When I was little my mom would throw amazing dinner parties-I loved watching her gliding around greeting her guests and how the conversation flowed so easily. Sometimes she’d throw themed parties, other times it was just close friends for an intimate dinner. My mom is one of those bubbling extroverts that people just want to be around, it seemed so natural and easy for her. Me, now I’m a different story. I’m the epitome of the introvert. I love getting together with friends and am always glad when we have guests but the build up makes me so nervous and stressed. What if my dinner doesn’t turn out well? What if I don’t have anything to talk about?
In order to survive my self-imposed social stress I’ve learned over the years that I need to simplify my dinner party menu-the easier, the better. One less thing to stress about! One of my favorite easy dinner party menu lineups are marinated olives and feta and a deceptively easy one pot penne puttanesca! The key to making these easy dishes dinner party worthy is to use top quality ingredients…both of these dishes are made with Olives from Spain-be sure to check your jar or tin for the Olives from Spain logo to make sure you’re getting top quality-you’ll be amazed how you can taste the difference!
Marinated Olives and Feta
- 6oz can whole pitted black olives, drained
- 6 oz can whole pitted green olives, drained
- 6 oz feta cheese, cubed
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt
1. Combine all ingredients and mix well in a covered dish.
2. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving
I like to serve the olives with parmesan pita chips-the saltiness pairs so well with the olives and feta!
For the main course, this Penne Puttanesca couldn’t be easier-it’s a one pot dish that can cook to perfection while you mingle with your guests! Puttanesca is a sauce made with olives, capers, and some versions include anchovies. My hubby nixed the anchovy idea so we omit the anchovy in favor of added pepper! It’s traditionally served with spaghetti but the penne stood up better to the one pot cooking method so that’s what I went with!
- 16 oz package high quality penne
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp capers, rinsed and dried
- 1/3 cup pitted black olives
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp dried parsley
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 6 large basil leaves
- 4 cups chicken broth
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.
Pair this simple pasta with a full red wine-I like it with a Sangiovese or Chianti myself!