Over the past few months, my TikTok feed has been filled with gorgeous candlelit tables overflowing with vintage tableware and delicious food. These are different than the very formal, meticulously planned dinner parties I’ve come to know, though. The decor is mismatched in a chic, deliberate way, name cards and menus are handwritten and guests linger in the kitchen with glasses of wine in hand, helping the host at a casual, relaxed pace. Rules are being broken, and I think it’s for the best.
These videos signal to me a broadening of what a dinner party can be and who can throw one. Many of us don’t have the time, money or space for a traditional soiree, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying a thoughtfully-prepared meal with good company. So, create a tablescape that’s uniquely yours, throw on your favorite playlist and make a meal, however uncomplicated or fussy, that will bring you together with the people you care about. This menu gives you options: Choose five courses or two, prep a couple days out or the day of, and decide the amount of oven or stove space you will need. These picks are great for an autumnal dinner party, but you can always find more dishes from our Recipe Finder to suit your own theme or taste.
A dip is an easy appetizer that will feed a group but doesn’t require loads of time or effort. Serve this Herbed Goat Cheese Dip with plenty of crackers, vegetables and olives for a spread that will make a great first impression. You can prep it ahead and refrigerate until showtime. There’s also Roasted Feta With Grapes and Olives, a wonderful choice if you live somewhere a bit chillier and want to welcome guests with a warm starter. Serve it with lots of good quality crusty bread.
A salad that’s hearty and filling is a must in my book, and this Fall Chopped Salad With Citrus Dressing fits the bill. It’s a bright pop of fall colors on the dinner table, and can be easily customized to accommodate the various diets and preferences. This Shaved Vegetable Salad With Creamy Cheese is another great option, especially if you want to make most things in advance. Prepare it a few hours before dinner and plate just before serving.
This recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash With Crumbled Chickpeas is a great opportunity to try out one of our favorite kitchen shortcuts, peeled and chopped squash. It will save you lots of time (and arm soreness), so you can focus on assembling the chickpeas and dressing. All elements can be prepared ahead, which is especially helpful if your main course requires active cooking. Smoky White Beans and Brussels Sprouts are another great side option that uses the unbeatable combination of legumes and vegetables, this time with a spicy and smoky flavor.
These Sheet Pan Maple-Mustard Chicken Thighs and Red Cabbage require only 20 minutes of active cooking time, meaning you can pop them in the oven as guests arrive and have a beautiful main course ready a half-hour later. For a vegetarian menu, try Pasta With Creamy Pumpkin Sauce (top photo) served with sage and parmesan. The rich, creamy sauce makes it taste even more substantial.
If you’re looking for a simple but beautiful last course, this Polenta Honey Cake With Pears is hard to beat. Since it can be served in the cast iron skillet the cake is baked in, you can take it straight from the oven to the table, no cake stand necessary. For a no-bake dessert that’s just as sophisticated, there’s Oranges With Rosemary Honey, Ricotta and Hazelnuts. The juicy oranges and creamy ricotta make for a wonderful balance of light and rich.