It’s 6 o’clock and you’re busy putting the finishing touches on a special meal to share with friends. Everyone’s gathered around the table and chatting away, ready to dig in. Your intimate gathering — the fruits of planning ahead — goes off without a hitch. Wonderful memories are made. Goal accomplished!

As we all know, not all meals flow so smoothly, especially when you’re in a time pinch. But entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful, you just need to be armed with the right tips and tricks.

Here are some of the best of them — from hassle-free recipes to effortless décor and simple serving approaches. Get ready to enjoy the great company and conversation! After all, those are the memories that will stay with you and your guests long after the table is cleared.


Ready, prep, go!

Smart preparation ahead of time frees you up later to join the fun. So, chop vegetables for a salad the night before and store them in plastic bags in the fridge. Rinse, dry and chop fresh herbs and have them ready to sprinkle. Take out platters and serving implements in advance so they are ready to go, no digging necessary. Those small considerations help keep you in the mix with your friends, not busied in the back with the French chef knife.

All-in-one recipes

When it comes to easy dishes, one-pot meals reign supreme. They can pack a hefty dose of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables all in one scrumptious bite. Pop the ingredients into a slow cooker the morning of your gathering and serve it up at dinner hour. Or whip up a one-pot meal on the stove top, like farfalle pasta with herb-marinated grilled chicken, Bertolli® Pasta Sauce and Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add a fresh green salad tossed with savory Bertolli® Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a squeeze of lemon and you’ve created a mouthwatering meal.

Social service

Family-style platters passed around the table create an easy, casual mood. Encourage mingling by designating an area for already-open wine bottles and glasses so everyone can help themselves. Or dream up a special mixed drink, made in a big pitcher, for the grown-ups to enjoy and pour for one another. Those little interactions feel warm and inviting.

Effortless décor

A few fresh flowers in small vases at the table make any meal feel more special. Choose a few stems from the grocery store — all the same type of flower keeps them looking modern — and cut them short so your guests can easily see each other across the table. Or skip the flowers and simply opt for little bouquets of fresh herbs for a scented set-up.