The best part about throwing a dinner party is the company. Whether you’re hosting colleagues, good friends or family, the crowd hasn’t just assembled for the feast—they’ve come to catch up with you too. Recipe choices are so important during a dinner party, and as a host, your best bet is to avoid dishes that have you running in and out of the kitchen to stir and mix, leaving you much less time to spend mingling with company.

The Barefoot Contessa is the dinner party hostess of dreams. Her dishes are simple yet sophisticated, and top notch when it comes to stress-free entertaining. Take a leaf out of Ina Garten’s book and partygoers will never know how you made it look so easy.

Preparation is Essential

Finger foods are quick appetizers that’ll keep well as you wait for your guests to arrive. You can prepare them ahead of time, while you check off the rest of your to-do list. A light first course also ensures that your visitors have plenty of room for the entrée.

Try a honey-glazed baked Brie and Marcona almonds with sea salt.

baked-brie-honey-recipe

Serve the Brie with a variety of crackers, dried cranberries and sliced apples or pears. (Quick tip: sprinkle a small amount of lemon juice on the apples and pears to prevent them from going brown.) The sweetness from the honey-glazed Brie mixed with the salty Marcona almonds pair perfectly with cocktails.

Family-Style Dining is a Feast for the Eyes

For dinner parties, roasting meat in the oven is a cinch. Lock in tons of flavour by making your marinade early in the day and combining it with your choice meat for at least an hour in the fridge. And the more you can pop in the oven, the better, as dishes cooked on a stovetop require too much attention.

Try this herb-roasted turkey breast with Parmesan risotto and crispy roasted kale.

herb-turkey-recipe-Ina-Garten

Forget individual plating because ‘family-style’ dining can be just as striking. Showcase your herb-roasted turkey on your finest dinnerware. (Quick tip: if the platter is white, be sure to wipe off any extra juices from the meat, which may have spilled along the sides, while transferring the turkey breast from the roasting tray.) Lay the crispy roasted kale on a rustic cutting board alongside a block of Parmesan cheese and a small grater so you can offer guests freshly grated Parmesan for the risotto.

It’s Okay to Delegate

After the main course, leave ample time for the group to enjoy each other’s company at the dining table. (Dessert is best served once the main course has settled.) When everyone’s ready, politely recruit a willing helper to lend you a hand while you put together your final dish. Don’t be shy about delegating—guests are generally eager to learn new recipes.

Try this five-minute Limoncello and ice cream with biscotti.

limoncello-and-ice-cream-biscotti

Limoncello is often served as an after-dinner ‘digestivo’ in Southern Italy. Paired with ice cream and biscotti, it’s a well-balanced dessert—creamy, crunchy, sweet and tangy—that looks lovely in a frozen martini glass and finishes off your dinner party nicely.