There are a lot of things we love about food, but a good meal’s ability to bring people together definitely stands above the rest. And since we consider ourselves professional eaters, we frequently find our homes filled with mouths to feed. Whether it’s a birthday party, holiday dinner, family milestone, or simply a cozy night in, we love sharing the table (and our favorite recipes) with those in our life that mean the most.
If we’re being honest, entertaining can sometimes be stressful, but it shouldn’t be! We sat down with our Culinary Team to get their tips for throwing an effortless gathering so you can enjoy the party as much as your guests.
Set the Table
While we like to let the food do most of the heavy lifting when hosting, a few simple decor tricks can go a long way. Plated Test Kitchen Assistant Alex has a simple, go-to tip:
“I have a default centerpiece that I add pops of color to based on what I’m cooking. It’s a medium-sized rustic bowl which I’ll add flowers or fruit to based on the dish,” he says. Benefit: you won’t have to spend a ton of time (or money!) on table setting–just pick up a few colorful accents while you’re shopping for the menu.
Keep Appetizers Simple
Since you’ll likely be spending ample time in the kitchen preparing the main attraction, stick with tasty, no-cook, easy-prep appetizers to serve first. Charcuterie boards check all the boxes and let you get creative depending on taste preferences.
We like to build our boards around the cheese, so Senior Recipe Editor Sara suggests focusing on three to five cheeses and meats. “Let softer cheeses (like brie) come to room temperature before serving—this makes a huge difference in flavor and texture. Pre-slice harder cheeses and meats before assembling the board so it’s easier for people to serve themselves,” she says.
Don’t forget the dry ingredients—they’ll add color and texture to your board. Senior Culinary Product Developer Shanna always keeps her pantry stocked with dried apricots, spiced nuts, and different kinds of crackers. “When I grocery shop and see things that look yummy, I buy them and use a small handful for each board I build. This way, I don’t have to do one massive shop before entertaining,” Chef Shanna says.
Choose Your Menu
Remember, the point of hosting is to enjoy time with friends and family, not spend the entire evening in the kitchen. So we’re all about ease when it comes to dinner party menus.
Take a page from Recipe Developer Liz’s book and opt for a big pan of risotto and a salad with seasonal vegetables. “Risotto is simple: rice, aromatics, wine, stock, butter, and cheese. You can also throw in herbs and a hearty vegetable,” Chef Liz suggests.
Opt for Family-style
When it comes time to eat, we’re always huge fans of serving dinner family-style. “It makes for a more inviting, informal environment, and it encourages people to converse and be social,” Recipe Developer Giuseppe says.
“I set the table with water glasses, silverware, and napkins. When it’s time to eat, everyone serves themselves buffet-style and any leftover food gets brought to the table, so no one has to exert themselves by getting up for seconds,” she says.
Don’t Forget the Wine
Last but certainly not least, tie the night together with a beverage of your choice. Our Culinary Team tends to serve a variety of wines to satisfy differing tastes. Sara, who holds a Level 3 Award in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, is our in-house wine expert.
“Dry, crisp, refreshing whites and lighter, fruit-forward reds are generally crowd-pleasers, and I usually stock up on enough for everyone to have a few generous glasses of each. If you’re partial to white wine like me, check out options from Southern Italy like Greco di Tufo and Fiano di Avellino—they’re crisp and refreshing, pair well with a variety of foods, and are a fun way to introduce people to Italian white wines that aren’t Pinot Grigio. Plus, they’re often great value picks,” she says.
If you want to go another route, Chef Shanna likes to experiment with cocktails depending on what she’s serving and the time of year.
“Aperol Spritz are an easy go-to drink for the summer. I love to set all of the ingredients out and let guests build their own cocktail,” she suggests. You can also carry the spritz theme into the cooler months with seasonal flavors like pear, pomegranate, cranberry or rosemary.
When in Doubt, Cook with Plated
Shopping, prepping, and menu planning isn’t for everyone–and that’s where we come in! With Plated, entertaining becomes effortless—no planning, no shopping, and no worrying if your recipe will come out well! We’re not just helping you take care of dinner and dessert either. With our newly expanded menu, you can now order appetizers and sides with Plated, too!
Love experimenting in the kitchen? Try Plated!Get 25% off your first four weeks of Plated!