*photography by Kristen Kilpatrick
Between recovering from the holidays and just-trying-to-stay-warm, hosting a dinner party may not be at the top of your to-do list this time of year. But if you think about it — given the cold weather and all our friends finally being back in town — there’s actually no better time to get cozy and catch up over a delicious meal. I’ve always tossed around the idea of hosting a dinner party with food that wasn’t made from scratch (gasp!), because — let’s be honest — some days you want to have friends over for a great meal but don’t have hours to spend prepping in the kitchen. And since I’ve resolved to be less stressed and more present this year, this challenge couldn’t have come at a better time: Bertolli asked me to pull together a party-worthy dinner using their complete skillet meals. The result is an Italian-inspired feast that looks like it took all week to plan, but when you actually break it down, came together with very little prep… not to mention, it’s completely delicious. Keep reading to see how I put this party together in a flash, leaving me the time and freedom to really enjoy quality time with my guests.
This post is brought to you by Bertolli. Don’t just eat, Mangia!
Depending on what part of the country you live in, an outdoor table like this may or may not be realistic this time of year. I lucked out with the weather on this particular day and got to have fun experimenting with what an al fresco dinner might look like in the wintertime. A rustic wreath and decor in shades of amber helped warm up my patio a bit.
I laid a coral linen runner down the length of the table, then set down a couple homemade flower arrangements to keep the surface cleared for all our big family style dishes. For this one, a brass container was filled with burnt orange and crimson dahlias, winter berries, rosemary and foliage.
Remember these cute rosemary wreaths we shared last month? I recreated them with coral twine for this mid-winter table.
I absolutely love the way it all came together. These Rustica dinner plates instantly transported us to an outdoor feast in Tuscany, and with the other tabletop details, came together to create a look that’s unlike any other table I’ve designed.
I got the feast started straight away with a mouthwatering charcuterie spread. If we’re talking about dishes that take minimal effort to assemble, you can’t beat the crowd-pleasing qualities of this kind of snack board. And since it’s fine at room temperature, you can arrange the store bought ingredients ahead of time, then bring it out once all your guests have arrived.
On the charcuterie board…
- Cerignola olives
- roasted red peppers
- aged cheddar
- Italian salami
- sliced pear
Next on the menu was a winter salad of mixed lettuce, sliced pears, blue cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds. Toss it all together with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette for an easy breezy seasonal side.
We can never resist a snacky veggie spread. Chanel’s go-to? Blanched green beans for the win!
A spread like this one is another super easy solution for entertaining a larger group. Instead of picking up a pre-cut crudité spread from the grocery store, pick out all those same veggies from the produce section (a bunch of mini carrots, radishes, bell peppers, etc.), then rinse and arrange them with stems still attached for a looser, more natural presentation.
If you’ve never hosted a dinner where you let someone else prepare the food, we can’t recommend it enough. There’s no better way to truly enjoy your company than by knowing that your main dishes can come together in a flash, and at this meal, guests couldn’t stop raving about Bertolli’s Italian Sausage Rigatoni Entrée. And when I topped it with a few shavings of fresh parmesan, it tasted (and looked!) as good as a homemade pasta dish.
The table quickly got cramped with all our big family-style dishes, but no one seemed to mind!
Our second main dish was Bertolli Chicken Florentine and Farfalle Entrée, which is perfect for those of you who love a hearty, creamier pasta style. Make it on the spot, then garnish with finely chopped parsley for a fresh presentation and crisp bite.
Yes, it was as delicious as it looks! It was so wonderful connecting with familiar faces over a delicious meal, and keeping the Italian menu low-maintenance made planning, prepping and serving that much easier.
The rigatoni was a crowd favorite. It seemed everyone went in for seconds!
I paired our Italian-inspired meal with a classic Italian cocktail, the Aperol Spritz. If you’ve never had one, it requires just three simple ingredients: equal parts Aperol, Prosecco and Club Soda. Garnish with an orange peel and ta da! The perfect drink to pair with your pasto Italiano!
We finished the meal on a sweet note: chocolate dipped biscotti and clementines. It doesn’t get much easier than buying biscotti from a store and dipping it in gourmet chocolate sauce, and who doesn’t love the sweet (and adorable) clementines that fill the produce section this time of year? Set them out on a cake stand and let guests have at it!
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