Complicated, eye-catching recipes are tempting when you’re the host of a dinner party. But more often than not, the hard-to-find ingredients, excessive steps, and lengthy cooking times can mean you’re out of steam before guests even arrive.
We found 14 recipes for dishes that are simple but taste like they contain your entire heart and soul. And yes, your guests will still be super impressed. Plus, you’ll have the energy left over to reel off those jokes you’ve been practicing in the mirror.
1. Taco lasagna
If a taco lasagna rocked up on our dinner plates at any party, we’d probably try to find a way to move in with whoever was serving it.
Satisfying lasagna structure? Fully present. Mexican-inspired ground beef, sour cream, salsa, and all-important guac? Check, check, check, and check.
Say it out loud with us: Taco. Lasagna. Then start preheating your oven.
2. Grilled black pepper pork loin with grilled rainbow veggie kabobs
This brilliant yet super-easy dish has you putting that grill to work with wholesome, vibrant results.
While this recipe uses a preseasoned pork loin, you can emulate the poppin’ flavor with your own rub made from black pepper, red pepper, chili powder, oregano, cumin, sugar, salt, and dehydrated bell peppers. If that all seems like a bit too much hard work, you can grab a preseasoned loin from your local supermarket.
A mere eight ingredients work their magic in this dish, and you can guarantee that guests will be wowed by the flavors. Not bad for 45 minutes of grilling.
3. Pistachio-crusted salmon
This pistachio crust proves almost singlehandedly that toppings can be showstoppers in their own right.
You coat the salmon with a simple garlic and honey layer before piling on the pistachio, giving the heart-healthy fish a subtle hint of sweetness and plenty of garlicky goodness.
It’s best to serve this majestic creation with steamed or sauteed green beans. You can also whip up a simple side salad while the salmon is roasting or throw some brussels sprouts in the same pan and let the oven work its wonders.
4. Drunken red wine spaghetti with chorizo and black kale
Palms are sweaty. Knees weak. Drunk spaghetti. This dish uses an entire bottle of wine to give the spaghetti a robust, rich flavor that’ll make you rethink eating plain tomato sauce ever again.
With the additions of spicy chorizo sausage and wilted black kale, the dish delivers on greens, protein, and basically everything you could want from a pasta dish.
5. One-pan easy baked fish and chips
Cor, blimey, Guv’nor! Channel your inner “Great British Baking Show” contestant not by baking but by trying this healthy spin on deep-fried fish and chips.
The recipe ups the nutrition with homemade french fries and double-dredged, flour-and-panko-breadcrumb-coated crispy fish. The recipe author recommends using cod, but feel free to use any white, non-flaky fish like haddock, pollack, or halibut.
You can serve this with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, ketchup, and maybe some vinegar if you’re feeling super traditional.
6. Sheet-pan chicken fajitas
We’re going to let you in on a secret: Sheet-pan dinners can be the key to foolproof, delicious meals.
Not only do they look beautiful, but they literally cook on one sheet pan. This means cleanup is minimal and your kitchen will stay looking fab.
Plus, if you cook them ahead and pop the toppings into tightly sealed meal prep containers, you can reheat them whenever you find yourself in the mood for a fiesta.
7. Mathilde’s tomato tart
Who’s Mathilde? She’s a character from a novel called The Margot Affair who made a tomato tart — one that inspired this real-life rendering, which aims to capture the book’s tantalizing description of the meal.
Yes, this is one of the more labor-intensive options on the list, with a 2-hour cooking time. But grab yourself a premade pastry crust to cut down the prep time and you’ll have a dinner party showcase fit for literature.
The flavor explosion comes courtesy of mustard, parsley, garlic, and fennel — and you can throw in whatever cheese you like.
8. Sweet potato gnocchi
Gnocchi is super slept-on as comfort food and a filling substitute in pasta dishes. So why not impress your guests by whipping up a batch of your own?
Soften your sweet tater (which you can do in the microwave) and mash it with ricotta cheese, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Then flour that sh*t up (gradually) until it’s a manageable dough.
Cut your dough rolls into however many gnocchi you need, blanch ’em, and then sizzle them in some browned butter. With kale in the mix, this dinner is hella satisfying, easy, a teeny-weeny bit healthy, and completely homemade.
9. Avocado mac and cheese
Mac and cheese is an obvious choice, but mac and cheese baked with avocado? We bet you didn’t see that one coming. Who knew green mac and cheese would make so much sense?
This “Incredible Hulk” take on the nostalgic all-timer is super versatile and a little healthier than store-bought varieties. Yes, it still contains two whole avos, but the fats are healthier than those you’d find in many standard mac and cheese recipes.
You can garnish this warming, satisfying dish with bacon, pancetta, pickled jalapeños, or any herbs of your choice. Serve it as a main dish or as a shareable side for the whole table.
10. Vegan red Thai curry
Curry is another one of those dishes that guests can’t help being impressed by. With its vibrant color, potent flavor, and unexpected add-ins, it’s an easy treat for all kinds of eaters.
This vegan version uses red curry paste, coconut milk, and lots of ginger for its rich base, plus three different green veggies — broccoli, spinach, and green beans — to up the nutrient count.
If you’re looking to add some protein to this veg-heavy taste explosion, why not crisp up some tofu and sling it into the mix? It’s perfect for soaking up the sauce and adding some heft to your curry.
11. Slow cooker beef ragu with pappardelle
Sometimes, you can’t beat the combination of thick noodles and beef. So feel free to cook up some flank steak with garlic, minced onions, and *maybe* a little red wine.
You braise the beef for 6 to 8 hours until it’s so juicy that it literally melts in your mouth. Then comes the pasta, which requires simply boiling, straining, plopping into a bowl, and smothering with the ragu.
For extra flavor and presentation points, add a dollop of ricotta on top and sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley. We’re drooling just thinking about it.
12. Slow cooker corned beef and cabbage
Because Ireland should always be invited to the party. This traditional dish (cooked in a nontraditional, straightforward way with six ingredients) combines melt-in-your-mouth corned beef with cabbage, bay leaves, carrots, and two types of potatoes.
In your slow cooker, cover those bad boys in a beef broth and let it simmer for 3 hours. This cooks everything thoroughly, making it tender but not mushy.
13. Slow cooker chicken pot pie
Just 20 minutes of prep (and a 5- to 6-hour stint in the slow cooker) gets you a from-scratch chicken pot pie. Red potatoes, onions, carrots, peas, and corn make this a warming, hearty dish, and parsley lifts the flavor of the biscuits to the next level.
And don’t worry about baking your biscuits from scratch. This dish makes the most of ready-made, shoved-in-a-tube biscuits that soak up the pot-pie goodness. Just remember to serve the dish as soon as it’s ready. None of your guests will be in the mood for soggy biscuits.
14. Slow cooker risotto with butternut squash
Risotto isn’t as needy as some chefs make you believe. While many say constant stirring is nonnegotiable, this recipe argues that the best risotto simply needs a little nudge (and stir) every now and again. This means you can make a tender, scrumptious risotto in your slow cooker with minimal fuss.
This recipe replaces Arborio rice and Parmesan with brown rice and goat cheese, so it’s quite a departure from the standard risotto — and one that’s sure to raise a few eyebrows when you serve it up.
Hosting a dinner party doesn’t have to be a terrifying prospect. Whether it’s taco lasagna, sweet potato gnocchi, or melt-in-your-mouth beef ragu pasta, there are so many ways to impress your guests with minimal fuss.
Of course, the meal doesn’t stop at your delicious main dish. So why not venture into the world of desserts? We’ve got you covered.