This article was written in collaboration with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.
The organization of a dinner party is like roasting in front of a lot of critics on stage. Even the most confident person in the world can come under pressure to create a tasty meal that * is just right. *
Many thanks to our friends at Barilla® who always support us with great cooking tips and tricks. We know that preparing a delicious dinner does not have to be complicated. In fact, it's surprisingly easy to create a kitchen-grade dish without being bent over the stove for hours.
Below, three cooking and hosting pros give their best advice, so you'll feel more than ever ready to hold a gathering that brings friends. Family and even strangers together. Your guests will not even realize that it took almost no time and effort to get through!
. 1 Make a good first impression.
Holistic nutritionist Brittany Mullins loves to start with a veggie tray so guests can eat after their arrival.
"[Veggie trays] are very simple and everyone loves to have a healthy snack for dinner before dinner," she says. "I find vegetable dishes exciting by finding unique seasonal produce such as endive salad or watermelon radish."
Mullins likes to cook guacamole, but she swears by a controversial secret ingredient: peas! Mix them with the avocado, and you have a lighter version of the most popular dips of all – no one will be able to tell the difference.
. 2 Reinvent classic dishes in a new way.
Nothing brings people together like a bowl of noodles. While you can never go wrong with classic spaghetti and marinara, a dinner party is a great way to surprise guests with something unexpected.
Erin Gleeson, the blogger and cookbook author of The Forest Feast, seeks creative ways to integrate color and fresh produce. A good example? Her schnapps pea paste.
It combines roasted sugar snap peas and asparagus in a warm pot of al dente penne (the recipe calls for wholegrain bread, but you can also try Barilla® Collezione Penne.) It's bronze cut for a rough texture that absorbs better sauce – yummm ). Then she shaves with chopped basil and cilantro, olive oil and Parmesan shaved. You'll love how pretty it looks on your dining table. Your guests will love how completely satisfying it is.
Another pro-train? Use Barilla's recipe makers to create a unique pasta dish that's all yours. Practical infographics make it easy to turn a box of noodles into a tasty, vegetable meal that people will talk about long after dinner. (Barilla® Orzo with pomegranate seeds, roasted pine nuts, chickpeas, olive oil and Za'atar, anyone?)
3. Do not forget the side dish.
Herbs are a total game changer in the kitchen. They add flavor, texture and color all at once. Blogger Yumna Jawad of Feel Good Foodie says you should never serve a herbless meal. "There is nothing that gives a dish more flavor than fresh and crispy herbs just before serving," she says.
In order to keep herbs such as parsley and coriander (their ingredients) as fresh as possible, Jawad stores them with stalks in water or wraps them in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. When ready, simply dry it with a clean towel and chop it off.
. 4 Use your freezer.
Do not be afraid of the freezer! This is a wonderful tool that will make your ingredients last longer and shorten your cooking time.
Mullins has a brilliant trick to conserve fresh ginger: peel it with the back of a spoon and store it in the freezer: "This way it lasts longer and roasts so lightly when needed," she says ,
The freezer is also used if you want to prepare ingredients or meals in advance. For example, homemade pesto can be frozen in ice cubes, then warmed in single portions when you're ready for dinner.
. 5 Repurp eat your leftovers.
Do not throw out vegetarian leftovers or chicken bones! Jawad suggests using them to make broth. "Broth is such an easy way to season not only soups, but also stews, pastas, marinades, casserole dishes, rice, and stir-fries," she says.
Our favorite: Put the broth in a glass of pasta sauce. This trick is particularly useful in vegetarian recipes, where Jawad states that you do not have the fat of meat to improve the taste (use only vegetable stock if you want to keep the recipe meat-free). No matter which dish you use to improve this trick, your guests will not guess your secret – but they will definitely notice the taste.
. 6 Try new devices … and methods.
Mullin's two favorite cooking techniques? Roast air and sous vide. Air Fryers are amazing tools because you can prepare your favorite treates in a healthier way, but they will still be crispy and tasty.
Sous Vide is a method in which food is sealed in an airtight container and then cooked. Sounds complicated, but it's pretty simple – and makes sure the meat is cooked evenly. Try cooking steak or chicken sous vide before mixing in Barilla® pasta sauce.
No matter how many you host or what you have on the menu, these simple tricks will help you to enjoy dinner with ease. In this way, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the best: sitting at the table with the people you love.