“Come on over!” We all wish we could utter these words more often. Gathering with friends and family is such a joy, but sometimes the thought of shopping, planning, cooking, and cleanup is just too exhausting to entertain. We’re here to help with seven ideas for pulling together a spontaneous, sophisticated spread for any occasion, be it game night, catching up with neighbors, or just celebrating a spectacular sunset.
For each ingredient, we offer a serving tip for when you only have a few minutes to prepare, and an easy recipe to dial up the fancy if you’ve got a little more time. Stock up on these seven ingredients, plus some crackers and a couple of bottles of wine, and you’ll find yourself looking for reasons to celebrate.
1. There’s Always Time for Olives
They keep (nearly) forever in your fridge and always add a touch of sophistication to a snacking situation.
If you have 1 minute: Simply pour olives into a rustic bowl and set on the table. Don’t forget an extra bowl for the pits!
If you have 10 minutes: Step up your olive game with these easy Pickled Red Onions and Olives.
While you’re at it, become an instant expert with our Olive Variety Guide.
2. Never Without Nuts
A selection of almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, or peanuts—or combination of all—will always serve you well for crowd-pleasing nibbles. Place nuts in a few small bowls around the room so they’ll be within easy reach for everyone.
If you have 1 minute: tumble nuts into shallow bowls and you’re good to go!
If you have 20 minutes: perk up plain nuts with sweet-spicy-savory seasoning in Spiced Mixed Nuts.
3. Get Your Goat Cheese
An unopened log of fresh goat cheese will keep for a month or more in your fridge so you’re ready to party at a moment’s notice.
If you have 30 seconds: just roll that goat cheese out onto a plate and flank with crackers for an absolutely effortless appetizer. (Fill in the blanks with fresh or dried fruit if you’ve got it or add almonds to the plate.)
If you have 5 more minutes to spare: upgrade that goat cheese with some oregano, lemon zest, and pepper flakes with this Herbed Goat Cheese recipe.
4. Simple Shrimp
These sweet shellfish are always a treat, and they’re an almost effortless hors d’oeuvre when you keep a bag of raw, shelled shrimp in your freezer.
If you have 5 minutes: drop frozen shrimp into boiling water and cook just until pink. Serve with store-bought cocktail sauce or a mixture of mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, and toasted sesame oil for dipping.
Got an extra 15 minutes? Make spicy Sriracha Shrimp.
5. Please Pass the Prosciutto
Rosy curls of this savory, umami-rich cured ham will elevate any snack tray.
If you have 5 minutes: carefully separate individual slices of prosciutto and artfully pile or roll each one on a wooden board.
6. Edamame with Ease
Add color and nutrition to the party table with these bright green pods, they couldn’t be easier to prepare.
If you have 10 minutes: simply tip a bag of frozen edamame pods into boiling water, cook until tender, drain, and sprinkle with sea salt or Chile Salt.
If you have a little more time, choose shelled edamame and get out the food processor to whip up this garlicky Edamame Spread.
7. Roasted Red Peppers Always Appeal
Keep a jar of roasted red peppers in your pantry to make any occasion special.
If you have 5 minutes: drain the peppers, slice them into strips, and arrange in a dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt and pepper to make them sing.
If you have 20 minutes: make this Spanish-inspired Easy Red Pepper Dip enriched with pomegranate syrup, walnuts, and paprika.