You CAN Entertain – Dinner Party For Dollars!

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If you need to tighten the purse strings and think entertaining on a tight budget is out, think again. Here is our solution for keeping the party going.

Editor’s Note: This post comes from partner site The PartyBluPrints Blog.

If you need to tighten the purse strings and think entertaining on a tight budget is out, think again. Here is our solution for keeping the party going. Below is a deliciously simple and inexpensive menu that won’t make your guests feel like you are pinching pennies. This “make-ahead meal” is also stress free and will allow you to enjoy the party with your guests.

The menu

Pesto and Ricotta Crostini


Baked Rigatoni with Sausage
Italian Bread

Nutella Fondue with Biscotti

2006 Ca’ del Sarto, Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy, $11.

This is a medium-light style Barbera, with bright cherry and pomegranate fruit tones and a hint of roses and spice in the nose. The wine has that classic Barberian tangy acidity, which gives it a fresh, sprightly presence on the palate and makes it a great mate to pizza and tomato-based pastas. Brian Hoffer, The Vineyard Wine Shop, Denver. source Wall Street Journal February 2009

Shopping list

Printable Shopping List
*assumes use of household staples: olive oil, seasonings, lemon, cream.

The table

No need to run out and splurge on new dishes or flowers for your party. Use what you already have to create a beautiful table. Here are some ideas:

  • Lemons in a bowl with a few greens from outdoors make a naturally fresh centerpiece. They add a beautiful burst of color to your table and they can be used after your party.
  • Candles always add lots of atmosphere to the dinner table. Collect a variety of candles in a various heights from around your home and group them on the table. If you have a mirror that suits the center of your table, take it off the wall and use it as the foundation of your elegant centerpiece Arrange candles on your mirror, dim the lights, light the candles and you have the perfect setting for your meal.
  • Collect a few wine bottles, clean them and use them as your centerpiece. You can simply group in the center of the table or place a single long stemmed flower or 2 in each.
  • If you happen to have fresh flowers on hand , great! Separate them into a variety of skinny or short vases and group them on the table, three is always a good number and make sure they are different heights.
  • Skinny breadsticks (gristini) in glasses or small vases look pretty on the table and are also great for noshing!

Don’t forget your music.

  • If you have satellite tv, turn it on to a music station that suits the mood of the party.
  • If you have an Ipod or MP3, create a playlist for your dinner party.
  • If you have neither, visit our music section and enjoy our free music mix.

Remember, entertaining is what you make it. Be savvy and prepared and you can always keep the party going!


Pesto and Ricotta Crostini (Makes 24)


  • 15oz. container Ricotta cheese
  • 1 jar Pesto
  • 24 Crostini


To make crostini: Cut Italian bread into ½” slices. Place 24 slices on baking sheet and brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. (Reserve remaining Italian bread and serve with dinner.) Broil in oven until slices are golden brown. Set aside to cool.

To prepare topping: Add ricotta to mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper. Gently fold pesto into ricotta mixture. Place a dollop of cheese/pesto mixture on each crostini and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Arugula Salad


  • Baby Arugula
  • Dressing


Wash and thoroughly dry arugula. Add to salad bowl. In separate container, mix thoroughly extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. When ready to serve, lightly dress salad.

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage (makes 8 servings)


  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 2 – 16 oz. boxes rigatoni
  • 8 oz. package shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese


To make tomato sauce: Saute 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil in saucepan. Puree in blender/food processor 2 cans whole tomatoes and 1 can tomato paste. Add to saucepan, fill empty tomato paste can with water and stir in. Bring to a boil. After boiling for 5 minutes, turn down to a simmer. After simmering 2 hours season with Italian seasoning to your taste (basil, oregano, garlic powder, crushed red pepper and salt and pepper).

Assembling Baked Rigatoni:

Prepare pasta – Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rigatoni and cook 1-2 minutes less than directions specify as you will continue to cook rigatoni in the oven. Pasta should be al dente, slightly firm but not undercooked.

Prepare sausage – Remove sausage from its casing and break apart in a large nonstick skillet, brown over medium-high heat. Drain well.

Assemble – Preheat oven to 350°. Cover bottom of a 13″ x 9″ baking dish with a generous layer of sauce. Top with a layer of cooked rigatoni. Ladle 3/4 cup sauce over rigatoni and then sprinkle 1/3 of sausage on top, sprinkle 1/3 of shredded mozzarella on top. Repeat 2 more times. Cover tightly with tin foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for another 7-10 minutes or until top is bubbly. Heat remaining sauce and serve with baked rigatoni. Offer parmesan cheese, salt and pepper on the side.

Note: You can prepare this dish a day ahead and refrigerate. You will have to increase baking time while covered to 45-50 minutes.

Nutella Fondue


  • 13 oz. container Nutella (use 1 cup to an entire jar*)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Biscotti for dipping


Heat Nutella in a microwave safe bowl with a spout or glass measuring cup for 30-45 seconds. *Note: the more Nutella you use, the thicker the fondue will be. Set aside and heat heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl on medium heat 45-60 seconds (you want to see steam coming off top but not boiling. Slowly pour the cream into the Nutella, whisking until smooth and silky. Pour Nutella Fondue into small espresso cups or individual serving bowls and serve immediately with biscotti.

Stacy Johnson

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