like a fall harvest dinner party. When the weather starts to cool off, invite family and friends over for a delicious dinner of home cooked goodness. The only part of this meal that is tricky are the stuffed clams. They can be prepared well in advance and frozen so you are not doing any prep the day of the party.
A yummy cocktail!
- Cranberry Daiquiri - Martha Stewart Recipes
Get Martha Stewart's Cranberry Daiquiri recipe.
Recipe for stuffed clams
Stuffed Clams Recipe- This recipe makes a lot of clams, so you'll have some for your next gathering!
- 5 cups of ground clams
- 1 ½ cup melted butter
- ½ cup white wine
- 6 slices of bread (any kind will do) chopped
- 1 cup Pepperidge farm croutons
- 2 eggs
- 1 ½ cups of onion and 4 stalks of celery diced (sautéed)
- 2TBS parsley
- pepper to taste (cayenne too)
- 1 cup of broth (in case you need to soften the stuffing)
- Cook the clams. If you have never done this, go ahead and read up on the way to do it. It's not that hard, promise! Make sure you reserve some of the clam juice for later!
- Scoop out all the meat and chop it up finely. Place it in a bowl.
- Rinse out and scrub all the shells and set aside. This will be how you serve the stuffed clams.
- In a small fry pan, sauté up the onions and celery in some butter.
- Combine the clam meat, onions, celery, bread (chopped), croutons, eggs, parsley, and butter. You are essentially making a stuffing. If it seems too dry, add a bit of the broth to moisten it up.
- Season your stuffing with salt, pepper, and cayenne (if you want some heat).
- Put a drop of olive oil in each shell and then stuff the shell with your stuffing.
- At this point, freeze your clams in a bag until the day of the party.
- A couple hours before the party, defrost the clams for 30 minutes on the counter, and then cook at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Take the foil off 2/3 of the way through.
Make ahead directions
Almost all of this dinner menu can be made ahead.
- Prepare the clams up to a month before the party. Freeze.
- The butternut squash soup can be made up to two days ahead of time. Simply reheat on the stove and add a little milk if it seems too thick.
- The pie can be made the day before.
Recipe for Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 large butternut squash roasted
- 2 potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 apple
- 1 large container of chicken broth
- croutons for garnish
- salt and pepper
- Slice the butternut squash in half and prick with a fork. Place flesh side down in a greased pan and cook for an hour at 400 degrees.
- Chop up all the produce.
- Heat up a soup pan with some olive oil and butter. Sauté the produce for a few minutes and then add the container of broth.
- Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.
- Peel and chop the cooked butternut squash and add it to the pan.
- In portions, add the mixture into a blender and puree. Transfer the soup to another pan and add salt and pepper.
- Serve with croutons.
Apple pie- don't forget the ice cream!
- Old Fashioned Apple Pie Recipe | Simply Recipes
Old fashioned apple pie recipe with 3 pounds of sliced cooking apples, sugar, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and brandy, baked up in an all-butter crust.
Recipe for Simple Pot Roast
*Note: You need a crock pot for this recipe!
- 1 large round roast (about 4 to 5lbs)
- Five potatoes quartered
- One bag of baby carrots
- 1/2 cup of ketchup
- 3 TBS of worcestershire sauce
- 1 can of beef broth
- 3 TBS rosemary
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 onions chopped
- About 10 hours before the party, combine everything in a crock pot. Turn it on!
- Halfway through cooking, make sure to stir the vegetables and roast so everything cooks evenly.
This is the easiest most delicious roast that you will ever make!
Spring and summer fun dinner theme
Heat up your summer with a tasty dinner party that gives your guests something other than the typical hot dogs, hamburgers, and grilled chicken. This menu is full of fresh flavors, including a delicious recipe for coconut chicken!
Bay Breeze Cocktail
Combine one part cranberry juice, one part pineapple juice, and three parts vodka. Use a flavored vodka if you want to add more zip! Garnish with lime and serve over ice in highball glasses.
Asparagus with Proscuito
- 1 bunch of asparagus
- 20 slices of deli-fresh proscuitto
- 1 carton of cream cheese
1. Put a thin layer of cream cheese on the piece of proscuitto. Roll it up over one or two stalks of asparagus (it depends on how thick it is).
2. Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees or until cheese is bubbly and asparagus is cooked through.
- Corn Chowder with Bacon- Easy and Delicious!
You'll never go back after you try this recipe. The corn infused stock is what makes the soup full of fresh corn flavor. It's delicious! Simple, easy, and well loved by kids and adults alike.
Orange Marmalade Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup of orange marmalade
- 1/4 cup of spicy or dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup of honey
- hot sauce (optional)
With your chicken, serve a wild rice pilaf and cooked vegetable. You can choose from:
- Sautéed spinach
- Brown sugar baked baby carrots
- Steamed broccoli
Recipe for Coconut Chicken
- 4 large chicken breasts cut into long strips
- 1 large package of shredded coconut
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 2 TBS cumin
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 325 and spread the coconut onto a cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until the coconut starts to brown.
- Meanwhile, mix two eggs with the spices.
- In a separate bowl, spread the flour.
- Dip each piece of chicken in the flour, then the egg, then the coconut. Place on a greased cookie sheet.
- Cook the chicken for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until juice runs clear.
- Serve with orange marmalade dipping sauce.
Berries and ice cream are one of the freshest summer desserts. You can use your favorite fruit and ice cream flavors to personalize your own recipe.
Take any combination of berries and heat them on the stove with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of butter. Squeeze a little lemon juice and let the berries cook down until it makes a warm syrup. Serve immediately over ice cream!
Want to try a Mexican Theme?
- How to Make Tacos for a Taco Bar Party
Everything you need to know about creating a festive and authentic Mexican taco bar for your next gathering. This article includes all the recipes you need!
About the author
Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom of three. She is known for hosting large dinner parties in her 1200 square foot home that doesn't have a dishwasher. Her meals are tried, tested, and true. You can check out her profile for more recipes here.
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Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on November 02, 2013:
Great food for a Christmas party with my batch of high school friends. Thanks for sharing. The food is mouth watering. Have a great sunday!
FullOfLoveSites from United States on March 24, 2013:
Makes my mouth instantly water... =)
NatNatNC from North Carolina on March 06, 2013:
I am going to try one of these recipes at one of my get-togethers. I make a similar recipe to your Asparagus with Prosciutto, except I use honey ham, but I'll have to try the Prosciutto. I have taken Prosciutto and wrapped it around cantaloupe melon balls. It's YUMMY!
mr-veg from Colorado United States on December 29, 2012:
Awesome hub !
CrisSp from Sky Is The Limit Adventure on September 14, 2012:
Awesome whole year round-all season party packager Julie. This is fantastic from Hors d'Oeuvres down to dessert. I just love the presentation of your hub. Very appealing!
Voted up, useful and definitely sharing!
Life Under Construction from Neverland on August 12, 2012:
totally rocking and amazing ideas Julie!
dinkan53 from India on August 12, 2012:
Hey another interesting recipe hub. I must admit that your recipes are really useful and this hub is worth visiting back. I really appreciate your efforts thank you for sharing. Rated as useful, awesome and interesting. Voted up and shared.
Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 11, 2012:
I want to come to a dinner party at your place! Great mix of recipes and beautiful photos.
Karen Metz from Michigan on August 11, 2012:
Thank you for some GREAT recipes! I can't wait to try some of them, especially the soups.
Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on August 10, 2012:
This must have been a fun article to write! Those recipes look delicious! I really like the Spring dinner party menu - will have to give a few of these a try, Spring is just around the corner for us! Awesome ideas, thanks! :)
Martin Kloess from San Francisco on August 10, 2012:
First class all the way! I bet you are like me. After preparing such a delicious menu, I am the least hungry.
Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on August 10, 2012:
Julie...what a great hub! You've included EVERYTHING..even (the use of) the kitchen sink! Love the Bruschetta...you are so creative and this hub is beautifully presented. Presentation is outstanding...photos perfect!! WOw...I'm hungry! C U later..I need to eat something!!! All ups but funny...this is great.
Terrye Toombs from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map. on August 10, 2012:
A very visually appetizing hub, Julie. You did a great job! The food looks scrumptious, the recipes look wonderful, and everything is tied together from the appetizer to the drinks. If this doesn't make a HOTD I would be surprised. :)
Janine Huldie from New York, New York on August 10, 2012:
This is great Julie. I am first of all loving your recipes (the strawberry tomato bruschetta and the sangria are just a few) and also the concept of including different themed different parties with your recipes in ingenious. Have of course voted, shared and pinned too to try these recipes!!
Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on August 10, 2012:
I would love to come to one of your parties! Everything looks and sounds perfect. I do agree also - a stressed host does not make a super fun host. I do stick with simple for larger groups and my friends always help police the place so that helps too.
Sinea Pies from Northeastern United States on August 10, 2012:
Wow...this makes for a great dinner party! Love the layout but I especially LOVE the Chef Hat Divider that you made. SO creative.
Voted UP and usesful, Julie. Great hub.
Denise Handlon from North Carolina on August 10, 2012:
Love the hub-oh, heck, I love anything that has to do with food, entertaining guests and having a good time. :) Theme parties are such fun. It takes the evening into a direction, but keeps one open to all other possibilities. Great photos, too.
kelleyward on August 10, 2012:
Wow these pictures look amazing. Such a fantastic read. I can't wait to try this. voted up all across and shared on bo.it, a type of pinterest. Take care, Kelley
Joshua Zerbini from Pennsylvania on August 10, 2012:
WOW! What an amazing variety of foods! When is the next party? And I am expecting my invitation pronto! LOL Great recipes, and enjoyed that beginning photo! Awesome job Julie! I am sharing!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 10, 2012:
Well shoot, if we ever have a party, now I'll know what to prepare...of course, we would have to have friends first....and then a big enough home for the party....this party could cost me $200,000 ....not sure if it's worth it....but if we have a party I'm using these great ideas. :)
Carly Sullens from St. Louis, Missouri on August 10, 2012:
I totally expect this kind of dinner party when I come and visit. The food looks incredible. I wish we could spell it through the computer.
Great Huboroni! Voted, up, shared, blah, blah, blah.