Food

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

I don’t know about you, but when the headlines get heavy and our phones feel radioactive, one of the things that reliably makes me feel better…

…is having people over for dinner. There’s nothing quite as life-affirming as sharing a pot of spaghetti bolognese and a bottle of Sangiovese with your favorite people. The problem is, that bolognese and Sangiovese can get pricey, especially if you dare to serve cheese or vegetables or dessert alongside them. Plus, you have to plan and shop and cook, too. It’s a lot of work! Why not just order a few pizzas and call it a day?

You could of course 100% serve pizza and be no worse for the wear, but what if I said you can make dinner for six of your friends for under $60? A dinner that actually feels as special as one built around a porterhouse or wild salmon.

The menu I’ve designed here is not only super wallet-friendly, it’s also mostly vegetarian and doesn’t require seven stops at seven different markets. In fact, the ingredients might fit into two grocery bags and only add up to $50 if you do all the shopping at Trader Joe’s.

And because we are such believers in all the good things that can come from feeding your friends, we are determined to make it as easy as possible for you. This downloadable, printable Dinner Party Packet includes shopping list (with price guidelines) as well as all the recipes, which are also published below.

There’s only one thing you’ll have to figure out for yourself: Who will be your lucky guests?

Some notes:

  • This menu assumes your pantry is stocked with olive oil (the menu calls for a little over one cup) salt, and pepper.
  • It asks that you request a bottle of wine from a few of your guests.
  • Prices listed on the attached shopping list are based on Trader Joe’s. If you are shopping in a generic supermarket, prices will be slightly higher, but your total should still clear the $60 mark, assuming you have at least one of the big ticket items — olive oil, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, or Parmesan. (Use the prices listed as a loose guide for budgeting as you shop in your supermarket.) If you do this shop at Trader Joe’s and already have a decently stocked pantry, you might even clear $50.

MENU

Starters: Minty Pea Dip with Toasts, Cheese Twists
Dinner: Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions, Roast Carrots with Thyme and Orange
Dessert: Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Cream

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Minty Pea Dip
In a food processor (preferably a mini food processor) whirl everything (except baguette) until it is the consistency of textured guacamole:

1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
handful fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
salt
baguette, sliced

Garnish with some more shredded Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Transfer to a bowl, and serve with baguette.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Crostini with minty-pea dip has been my go-to starter for years — it’s good year-round and is a little more surprising than regular guacamole. And I love that something this vibrant and dramatic looking starts with a humble bag of frozen peas.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Pasta with Yogurt and Caramelized Onions
Serves 6
This is adapted (only slightly) from the Diane Kochilas classic, another recipe I’ve been making for years. I always make more onions than what she originally called for because they are crucial and when I have time, I cook those onions on super low heat up to two hours longer than instructed — they get so jammy and sweet that way. Also: Don’t forget to reserve the pasta water before straining!

5 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds (about 8 cups) coarsely chopped onions
kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds tagliatelle or fettuccine (usually about 1 1/2 boxes)
2 cups thick, strained whole milk Greek-style plain yogurt or sheep’s milk yougurt (see note)
1 cup grated or shaved Parmesan (about 4 ounces)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onions. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently and seasoning with salt to taste as you go, until the onions are soft and golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. (If you have time, you can turn down the heat to super low and keep them cooking up to 2 more hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes.)

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. As the water heats, add enough salt so that you can taste it. Cook pasta according to package directions, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Combine the yogurt with 1/4 cup cooking water and mix well. Add more of the reserved pasta water as needed to get the sauce to desired saucy thickness. Drain the pasta and toss with the yogurt mixture.

Serve the pasta immediately, topped with caramelized onions and their juices, and sprinkled generously with cheese.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Note: It’s important to use full-fat yogurt here to prevent curdling and breaking. If you’re not using thick Greek yogurt, line a colander with cheesecloth and set over a bowl or in the sink. Add the yogurt and let drain for 2 hours. If you have access to sheep’s milk yogurt, that’ll be just as good, if not better.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Roast Carrots with Lemon and Herbs
Serves 6
Do you have to buy a bunch of thyme just for three sprigs? No, you can just as easily omit and then use leftover mint (from your dip) to garnish at the end. But I love the combination of orange and thyme with the carrots, and there was room in the budget, so…

3 pounds carrots, washed and halved both lengthwise and cross-wise, as shown
1/4 cup olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
leaves from three sprigs of thyme
1 small orange, halved across its belt
handful mint leaves, torn

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme leaves. Lay out on a foil-lined baking sheet. Nestle in orange halves, cut-side up. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until carrots look toasty. Plate on a large platter and squeeze the juice from one orange half all over. (Be careful, the orange will be hot.) Place the remaining orange half on the platter so it looks pretty! Garnish with mint.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

The combination of tangy yogurt, salty Parm, and sweet onions is delicious, but more than that, it’s unique.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Chocolate Pudding with Whipped Cream
Serves 6
Hopefully you already have most of what you need in the pantry for this — it’s my favorite for that reason. (And also for the it’s-delicious reason.) All you have to do when the guests are there is whip the cream. And if you even forgo that and spend 50 cents more on the Cabot whipped cream bottle, we won’t love you any less.

3 cups milk
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Whisk together milk and yolks. (I do this in a large measuring cup to save a dish.) In a heavy medium saucepan, whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in milk mixture and turn heat to medium. Whisk until pudding thickens and comes to a boil, about 5 minutes. Continue boiling one more minute, whisking constantly so it stays smooth. Remove pudding from heat and add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Divide pudding into six small serving bowls or glasses, and allow to cool. Cover with plastic wrap, laying plastic down directly on the surface of the pudding, and chill for at least two hours.

In a medium mixing bowl, using an electric mixer (or pass your bowl and whisk around the table), whip the cream and remaining extract until stiff peaks form. Add a nice messy scoop to each serving.

How to Throw a $60 Dinner Party

Thoughts? Would you make this?

P.S. Hosting a soup group and another very easy dinner party.

(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Angela says...

    I made the pea dip for us on Sunday, only to discover we had 5 crackers. Went to dig into it today before dinner and found my husband threw it away. Outsized reactions in these trying times! I asked him to throw out some old aioli and he misunderstood. Ack, but still who is throwing away food during this kind of time?!? There are no peas in the store as it is! Thought you’d enjoy knowing there were serious fireworks over some pea dip. :)

  2. CM says...

    What type of onions do you recommend? Yellow? Sweet Vadalia? Thanks!

  3. Sonja says...

    Ahhh thank you so much for this! I have been desperately trying to brainstorm as I want to have a dinner party for my graduation, but the menu has been a sticking point… this is super helpful!! :)

  4. A dinner party is calling my name after reading this post! I love desserts and the chocolate pudding recipe might have to happen sooner rather than later.

  5. K says...

    OMG pleeeeaaase let this be a recurring thing, CoJ!!! I cannot tell you how excited I am by the thought of entire dinner party menus – such a great idea, and it gets me pumped for hosting (as opposed to dreading my usual routine of high hopes; overspending; competing feelings of happiness from having my friends over and stress from running around the kitchen like a headless chicken and guilt for having spent too much).

    Thanks for this! Pls pls pls keep them coming!!! :)

    • Erin says...

      Yes yes! I was just coming to the comments to request that this be a regular feature. Thank you for the fantastic menu and advice, Jenny!

    • jrg says...

      agreed! this was so fun

    • Adrianna says...

      Ditto to the above praise. This would be an amazing resource to ease into hosting beautiful meals!

  6. Katie says...

    I just made all of this tonight for five girlfriends. It was a little more involved than my entertaining typically is, but each dish was really easy to prepare. I spent $37 at my big grocery store and using ingredients that I already had. Super pleasantly surprised by the pea dip and the yogurt sauce! Would love to see more affordable dinner party recipes just like this!

  7. Amy says...

    I will definitely try this! Thank you!!!

  8. Emily says...

    Love this! And extra love for the download. Thank you!

  9. Annie says...

    I made this recipe awhile ago after seeing it on Jenny’s Instagram and I love the tons of onions and pasta. You really only eat a small portion because it seems rich. But I found two cups of yogurt to be way too much. One cup was more than enough. I think that was for a pound of pasta, though. Still – start with less yogurt!

  10. Amy says...

    Added all this to an online order at Superstore in BC, Canada – and to my surprise it was just over $60 even up here! Obviously I had to order a dozen eggs (only need three for this menu), a full tin of cocoa, etc so it’s under $60 if you consider that you get to use any surplus for future meals.

  11. Emily says...

    Hi! From my experience, it’s done to prevent the puddings from developing a “skin” as they sit. If that doesn’t both you, I’d guess it would be fine. :)

    • Julia says...

      Put a layer of cling wrap directly on top of the pudding as it cools (it needs to touch the surface)— voila, no skin!

    • Christina says...

      Since the puddings are to be individually served and are supposed to look pretty, I guess you don’t wish to stir them? Otherwise, the trick my mother taught me when when making custard, where you get the same kind of awful skin, is to sprinkle a little sugar on top.

  12. rachel says...

    i love this sweet, summery meal. I love the whole meal except the pea spread?? I would need to try it, id make tomato bruchetta instead. but i LOVE the rest of it and i can see it eaten outside on a warm California summer night <3

    • Jess. says...

      The minty peas are so, so good! Give them a chance. xox

  13. Serena says...

    Food allergies are a bitch. I would only be able to eat carrots at your dinner party.

    • Amy says...

      Ha, I was also considering how I wouldn’t be able to serve this to most of my friend groups. Gluten-free, dairy free, vegans, a citrus allergy (including citric acid, which is in nearly everything…), you name it.

      But my family is about to eat a great dinner based on this menu ;)

    • Kristin says...

      SAME!

  14. Nicole says...

    How serendipitous! I am having friends for dinner on Friday, and now I have my menu:) Thank you!

    Another cheap-ish, delicious crowd pleaser we have discovered is roasted veggies, roasted crispy chickpeas, and feta (or not, for vegans) over Israeli couscous. Dietary restrictions so stress me out, but this one works for most.

  15. Molly says...

    The food looks great, but the bowls look amazing! Where are the bowls/plates from?

    • Jen says...

      Ditto! I LOVE the bowls/plates in the first 6 photos. Anyone know?

  16. liz says...

    I love these simple dinner/party recipes. Please continue posting more as a series :)

    • Emma says...

      Agreed! This is amazing and totally different in terms of the recipes. Would love to see these types of posts more often!

  17. allison says...

    This looks amazing – thank you, Jenny!! I was diagnosed with celiac disease relatively recent and am still exploring gluten free pasta. Anyone have recommendations on a brand or type that might work well with this? I love Banza but I’m not sure the flavor would be right… thanks for any thoughts!

    • Dani says...

      I have celiac too :) the Braille gluten free is great and really takes on the texture of regular pasta. I feel like the spaghetti would work well!

    • Sarah says...

      Fellow celiac here, also recently diagnosed. Taste Republic has great fresh gluten free pasta, it is on FreshDirect if you happen to live in the NY area. I do like Banza but agree it has a distinct flavor. Jovial brand is good too, although in general I think some brown rice pastas can be gummy. Good luck! The options are getting better but it’s still hard when the memory of the real thing is so recent! :)

    • Dani says...

      Ah!! Autocorrect. I meant barilla

    • Tracey says...

      Barilla do a gluten free that has the right al dente texture, though their range of shapes is limited.

    • Candice says...

      I sware by Capellos. My husband says its the best pasta he’s ever had next to homemade. Expensive and worth every penny.

    • Ellen W says...

      Hi, I’ve had a celiac diagnosis for nine years. My go to pasta brands are Jovial (which is Italian) and Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta. Jovial has a some different shapes and also an egg noodle which my family like.

    • jane says...

      The go-to brand that has proven itself is Tinkyada Rice pasta in many different forms. Largely because it holds it’s shape like regular pasta and has a great texture instead of being mushy or grainy like many other GF brands who haven’t quite nailed it.

    • Emma says...

      I don’t remember the brand discussed (sorry!!), but the Bon Appetit podcast recently did an episode on their gluten-free recommendations and the pasta they recommended was highly praised as being as good as, if not better than, real pasta. Go give it a listen!

    • Mary says...

      I’ve found that TJ’s gluten free fetuccini (in the fresh pasta section) is delicious with pesto and creamy sauces, might be worth a try with this one!

  18. Sophie says...

    Love this post so much!! Would love to see more of this

  19. Midge says...

    Affordable, warm, friendly, comforting, delicious… nice work, COJ!

  20. Katie says...

    This is the MOST wonderful, helpful post and I wish you’d post more of them! I absolutely love to host but always end up overdoing it and feeling stressed and like I spent too much money. Thanks and please keep posts like this coming!

    • rachel says...

      same here!!!

  21. I love this post! I hope more “Under $50/$60” meals are coming our way! Please?

    • C says...

      Agreed! Loved this post!

  22. El says...

    PLEASE make this a monthly series and have a whole 3 course, under $60 theme each time! Thank you so much!

  23. Jo says...

    I’m really excited to make this meal, especially the pudding. But is it really necessary to cover the dishes with plastic wrap, and to have it touch the pudding? I don’t like the sound of that, what would it be like if one skipped that step? Thank you!

    • Emily says...

      If you don’t cover it like that, the pudding will get a “skin” on top of it that is kinda rubbery. I learned that by accident and was not happy.

    • Rashmi says...

      The plastic touching the top is to prevent a skin being formed on top of the pudding. You could skip the step without any major issue.

    • Emma says...

      I imagine that the plastic wrap is to prevent the pudding from forming a skin on top. If pudding skin doesn’t bother you, skip the plastic. You could also just chill it in one big bowl, and then scrape off the skin and put the pudding in individual cups at desert time.

    • Hannah says...

      That’s to make sure that ypu don’t get a skin on the surface of the pudding. I usually don’t bother putting the plastic wrap on if it’s already in the bowl I’m using for serving because I like the skin. But if I’m cooling it in a large bowl and then will dish it up later or if I’ll use the pudding as frosting, I’ll put the plastic wrap on. You can also cut parchment paper to size and put it on there. The point is to keep the top of the pudding away from air.

    • Wendy says...

      I think without pressing the wrap onto the surface, the pudding will develop a “skin” on the top. I assume this is from exposure to air. It seems like you could chill it in a large bowl, then remove the “skin” if you’re adverse to using plastic wrap (which I totally understand 😊).

  24. Laura says...

    I love this idea, and the recipes look like something a girl with little kitchen experience could pull off (me!). I always struggle with the timing of it all though, any tips on when to start doing what in order to have it all on the table at the right times and temperatures?

    • SB says...

      I love this idea, too, Laura! Would be a helpful thing to incorporate into the article.

      I’ve lived outside of the US for the last 13 years and been home for one Thanksgiving in that time, i.e. I’ve gotten pretty pro at that prep! And yes – I have an excel sheet that separates everything into a timeline of when what dish needs to be started/re-warmed/etc. It makes the day(s) soooo much easier and stress-free! And the meal always comes out just right :D

    • Alice says...

      Hi Laura! So the great thing about this menu from my perspective is that you could do so much of it in advance…
      1. The pea dip could be made in the morning, and put in the fridge.
      2. The pudding could too.
      3. I’d recommend caramelising the onions before your guests arrive and leaving them on a super low heat until you’re ready for that part, but if that makes you nervous you could caramelise in the morning and just warm them through as you’re cooking the pasta.
      4. I’d also suggest doing all of the prep for the carrots in advance, and put them into the oven as you’re about to sit down for the starter. They’d be great warm/ at room temperature so you wouldn’t need to rush either!

      Just my initial thoughts, but hope they help!

  25. Meg says...

    I LOVE this! I love throwing dinner parties – I also collect cookbooks. I’d love more cookbooks that lay out a full menu like this. I’ve seen a few like Sunday Suppers and XX Dinners, but if anyone knows of any others, I’d love to know!

    • Kirsty says...

      A few of Nigella Lawson’s books have suggested menus (Feast in particular is good), and Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals (I think it’s called Meals in Minutes in the US) are pretty comprehensive – within those 30 minutes all of them usually include a dessert and side, so you could use those for an easy to throw dinner party if you have a go to appetizer (or y’know, a lump of cheese and interesting crackers). I’ve never served anything from Jamie’s 30/15 minute meal books that hasn’t been commented on as being restaurant quality – they’re surprisingly fancy for weeknight meals.

  26. Tiffany says...

    This is magical. Thank you!! I always google “menus for hosting a dinner party” when I feel overwhelmed about what to serve (and spoiler alert: that google search is worthless!) More of these, please!

  27. Hannah says...

    Wow – are food costs really so high in the US? I reckon you could get all those ingredients for under £25 in the UK (at a normal supermarket, not a discount store).

    It’s strange – our current government are desperately telling us that as one of the ‘benefits’ of Brexit that we’re going to get an amazing trade-deal with the US and get lower food costs…. doesn’t really seem to add up?!

    • Rachel says...

      Hannah, Yes! They are ridiculously high. I’m a Brit living in Seattle (and have been for 20+ years) and I’m always shocked when we go back to the UK by how inexpensive the food is there. A generic loaf of sliced bread where I live is $6.50 for example. I never get out of the grocery store with one bag of groceries for under $60.

    • Laura says...

      Yes! I’m so glad I’m not the only one that commented the same thing. I would never have dinner parties if it cost me so much!

    • Miruska says...

      I am in Canada and when I was in Oxford this past summer I was so surprised and impressed how cheap groceries are, especially staples. Even with the exchange rate, we paid less for bread, milk, butter, eggs, cheese, sandwich meat, etc than we would have in Canada.

    • jane says...

      Because we are a capitalist country, we are squeezed for dollars in every direction, ie: food and health care. The greed is worse than corona virus and sadder as well. Worse still is that the general public does not protest in any useful way. They just “Netflix and take it”. I consider one letter per month my civic duty as an American who lives to uphold the principles of democracy. Emails are useless, you have to physically write or call.

    • Amy says...

      I was thinking the whole post/ you can’t make spaghetti bolognese for your friends for 60 bucks? That would be 15, tops in australia! This menu with all the courses would could about 30-40 (AUD, about 25 USD) at a normal non discount shop and the wine would be an extra 5-15 dollars a bottle depending how much of a fancy wine you want!

    • Haha I thought the same. When I I saw the headline I thought “holy shit, that is a lot of money for a pasta dinner!” But then I live in Germany and I know that we have on of the lowest costs for groceries (compared to income) in the world. But even though I usually buy the more expensive organic stuff, I wouldn’t need to spend 50 Euro for this dinner. BUT i just had a look at the printable list and the prices didn’t seem quite so outlandish. I think it’s mostly the cocoa ( $7.50 ) and vanilla extract ($9.99) that drive the costs. Also, good cheese is super expensive in the States if I remember correctly. Here, for a pack of fairtrade, organic unsweetened cocoa powder (125 grams) you pay 2,20 Euro and the vanilla would also not cost more than 4 Euro.

      @Hannah: I’m keeping my finger’s crossed for you guys post brexit. I have some friends with farms in the UK and they’re really scared what Brexit will mean for them in terms of being able to keep their crofts running without the EU farming susbtitutions. :(

    • Kirsty says...

      Groceries tend to be cheaper in the UK, and takeout is more expensive. Same holds true in Canada (but more expensive than in the states). I’ve been living in Canada, and not only are our grocery costs insane, but we also don’t have any sort of Aldi/Lidl option – it’s pretty brutal and often cheaper to go out for dinner and pay our friends’ bills than have them over!

    • Lizzie says...

      I don’t know that food prices are as high as you describe. I live in NYC, just checked the price on a bag of sliced bread from a fancy gourmet deli (bought as a convenience) and it was $3.79.

  28. Angela says...

    THANK YOU!! This is so helpful!

  29. Han says...

    …”(except baguette)” Jenny, your commentary always make me laugh! Wish I could make a meal alongside you – so much entertainment and deliciousness!

  30. I LOVE this idea. Thank you for sharing! I’m always looking for ways to host at my place more often. Going out is so overrated! x

  31. Emily says...

    Wow. I love this so much. I’m emailing my husband as we speak to plan a dinner party!! Thanks Joanna, Jenny and your amazing co-workers who write such helpful and down to earth content.

  32. Neela says...

    Jenny, what a generously-written, helpful post! Thank you so much. I had read that Pasta recipe once before and was too sceptical about the taste combination to try it, but your glowing praise here has convinced me to give it a go.

  33. Awads says...

    I’m actually having a grown up dinner party Saturday night, starring Jenny’s pork ragu! But I will definitely borrow from this menu for appetizers!
    Cheers!

  34. CC says...

    Yes! Please do more “dinner party packets” or ANY recipe packets that you can think of. Genius. I may actually now throw a dinner party!

  35. janine says...

    Sadly, in NY you can’t buy alcohol at Trader Joe’s! I wish!!!

  36. Brooke says...

    What a delicious and well thought out dinner. Thanks, Jenny! I’m going to try all of this.

    • Megan says...

      This is such an awesome post!! I cook well but struggle to come up with tasty affordable combos for dinner parties and always wind up doing pot luck. Can’t wait to surprise my friends with this!

      Also just to add, I’m gluten free and would be able to just sub in gluten free pasta to enjoy the main course and chips or crackers for the dip. And my lactose intolerant friends can all eat Greek yogurt, as this product contains little lactose and lots of friendly bacteria. So I think this menu is a fantastic starting point even if your buddies have food issues. Love this post!

  37. Great menu!

    I find thyme one of the easier herbs to buy/use because it dries out by itself just fine and you can grab a sprig from the back of your fridge any old thyme you want! (sorry)

    Same goes with rosemary and sage – the woodier herbs are great to keep on hand… vs. say parsley that turns to mush in a matter of days if you don’t remember to do something with it.

    • Jody says...

      When my fresh herbs start to threaten going bad I chop them up, put them in an ice cube tray and add olive oil to preserve them :)

  38. Rachael says...

    Just adding to the MORE OF THIS choir! This is phenomenal and oh-so-accessible! MORE MORE MORE!

  39. Rachel says...

    This all sounds amazing! And doable.

  40. Olivia says...

    Oh gosh Jenny I adore you and your recipes but this one is such a huge miss for me. I say this not to be critical but because I am lactose intolerant and I can’t even remember the last time I was at a dinner party where someone wasn’t “something intolerant.” It would be great to see this same idea with more flexible recipes so swaps could be made easily to adjust for different diets (example, one could not sub coconut yogurt for greek yogurt and call it a day, it would be a disaster).

    I live in Manhattan where every single person has a different thing, so my go to is a taco bar (just make sure to specifically get gluten-free chips and tortillas). Then I include enough toppings so that everyone from vegans to paleos are covered. It’s also very inexpensive!

    • Joaquina says...

      Agreed because I am vegan. And though I wasn’t the author, personally I do not think you should have to apologize for your constructive feedback. Being critical, in respectful language and with justification, is completely expected in the workplace and I’m going to assume that the author and Joanna welcome it!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, we always welcome feedback! thank you so much.

    • Lauren E. says...

      Agree. I will totally follow this article for my “eat everything” husband but 99% of the time I have people over, it’s a freaking challenge. Gluten free, lactose free, mushroom free. One doesn’t like cheese, one can’t eat nuts, one is vegetarian. I know people can’t control their allergies but it’s exhausting trying to cook for a group these days. And I feel like that’s where it gets truly expensive.

    • Mary W. says...

      I agree. I have multiple things, so maybe I should move to Manhattan! The taco bar is a brilliant idea .

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Feedback is always welcome, thank you for writing! We figured we would not be able to please everyone (and I was 100% sure someone would comment exactly what you commented) but that doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore you! The next one will definitely be more flexitarian.

    • Olivia says...

      Thank you both! I really wasn’t apologizing for the feedback, but rather clarifying my tone, which can be tricky in comments ;) I know CoJ and friends are very welcoming about diverse opinions.

    • Missy says...

      Im one of those with allergies (gluten free and lactose intolerant) and think this recipe is fabulous! How exhausting to try to cater to everyone. Since I’ve had these restrictions for well over 15 years, my brain automatically does the substitutions. Maybe they might work for other readers too!
      Yogurt- dairy free cream cheese or sour cream (when mixed with reserved pasta water it creates a similar sauce Jenny describes!)
      Pasta- gf pasta
      Cheese- dairy free parm or nutritional yeast.
      Chocolate pudding-use avocados! Seriously! Then I’d just buy coconut whipped cream for topping bc…lazy.

      Thanks Jenny and CoJ for great content 💕

  41. We were just at a small dinner party for 6 (plus 7 kids, who didn’t really sit down and spent most of the time in the playroom). I made vegan tabbouleh with roasted chickpeas; the hosts served a cheese board and a roasted veggie salad with black beans; and the other guests brought crudites and hummus. The dessert was brownies. Easy, delicious, and the kind of food we lingered over. Now it’s our turn to host, so this menu comes at the perfect time!

  42. Kia says...

    I’m very hungry now , looks delicious !!! It also looks goof proof for a person who doesn’t enjoy cooking like me!!

  43. Meg says...

    The minty pea dip and pasta dishes are delicious! I’ve made them many times before. I would not have thought to combine them in this way, but this is absolutely brilliant! Definitely saving for the future! Thank you so much!!

  44. Michelle R. says...

    If you are at Trader Joe’s already, you can add on some cheap wine, they have the best flowers for just a few dollars, and try their almond champagne (seriously. so good.). Will in total add $10-$20 on to the dinner amount depending on how many flowers/wine but if your guests can’t bring anything, it’s an option!

    • emily says...

      This is the first time I’ve seen that almond champagne mentioned, but I’m always curious about it when I spy it on the shelf. I will be adding it to my cart next trip- thanks to you, Michelle! Cheers!

    • janine says...

      Sadly, in NY you can’t buy alcohol at Trader Joe’s! I wish!!!

    • Hilary says...

      I’m a huge TJ’s fan, but I love getting their petite bouquets ($3.99) and putting them in a mason jar. Longer table? Lay out 2-3 mason jars and pop them in. I bought my current bouquet 10 days ago, and they still look perfect.

  45. lkb says...

    I have NEVER walked out of Trader Joes having spent only $50. Is that even possible?!

  46. Laura says...

    Is it just me that thinks $60 for a dinner party is really high? We’ve always believed in having people over, since we were newly-wed poor students who moved to a different country (UK). We probably have people over 3/4 times a month ranging from 4-8 people at a time. But I’ve never spent more than £15 for a whole menu (our budgeting is insanely good). We budget £60 a month for social gatherings (mostly 3 or 4 dinners with friends/games nights, or a social activity like bowling/mini golf/etc…)
    Love the recipes though and will definitely make them!
    Also, I thought a general supermarket like Walmart/Harmons/target would actually keep the price down rather than up? I thought Trader Joe’s was known for being on the pricier side.
    Thanks for all your content!

    • N says...

      From having traveled to the UK many times, I’ve noticed that food costs are higher in the US than they are in the UK. Trader Joe’s is much cheaper than the traditional grocery stores near me and there aren’t the big box stores like Walmart super close by. Living in an expensive city where food costs are higher than in less urban areas, it would be tough to do a three course meal for six for less than $60, although maybe I’m also using dinner parties as an excuse to buy/make fancier food! That being said, I’d love to know your menus for affordable dinner parties!

    • Morgan says...

      I’d love to hear more about your £15 menus, Laura! Would you mind sharing some ideas of what to make? I know it’s possible to feed a group on a budget, but I sometimes struggle to find things that feel “special” enough.

      Of course too, the prices given in this breakdown would be significantly lower for those of us with a well-stocked pantry that already includes pricey items like cocoa powder, vanilla, olive oil, etc. (and there are often sales on carrots and onions.) I think I could get the price down to $35-40 or so!

    • Laura says...

      Thanks, N! I appreciate your insights. I do live in zone 2 of central London so I certainly am in an expensive city. Having said that, when we visited some family in the US, I was amazed by how much more expensive food was. I do shop at Lidl/Tesco and am able to keep prices down. I love cooking and definitely have many ideas to share! One of our main go-to’s is a vegan chickpea/carrot/sweet potato curry with rice or quinoa, naan bread, and some roasted veggies like asparagus and green beans. I can make all of that for £10 for 6 people and probably add a desert. However, I am aware, for example, that carrots are 39p, sweet potatoes are 99p, rice 39p, naan breads 55p, etc… It certainly is cheap! Also, we do a lot of potluck gatherings where I make the main meal, and others bring an appetiser, side, dessert, and drink. Probably the reason why we keep doing them! xx

    • Laura says...

      Also, most our income goes on rent… ha, so we win some, we lose some ;)

    • Courtney says...

      Food and many other daily costs are cheaper in the UK.

    • Clare says...

      $10 a person for a dinner party is extremely reasonable, especially in NYC.

    • I agree, Laura! My husband and I have guests over several times per month, and I never spend more than $30, max. We keep it simple like serving Greek chicken kabobs with tzatziki over golden rice (rice + turmeric), plus a big green salad. If I splurge on one thing, such as chicken breasts for the kabobs, then I save on another, like serving the kabobs over rice. Kabobs are special enough that they feel like a treat for dinner guests!

    • Laura says...

      Hi Morgan and others! Thanks for the replies. I realise I have a hard time converting £ to $ also so it seemed more than it was.
      Some of my favourite “special” dinner items include
      – soup appetisers (butternut squash, carrot, courgette, etc…). If you garnish with fresh herbs and make homemade croutons it’s extremely affordable
      – home-made quiche. You can make a couple for a really cheap price. And the dough is only 3 ingredients! We personally love Emmental cheese, caramelised onion, bacon and spinach. But I make all sorts. Mushroom, spinach and peppers are quite a cheap combination.
      – Spanish tortilla. You can make 2 with just 8 eggs and one bag of potatoes. Great to add a fresh baguette and some ham and cheeses.
      – lasagna for when I have the time :) I make homemade bechamel sauce (again, only 3 ingredients in the pantry), and homemade tomato ragu sauce. It’s lengthy with a long simmering time but quite affordable.
      – homemade pizza spreads. If you make the dough and add some toppings like caramelised onions, roasted peppers, and other “special” ingredients, it’s always fun to put together!
      – apple crumbles are some of my go-to desserts. Only a few ingredients with things already in my pantry (plus apples).
      – homemade burgers (this one can be a bit on the pricier side of the menu) but it’s nice to have a few ingredients and have everyone make their own. I include onions, grilled pineapple, bacon, and fried eggs. So fun to have something different! We have corn on the cob and sweet potato fries.
      – shepherd’s pie for a comfy Sunday night dinner. Easy to make with “shepherds pie seasoning” packets in the UK, potatoes, and frozen veg with the mince
      – sweet and savoury pancake bar (my pancakes are more thin European pancakes). Quite fun to add so many savoury items like goats cheese, caramelised onion, ham, and spinach
      – vegetarian stuffed peppers (I make it with quinoa and whatever veggies/mushrooms I have on hand)
      – stir fry or fried rice. The fried rice is really cheap with scrambled eggs, frozen veg and soy sauce. I then add spring rolls, prawn crackers to make it a full meal
      – I sometimes do pasta dinner combinations, although not too often. So I’m excited to use the recipe above!
      – taco bar! 1kg of frozen chicken can be £3.50 and then I keep it in the slow cooker with homemade tomato sauce and homemade taco seasonings. With shredded chicken and a lot of toppings, it ends up being more on the £15 side but still pretty good.
      I hope some of these ideas help! I basically do a lot of veggie/vegan recipes that keep the price down and depending on season of the year, it will depend what I make.
      However, most of the time the other people attending ask about what to bring so we all contribute to the meal.
      Happy hosting! x

    • Laura, what wonderful ideas you have. I am in a book club so always looking for interesting ideas that can flex to vegetarian, and that are quick.

      Thank you so much!

    • shannon says...

      A huge part of the pricing estimate is regional but also based on organic vs. conventional. Trader Joe’s is less expensive compared to, say, Whole Foods or a local organic health food store, but definitely on the higher side as compared to Aldi, Kroger, etc. The price estimate in the post seems about right if you are buying organic. If that’s not a priority for you, I think you could easily get nearly everything at Aldi/Kroger for $30 or less, especially if you already have cocoa powder, vanilla, etc. at home.

    • Laura says...

      So I just added all the ingredients from this post on my online shopping cart from ASDA (lidl that I shop at is even cheaper). I included everything, including many of the ingredients I already have on hand (sugar, olive oil, onions, frozen peas, vanilla, cocoa powder, etc…) as well as those for which I’d have surplus after buying also (those mentioned already as well as eggs, yogurt, parmesan, etc… ) and the total for everything came to £16.80 ($21.75). I guess looking at it that way, it’s not an expensive meal here. If I only had to buy a few ingredients, this menu is totally doable and (cheap!) in my city. Thanks for the ideas!

  47. Ari says...

    I got really (REALLY) into a very similar pea dip many years ago when my friend had a group cooking activity as part of her bachelorette party. The only difference was that pea dip was served with rice crackers, to accommodate GF folks. If you are having this pea dip, try rice crackers! The sweetness of the rice is complementary and really lets the peas and olive oil shine. It’s also a nice textural balance with the mushy peas.

    Peas are magical, so I’m so happy Jenny/CoJ is showing them love here.

    • Kirsty says...

      I use a really similar pea dip (just without the parmesan) in place of hummus in mezze spreads (I always have frozen peas, but find myself without chickpeas on a regular basis. No idea how.) – you can totally serve it with crudites and it feels rich enough that it’s not just veg-on-veg. It’s SO good with sugarsnap peas because it amps up the pea-ness but you get a really nice contrast of textures. And it makes it vegan/GF/lactose-free friendly.

      I also make bowls of it to go alongside a loaf of good bread and a hunk of cheese as a super easy lunch. It’s my go to crowd pleaser.

  48. Kelly says...

    I love this so much!! You are a genius.

  49. Steph P says...

    This is one of the most amazing, comprehensive food posts I have ever seen! Can’t wait to try it out!

  50. Robin says...

    Love this simple dinner idea. I have a new friend who invites us for dinner all the time. She makes super casual food, one time grilled cheese sandwiches, another time a simple lentil dahl. The difference is that she adds a touch of class – cilantro to the grilled cheese, a dish of nuts and dates to start the meal, a nicely set table. Now I’ve started doing simple / cheap dinner parties like vegan chili or lentil soup with toast. Simple, affordable and easy = more dinner parties!

    • Courtney says...

      Dahl is a perfect cheap dinner party food!

  51. Rebecca says...

    I love everything about this post! Definitely making every item, very soon!

  52. Bianca says...

    I love Jenny and her blog, books, and posts here. This is clever and I love this. I also really love that’s vegetarian. Really one of difficult challenges in having people over are the dietary restrictions. I feel like I can only manage one at a time. Then if I invite their kids over, their kids are pickier than ours so the expectation is that I have something for them that’s generally labeled as kid friendly. For me this adds up in my head as a lot of work so I tend to give up the idea of a dinner party in my head.

    • Eva says...

      I hear you, Bianca! For me, all the food intolerances/preferences/allergies have really taken the joy out of hosting people. I simply don’t want to do it anymore, other than a casual backyard BBQ in the summer that doesn’t really involve cooking.

    • So true! I was just thinking this morning how we used to host some friends (usually a family of 4 – 5) at least once a month and we haven’t done that for years because of all the dietary restrictions.

  53. Jaime says...

    Any easy tips on how to make the pasta dairy free? Can alternative milks work for the dessert?

    • Anna says...

      Blend sunflower seeds, cashews or even almonds into a paste, leaving some crunchy bits, and use instead of the yoghurt in the pasta dish? It would add creaminess and texture, without too much extra flavor.

  54. Sarah Cleghorn says...

    Jenny Rosenstrach is my celebrity crush!! I own all of your cookbooks and I was so excited that you’ve taken up residence here since I was missing you from BA. All the best to you!

  55. Sam says...

    This is brilliant. Do more of this please!!

    • Sam says...

      Oh actually, this whole post kind of reminds me of an e-cookbook someone I follow on Instagram put together as an adoption fundraiser. Hosting dinner parties is like her “thing” I guess, so she compiled all these recipes that are great for hosting (along with essays reflecting on the importance of sharing meals and how to learn to do it). It’s very uh…Catholic…but I downloaded it and love the simple recipes and thought-provoking reflections! In case people are interested, here’s a link (it’s technically free to download but you can make a donation if you want):

      https://thecatholictable.com/around-the-catholic-table-adoption-campaign/

  56. Em says...

    Thank you so much for this wonderful. Is love to see more like this. Saving for the next time we have people over.

  57. Kara says...

    WOW. Please more of this! This makes the thought of hosting a dinner party so easy and not at all intimidating. Not to mention I know my kids would love all of this AND could help make most of it. Also love how clear the directions are and the tip about the onions.

  58. megan says...

    Hope to see more of these in the future!

  59. jeannie says...

    This looks delicious! I love the idea of that pasta dish – especially slow cooking the onions until they are “jammy.” Also, love the glasses the pudding is served in that final picture.

    • Kirsty says...

      I have either those exact glasses or something very very similar from Ikea – bought when I scoped them on a cup of jo post years ago and fell in love with them!

  60. Shannon says...

    This is probably the single most helpful thing I’ve ever read. Marry me Jenny.

  61. Megan says...

    Jenny, I’m curious about how you feel about making caramelized onions in the slow cooker? There are many recipes out there… about once a month I’ll slice 5-6 onions, lightly oil/salt them, and leave them on low in the slow cooker overnight. In the morning, once caramelized, I freeze them in ice cubes. I think they taste great–but am I missing out? Is it better (or way better) on the stove-top? Thanks!

  62. Jennifer says...

    Literally the article I read before this was regarding a new White Sox pitcher who hosted a $25K dinner for every member of the team and staff so he could get to know them.

    Both work, yours is more my speed.

  63. molly says...

    I love your minty pea dip! I made it for a family party once years ago, and now I’m not allowed to show up to one without it! I don’t even like peas all that much, but that dip is totally addictive. It’s such a surprising app, especially for how easy it is. We like it with Ritz crackers!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Right???

    • Amara Bray says...

      And I can’t believe nobody made the “visualize whirled peas” joke! Especially when you said to whirl them in the instructions 😁

  64. Angela Zito says...

    Could we get some intel on the dishware in the photos?

  65. Abesha1 says...

    When whipping by hand, if you chill the bowl, sugar, and whisk prior to whipping, it whips faster.

    • Robin says...

      I’ll try that! I usually put the cream and sugar in a mason jar and shake it for 10 minutes. It’s a good forearm workout. I’m going to try chilling the jar ahead of time.

  66. K says...

    Sorry to be dense, but do we need to strain the yogurt if it’s full-fat Greek, or just mix it with the pasta water as-is? Thanks. Sincerely, someone who is apparently bad at reading directions?

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      You do not need to strain the yogurt if it’s thick Greek-style yogurt which is already strained. If it’s thinner plain full-fat yogurt, you should strain it. In short, buy Greek full fat yogurt. If you can find Sheep’s Milk yogurt (Old Chatham brand sells it, available at Whole Foods), I definitely recommend using that too for some extra tang.

    • K says...

      I thought so, thank you!

  67. This is great! I love the format / download. So helpful!

  68. kash says...

    This looks so good!!

    My favourite thing to feed people lately is… maybe weirdly… tuna noodle casserole? But without canned soup and with slightly nicer canned tuna! The nostalgia factor seems to give people a laugh and it’s great with a big green salad with dill and tomatoes.

    Before that, the standby was

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love those kidns of things! my mom made the best tuna pasta salad and i still request it when i visit her. (pasta, canned tuna, peas, red onion, boiled egg, mayo) — so good!

  69. Rachel Thompson says...

    THANK YOU! I will definitely be trying this! And, also, I would love some more Dinner Party Packets in the future!! My husband and I are both the oldest of our siblings* and we both grew up very close to our siblings. So, lately, we’ve been having our siblings and a few close friends over to our condo unit for dinner once a week. It’s definitely a bit crammed and I’m definitely always rushing to finish food in time, but also it is SO NICE to be reestablishing our relationships with our siblings as adults now :)

    *He is one of four and I am one of five. But, with some siblings away at college and some siblings with non-traditional work hours and some siblings currently planning weddings, it never quite ends up being everyone all at once – just a lovely mix of whomever happens to be free that week :)

  70. Lucy says...

    This made my day! Good food, good company, good price. I may have to do this this weekend.

  71. Kathy says...

    What kind of wine?

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Maybe ask for a rosé or white Burgundy…or a light red like a Pinot Noir?

  72. Erin says...

    Have a dinner party scheduled for Saturday night with friends who are vegetarian- thank you for this! You just saved me a ton of work. More of this please!

  73. K says...

    The pasta dish looks amaze, totally gonna try that for a dinner party sometime! It sorta reminds me of cottage cheese over egg noodles /beef stroganoff without the beef

  74. Robin L. says...

    Jenny, I just started reading Dinner on Sunday by Sam Sifton (we all read cookbooks like regular books, cover to cover, right? is that weird?) and was feeling so inspired to just cook, and have people over, no big deal, and now this! So timely, and so lovely. Thank you! Robin

  75. Samantha says...

    I would love for this to be a series!

  76. Jess Mill says...

    I HAVE WAITED ALL 29 YEARS OF MY LIFE FOR THIS!

  77. I’d make this in a heartbeat!
    It looks delicious.

    Really, any excuse to have people come over, and I am on it.
    Thanks!

  78. Great menu to offer to your friends and without declare bankruptcy for fancy food…simple and delicious at same time perfect combo

  79. Ashley says...

    Jenny I’m so excited for your Weeknight Vegetarians cookbook! When can we expect it?

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Thank you so much for asking! It will be out in 2021, probably spring. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you’ll be hearing way more about it. :)

  80. mb says...

    Just a note–Parmesan cheese isn’t technically vegetarian. But other cheeses are if you want to add in a suggested replacement!

    • Jenny Rosenstrach says...

      Yes, you are correct. The process of making Parmesan requires an enzyme that comes from calf rennet. I’ve tweaked the text to reflect that — you can use a few hefty spoonfuls of nutritional yeast to replace the Parm in the dip, but I’m not sure this would really work with the pasta. You can buy vegetarian versions of Parm (BelGioso makes one) but if it’s not made in a very specific region of Italy, technically it’s not authentic Parmagiano Reggiano. (And won’t taste as nutty and rich.) Sorry so confusing!

    • Neela says...

      Interesting, I didn’t know!

  81. Michelle says...

    This post is genius! You’ve made it so easy for us to have some quality time with people who we want to connect with!

  82. Beth says...

    HONESTLY, I AM FORGOING OUR DINNER PLANS TONIGHT TO MAKE ALL OF THIS. The only thing I need to go out and get isthe whole milk greek yogurt because we have skim in the fridge. Looks like magical food out of simple ingredients- that is the best kind of food! I’ll let you all know what the hubby and three kids think tomorrow :)

    Thank you for these recipes and suggestions!

  83. celeste says...

    Will try pudding for sure!
    Everytime I think of entertaining, I feel like I need to buy a bigger house first, LOL. My home’s not big enough for even holidays.

    • Andrea says...

      We’ve had 13 people for Easter dinner and we live in less than 450 sf. With good friends, it can be done.

    • Claire says...

      You can do it! My parents have a moderately sized living room at their house, but every Passover we carry in a big table from the basement and add some card tables to either end. Couches get pushed to the sides of the room. We add in some folding chairs and voila! Somehow 15-25 people around the table for Passover. Is it cramped? OH YEAH. But everyone’s so happy to be there that they don’t really mind! It’s my favorite day of the year.

    • Andrea Brown says...

      There’s always room at the table! We host an open house spaghetti dinner once a month, and we’ve fed as many as 30 people. Sometimes we borrow chairs or a table. People eat outside when it’s warm. Or on their knees in the living room if it isn’t. If the food and the company are good, people won’t mind being a little squished!

    • Kim says...

      Celeste, I’ve been making making Jenny’s pudding for years and it’s one of my favorite simple desserts. I’ve been known to eat the whole thing myself honestly. Hope you do get around to throwing your party. xx