It’s easy to be tempted by complicated, eye-catching recipes when you’re hosting a dinner party. But more often than not, the hard-to-find ingredients, excessive steps, and lengthy cooking time mean you’re out of steam before guests even arrive.
Luckily, we found 14 recipes that are simple and effortless but taste like you put your heart and soul into them. And yes, your guests will still be super impressed.
Sometimes all you need is a simple—and in this case, purple—topping to take a meal from average to outstanding. But the basil isn’t the only impressive item in this dish. The creamy burrata, caramelized balsamic vinegar, and sneaky kick from chili flakes make this spaghetti anything but traditional (or boring). But the best part is it only takes four steps to make—and looks like something out of a gourmet restaurant. Winner winner, spaghetti dinner? We think so.
Did you know pork chops are incredibly easy to make? It’s pretty amazing what a quick season, sear, and simmer can accomplish. Ready in only 25 minutes, these garlicky, herby chops will no doubt wow your guests—and, quite frankly, your own taste buds. For a little extra oomph, add a 1/2 cup of dry white wine after sautéing the garlic and simmer for three minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
Remember how we mentioned that toppings can be showstoppers? Well, this pistachio crust is no exception. A simple garlic and honey layer is coated on the salmon before the pistachio gets piled on, giving the heart-healthy fish a subtle hint of sweet and plenty of garlicky goodness. Serve with steamed or sautéed green beans, whip up a simple side salad while the salmon is roasting, or throw some Brussels sprouts in the same pan and let the oven do its magic.
Drunk in love? Try drunk on noodles. This Beyoncé-worthy 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. Paired with spicy chorizo sausage and wilted black kale, the dish delivers on greens, protein, and basically everything you could want out of a pasta dish.
Slow cookers never cease to amaze us. Who knew you could make a pie in them? And we’re not talking any pie; we’re talking chicken pot pie. The creamy base is made totally from scratch, meaning you get bonus points for being a chef extraordinaire even though it’s as simple as throwing the ingredients in and letting it do its thing. (No one needs to know the biscuits are actually store-bought.)
Well isn’t this a creative way to use lasagna sheets? Instead of ooey-gooey layers, this recipe uses the pasta to bundle asparagus and prosciutto for individual wraps of cheesy heaven. For easy-breezy prep, boil the lasagna and blanch the asparagus the night before. That way all you have to do is wrap, bake, and serve with a big ol’ smile on your face.
A lot of people shy away from puff pastries because they’re worried about making dough from scratch. We’re here to tell you that there are times when store-bought is better than homemade—and this is one of those times. Simply thaw the dough, roll it flat, prick it a few times to keep it from overpuffing, brush with egg, and bake. The next step is possibly even easier. Coat the pastry with a sneaky mayo and cream cheese base and layer it with fresh tomatoes galore. It’s like an adult pizza but better.
Speaking of store-bought superstars… let’s talk about gnocchi. While making homemade gnocchi is all kinds of fun, whipping up dinner on a weeknight often means you’re short on time. This recipe opts for a bag of the good stuff—as in, from-the-grocery-store gnocchi—and lets the sauce do the talking. With a base of bacon grease (umm, yes, please), fresh and canned tomatoes, and a splash of cream or yogurt, this dish couldn’t be more comforting. The final step: layering the top with sliced mozzarella and baking until the cheese starts to bubble and brown.
We’re going to let you in on a secret: Sheet-pan dinners are the key to foolproof, delicious meals. Not only do they look beautiful, but they literally cook on one baking sheet, meaning cleanup is minimal and your home will be looking fab. This recipe makes fajitas a fun and collaborative meal, with all the goodies in the middle and the sides and sauces for guests to customize as they see fit.
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. Flavored with shallots, garlic, lemon, rosemary, white wine, and Parmesan, this risotto is actually pretty low-maintenance and a no-brainer come entertaining time.
Curry is another one of those dishes that can’t help but impress the socks off guests. With its vibrant color, potent flavor, and unexpected add-ins, it’s an easy treat for all kinds of eaters. This vegan variety uses red curry paste, coconut milk, and lots of ginger for its rich base, and three different greens—broccoli, spinach, and green beans—to up the veggies. Tofu also makes a great addition, as it perfectly soaks up the sauce (as do the small potatoes).
Mac ‘n’ cheese is an obvious choice, but mac ‘n’ cheese baked in squash? We bet you didn’t see that one coming. Acorn squash is used as the vehicle of choice, providing a sturdy exterior for the extra-gooey inside. The white cheddar pairs perfectly with the mild sweetness of the squash, and the acorn vessel looks all kinds of Instagrammable. Feel free to add pancetta for a surprise twist or fresh oregano for some herby flair.
Cooking for picky eaters? Why not try this healthy spin on deep-fried fish and chips. The recipe ups the nutrition with homemade French fries and baked yet crispy fish. The flavor gets diversified with an unexpected mustard batter and Parmesan cheese mixed into the coating. Serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, ketchup (bonus points for homemade), and, if you’re embracing your inner Brit, some vinegar.
Sometimes the combination of thick noodles and beef just can’t be beat. Flank steak is cooked with garlic, tomatoes, carrots, bay leaves, and thyme and cooked for 6 to 8 hours until the meat is so juicy it literally melts in your mouth. Then comes the pasta, which requires a simple boil, 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.