This past weekend was my husband’s birthday and we partied Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Friday and Sunday’s celebrations included grandchildren, but the Saturday night was the real dinner party and it was, for the most part, a surprise! After being asked for the umpteenth time “How do you do it?” I decide a post was in order. So with this, Italian Dinner Party Made Easy, I’ll share my little secrets on ‘how’, so you can too~ It only looks like it’s a lot of trouble….trust me, I cut corners whenever I need to to make it work.
Planning a dinner party might seem daunting, but really it’s not…you just need a few tips I’ve learned along the way. When planning a party one thing to consider is how much time do you have to work on your party? That will determine the menu and decorations. Obviously, if you have plenty of time, like a wedding reception, planned months in advance, you can be very elaborate. But for a simple dinner party a little bit of decor and a simple menu can be just as special.
For this little dinner party, I knew my husband loves spaghetti and meatballs and so that led to an Italian theme. I made my Savory Italian Meatballs. They were a perfect choice because I could mix them up in the morning, refrigerate them until an hour before the party and then simply bake them. I normally don’t recommend that you make a recipe you have never tried before for a party, but this is the exception. It’s almost no fail. And my instructions are pretty detailed. So, fear not and cook on.
Since the party was going to be on the back porch..and it is the first of August in Georgia… I wanted to begin the meal with something cold. So, the very first thing that morning, I made my Watermelon Gazpacho. It was time consuming, so I got it out of the way first. Plus, making it early in the morning would give it plenty of time to chill before the party at 7. It is a bit of work. It’s not hard , but like my friend said when she saw the 2 gallon jar come out of the refrigerator…it’s a labor of love. It’s doable, but it’s also one of those things that gets better the next day or two and can easily be made in advance.
With the Savory Italian Meatballs, I served my Balsamic Grape and Tomato Salad . It was a simple choice that I could make early that morning, too. And to make life easier, I bought Pepperidge Farm three cheese Italian bread..which was very good, BTW.
As for decorations, I had saved old wine, Olive Oil, Vinegar and water bottles ~ for such a time as this…and used them for my candle holders. I put the candles in them that afternoon and lit them so wax would drip down to add to the Italian feel. The top photo shows them burning down a bit. I placed them on a tray, cut some rosemary and finished it off with lemon and limes. How easy is that?
If you had grapes or sunflowers, that would be pretty, too. But you can use whatever leaves and flowers are in your yard. I had some plastic grapes that I forgot to add to this. It would have been a nice touch. I’m not above adding fake grapes with real lemons. If I had had real grapes, of course, that would have been perfect… but alas, mine went into my salad. We’re creating an ambiance and so either would have done the trick.
We were outside on the porch and so I wanted my appetizers cold and Summery. Mini Shrimp Appetizers and sliced watermelon and honeydew were easy to make ahead and have chilled before everyone arrived. For the shrimp, I used a pound of fresh Georgia shrimp, boiled for 5 minuted then plunged into iced water to cool. Placed a tablespoon of cocktail sauce in each little plastic shot glass I found at Kroger with a sprig of fresh dill. Simple.
When planning your party, make it easy on yourself. I could have been putting together all sorts of delicacies for appetizers. But I decided to spend my efforts on the main course and the gazpacho, especially since I did it all in one day . That left me a good 3+ hours to spare.
So what’s my real secret? I work off of lists. I write down everything I want to get done and then put a time beside it to have it done by. And I edit it as I go. If I see I’m running out of time, I make an adjustment and go with plan B. Even if plan B is to leave something off…such as, for this party, I had planned to make Meringue bowls for the triple berry dessert. After pondering for a little while…I decided that I would rather have the extra time to rest, than to impress my guests with fancy meringue bowls. Trust me, no one complained.
Along with the first list, I make a list of things I need from the store and make sure by the morning I plan to cook, I have everything I need. I started the Gazpacho at 8:30AM, then made the salad, then the meatballs. They were all waiting in the refrigerator before lunch. After lunch I made the dessert and then put together the fruit and shrimp cocktails. I was finished with all preparations by 3PM.
In between times, I decorated my tables. When everything was ready…. I went to the store for the bread and votive candles.
At 5:45 I put the meatballs in the oven and at 6:30 I was cooking my pasta. I can’t tell you what a pleasurable evening it was for me…because it was great food, great friends and all of the work had been done well in advance, giving me plenty of time to ‘recover.’
Oh, and the dessert. I had made Sinfully Delicious Devil’s Food Cake for our cookout party the night before. And I still had plenty to offer my guests, but I wanted to end the meal with something cold. It had been rather hot lately, so I made a cold Triple Berry Trifle. I’ll be posting that recipe soon. Until then, I’ll just taunt you a bit with the picture…..
It was the perfect ending to a perfect Italian Dinner Party Made Easy.
Now, it’s your turn to plan your own Italian themed dinner party! Choose your menu…keep it simple. Make your lists and give yourself plenty of time to get things done. Gather all your ingredients. Schedule when to make it and when to bake it. Invite your friends and enjoy your evening. Oh and leave some time to ‘recover’ before the party…..you’ll enjoy it more, if you do.