Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten is the queen of dinner parties. She has tons of ideas for your next get together. The Food Network star even has a dinner party menu that you can make ahead.
As an added bonus, you can make it a complete vegetarian experience with just a few simple tweaks. These dishes are so hearty, even your most carnivorous guests will be satisfied.
Garten’s recipe for Spanish Tapas Peppers results in a colorful appetizer that easily fits into her make-ahead philosophy. The cookbook author adds anchovies for some punch and saltiness, which contrasts nicely with the sweet roasted peppers.
“Roasting brings out the sweetness in bell peppers,” Garten says. “This is the kind of dish served at Spanish tapas bars — slices of red and yellow peppers are filled with garlic, green olives, golden raisins, spicy saffron, and bread crumbs. A nice glass of Spanish sherry would be delicious with it.”
The first course
After the appetizers comes the first course. In Garten’s make-ahead menu, that would be Wild Mushroom & Farro Soup. The Barefoot Contessa says that soups are perfect for a make-ahead dinner party.
“This soup with mushrooms, pancetta, and lots of vegetables is really hearty. I make it ahead, refrigerate it, and then reheat it, serving it with a dollop of crème fraîche and a swirl of Marsala wine,” Garten explains.
To finish things off, the TV chef suggests a crouton or bread to go with the soup. She says to take a baguette and “do big long diagonal slices.” Then, grill the bread in the panini machine brushed with olive oil.
The main course for the ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten’s make-ahead dinner party is Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Garten says that she’s wrestled with “all kinds of vegetable lasagnas.” She loves the flavor, but the liquid in the veggies always makes the lasagna watery. To solve this problem, the Modern Comfort Food author says to roast the veggies first. However, she doesn’t precook the noodles.
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“The result is a delicious one-dish dinner. Herbed goat cheese, fresh ricotta, mozzarella, basil, and lots of Parmesan make it really satisfying,” Garten explains.
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna recipe
Garten’s recipe for Roasted Vegetable Lasagna does take some time. But, since you are making it ahead, you can easily pop it in the oven just before your guests arrive.
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, unpeeled, sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick
- 3/4 pound zucchini, unpeeled, sliced lengthwise 1/4-inch thick
- 2/3 cup good olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 10 ounces lasagna noodles, such as De Cecco
- 16 ounces fresh whole-milk ricotta
- 8 ounces creamy garlic-and-herb goat cheese, at room temperature
- 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 4 1/2 cups good bottled marinara sauce, such as Rao’s (40 ounces)
- 1 pound lightly salted fresh mozzarella, very thinly sliced
When making ahead, assemble the lasagna completely. Then, refrigerate for up to one day or freeze for up to three months. Defrost (if necessary) and bake before dinner.
To close out your dinner party menu, Garten suggests a delicious Chocolate Banana Crumb Cake for dessert. This show-stopping dish is easy to make ahead, and she says making it in advance actually makes it even better.
Garten says, “When you are making a pound cake or banana cake, if you wrap it well and refrigerate it it gets moister. It actually gets better!”
The Barefoot Contessa airs Saturdays on The Food Network.