Pictured: Porchetta recipe from CHOW
Say you’re having friends over for dinner and are looking to serve up a meal to remember. You could do a French-style fête and go all fancy with soufflé and escargot. Or you could bump elbows over patatas bravas and other Spanish tapas favorites. But if you want your guests to feel like they’re truly feasting, what better way to grab their hearts than by embracing your inner nonna? That’s right: go all out with an Italian-style spread, loaded with mountains of pasta, oceans of red sauce, and other recipes that hail from up and down the peninsula.If you didn’t grow up stuffing pasta shells while tugging at a relative’s apron strings, however, there’s no need to worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are 13 essential Italian recipes to dish up at your next dinner party.
1. Butternut Squash and Kale Toasts
Start things off with some bruschetta-style bites. These wholesome kale and squash toasts get some extra finesse from parmesan cheese shavings, setting the tone of the evening in style. Get our Butternut Squash and Kale Toasts recipe.
2. Focaccia Pizza
Is it a pizza? Is it a focaccia? How about both! You can dip your toes into pizza party territory with this recipe, which acts a shareable prelude to the courses to come. Get our Focaccia Pizza recipe.
Tuscan panzanella salad will keep things light before going full blast with the mains. With bits of cucumber, tomato, onion, and bread tossed in a lemony vinaigrette, it’s a bright and snappy way to kick things into gear. Get our Panzanella recipe.
4. Rigatoni with Butter, Tomato and Onion Sauce
Now it’s time for the primi piatti—that’s the pasta. This minimal effort dish, inspired by a Marcella Hazan recipe, bathes rigatoni in a rich, butter-kissed tomato sauce. You can let it simmer on the stove while you work on other important tasks, like getting the table settings just right and picking out the party tunes. Get our Rigatoni with Butter, Tomato and Onion Sauce recipe.
5. Spaghetti Puttanesca
To really pull out all the stops with your pasta, go for puttanesca. Featuring the bold flavors of olives, capers, anchovy, and hot pepper, its a daring sauce that will leave an impression long after the night is over. Get our Spaghetti Puttanesca recipe.
6. Desperation Spaghetti Carbonara
We’ve all had that dinner party where the roast gets overcooked, the soup has turned into a weird gloop, and nothing is going quite as planned. In desperate times, however, you must resist all temptation to call for delivery. Instead, save the day with a simple and quick pasta dish that calls for just a few ingredients from your fridge. This meatless take on spaghetti carbonara will do just the trick. Get our Desperation Spaghetti Carbonara recipe.
7. Broccoli Rabe with Sausage
A good veg dish is essential to round out the spread. Broccoli rabe can help pack some green in, and will do it with flair. Seasoned with garlic, pepper flakes, and pecorino, it is a robust side that will command just as much attention as the mains. Get the recipe here.
8. Roman-Style Artichokes
In Ancient Rome, the artichoke was considered to be an aphrodisiac. Now, we’re not suggesting anything here, but let’s just say we’ve seen grown adults swoon simply at the sight of this delectable vegetable. Serve it at your party for an irresistible hit. Get the recipe here
9. Salt-Crusted Branzino with Agrumi Sauce
Onto the mains! A whole-roasted branzino boasts a maximal wow factor with minimal effort. Serve it with citrusy agrumi sauce for a fragrant finish. Get the recipe here.
10. Osso Buco
Osso Buco is one of those dishes that can command awe just by saying its name. Tell your guests you’re serving it for dinner and watch their faces light up with excitement. This Milanese classic is guaranteed to stun with its combination of veal shanks in a savory, tomato-y sauce. Get our Osso Buco recipe.
11. Pollo alla Cacciatora
Turn up the rustic charm with pollo alla cacciatora, a.k.a. chicken cacciatore, a.k.a. hunter’s-style chicken. Featuring browned chicken pieces stewed in a hearty broth, it’s the sort of sauce-laden recipe that will have guests wiping their plates with large swaths of bread. Get the recipe here.
Don’t forget dessert! Although Italy is known for its wide variety of delectable sweets, from gelato to canoli to biscotti, if we were really looking to impress, we’d go with tiramisu. With layers of coffee-soaked biscuits, mascarpone cream, and cocoa, it’s the perfect pick me up at the end of a grand feast. Get our Tiramisu recipe.
13. Spritz Cocktail
Although you might opt for wine during the main meal, you’ll want to cap things off (or get them started) with a drink centered around one of Italy’s famous liqueurs. Our pick: an aperol spritz, a festive concoction based around prosecco and the bitter orange aperitif. Get our Spritz Cocktail recipe.
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.