Why go out to a fancy restaurant to eat with friends when you can stay home, cook a quality meal and share a long and leisurely dinner party with your pals, instead? If you love to cook the way Giada De Laurentiis does, entertaining friends and family at home seems like a no-brainer. Unlike Giada, though, most of us scour the web for top-notch recipes and ideas in advance, stressing over how to make the perfect appetizer, main or themed cocktail.

Here, Giada shares her top tips, tricks and recipes for effortlessly elegant entertaining.

giada's holiday handbook

Before you head into the kitchen, consider the simple-is-best approach to entertaining. At least, that’s the philosophy the pros, including Giada, subscribe to. Rather than whipping out a bunch of fancy appetizers to put out for guests to munch on while she makes dinner, the chef tries to keep the number down to one or two items.

“I’m not big on making tons of appetizers, especially if I’m making dinner,” Giada says. “So I kind of vacillate between a few things. I do crostini with various toppings. [Or] I put lemon juice, a little bit of salt and some lemon zest in store-bought ricotta cheese and I top it with a variety of things such as pink peppercorns and peaches and then drizzle a bit of honey on top to finish it off.”

Simple and easy, right? Giada has a few other suggestions, like her go-to White Bean Dip with Pita Chips  or a Basic Parmesan Pomodoro Sauce served with crostini.

white-bean-dip-with-pita-chips-giada
Get the recipe for Giada’s white bean dip with pita chips. 

“I put my [Basic Parmesan Pomodoro Sauce] in ice cube trays in the freezer. Sometimes I just pop a couple of ice cubes, I let them defrost and then I heat up that sauce. I make some crostini and everybody dips it,” she explains. “I keep it super-duper simple… simplicity is the best way to go. People appreciate it.”

As for the main event, Giada is all about quality ingredients that speak to a variety of palates, like her Pan-Seared Salmon topped with a freshly prepared grainy mustard sauce, or grilled steak.

“I like to do a protein, a carbohydrate and a salad or some kind of greens. I’ll take a big rib eye and then I’ll grill it very simply with Herbes de Provence, salt and sometimes smoked paprika, put it on the grill, grill it up and then slice it over a bed of arugula and tomatoes and radishes,” she says. “For carbs I’ll make either an orzo salad or my lemon spaghetti – whatever goes better with the protein of choice.”

pan-seared-salmon-with-summer-succotash
Get the recipe for Giada’s pan-seared salmon with summer succotash. 

And what about those must-have greens?

“Sometimes I will do butter poached asparagus in a chili-lime vinaigrette,” Giada explains.

Of course, as any good host knows, a signature cocktail is always in fashion – but it doesn’t need to be complicated. In the summer months, Giada opts for an Aperol Spritz, a refreshing combination of bitter, sweet and effervescent. And in the winter, it’s a good old-fashioned sangria for her.

“I like to make a red wine sangria – I usually put berries in it, along with a little nutmeg and a cinnamon stick,” she says of her wintertime beverage of choice.

Lambrusco Sangria
Get the recipe for Giada’s lambrusco sangria. 

Sounds pretty festive to us.

“In sum, I keep it simple but very flavourful with different textures and flavours in every dish,” the host with the most says.

See more recipes from Giada’s Holiday Handbook that are perfect for entertaining.