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Ina Garten’s Best Tips for Entertaining

Here are Ina Garten's best tips for gatherings that will leave your guests happy, and eagerly anticipating your next invite.

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Table with rose centerpiecesinagarten via Instagram

“Flowers in the center of a table always anchor the setting.”

When choosing and assembling flowers for a table centerpiece, add in pops of color with greenery and a few flowers in a contrasting color. Or for a big impact, get a large bunch of one stunning flower (think roses, sunflowers or hydrangeas) and arrange them down the table or across the space in small glasses. Go above and beyond by creating an edible centerpiece that’s waaay cheaper than the kind you’d order.

Learn how to host (and cook!) like a pro in Ina’s upcoming cookbook Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks. Pre-order today.

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Thanksgiving dinner table set-upinagarten via Instagram

“Good organization is invaluable”

This is true whether you’re planning a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 or a cocktail party for a few friends. A week or two ahead, lay out the linens, plates, utensils and serving dishes you will need for the party. Know in advance that you will have all the dishes, the chairs and the space you need for your guests and food.

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man toasting speech at friends outdoor garden party with wine drinksShutterstock / Daxiao Productions

“Plan a menu with food that’s fun to eat and in a place that’s fun to be.”

Entertaining doesn’t have to mean fussy food or be in the most formal room of your house. Arrange a casual get-together to grill in your backyard, play board games or have a clambake at the beach. Offer food that is delicious yet simple—and invite guests into the kitchen to help and have fun!

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Multiple appetizers made by Ina Garteninagarten via Instagram

“Appetizers…no cooking required!”

Offer finger foods like cut veggies, really good cheese with crackers, dried or fresh fruit, bowls of nuts, and chips with dip. These no-cook appetizers are easy for you to prep and easy for your guests to enjoy while holding drinks, chatting together or playing games.

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Crowd-pleasing dip and chipsIna Garten via Facebook

“I cook my best crowd-pleasing dishes!”

While it’s fun to try out new recipes on your guests don’t underestimate the appeal of classic crowd pleasers. Tried-and-true party foods include homemade onion dip, shrimp cocktail and make-your-own pizzas. Or host a spaghetti night with plenty of garlic bread—a simple, comforting dinner that guests of all ages will love.

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Person pouring drinks into cocktail glassesIna Garten via Facebook

“Set up a self-service bar so everyone can mix their cocktails exactly the way they like them.”

Avoid the stress that can come with a cocktail party by setting up a drink station with everything your guests need to fix themselves a beverage. You can even choose a signature cocktail for your party with a printed recipe on the bar station for reference.

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Tomatoes and BurrataIna Garten via Facebook

“Instead of cooking on a hot summer day, I just assemble this salad!”

Summer dinners and gatherings don’t always need to include a barbecue. Take advantage of the bounty and color of summer by serving dishes like sliced tomatoes with mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette. Or try big bowls of spicy gazpacho with a crusty bread on the side. Here’s what to eat when it’s too hot outside to cook.

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Dinner spread of a large piece of meat, salad, and stack of cornbreadIna Garten via Facebook

“Season the meat, put it in the oven for 6-8 hours, and forget about it until dinnertime.”

In cooler weather, make a stress-free dinner for your guests that you don’t even need to think about! Slow-roasted meats made in the oven or slow cooker will be hearty and satisfying. Served with some drinks and bread, it’ll be the easiest dinner party yet!

Need some tips? Check out these low-and-slow Dutch oven recipes.

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No-cook GazpachoIna Garten via Facebook

“For a late dinner… I need something I can prepare really fast!”

For times when you go out with friends for drinks or to a show and then come back for a late dinner, prepare something quick that will get you in and out of the kitchen quick!

These quick dinners can be tossed together fast!

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young happy people company have fun togetherShutterstock / Prostock-studio

“The most important thing about giving parties is to stay very, very cool.”

Your guests want to enjoy themselves, and they can’t do that if you are stressed! Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, and choose dishes that will leave you with time to spend with your guests. Remember to smile and have fun, after all this is your party!

Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.