The $5 Dinner Party

September 25, 2011 in Pasta, Recipe, The Daily Blog, Vegetarian

I love throwing dinner parties. Fabulous friends and delicious food, all in a cozy environment.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good meal out, but there’s nothing quite like gathering with friends at home.

There are three things I strongly dislike about dinner parties:

1. The expense

2. The prep work

3. The clean-up work

Were it not for these three issues, I would have a dinner party every weekend.

I really would.

Are you with me?

I knew you would be.

My answer to my three dinner party issues?

Three deliciously different types of pasta: a pasta bar!

Classic: Spaghetti with marinara sauce.

Fresh: Penne with basil-almond-lemon pesto.

Surprising: Italian mac and cheese with smoked mozzarella, bacon, potatoes, and fresh parmesan.

Three pastas, warmed baguette, a salad, and a couple of bottles of wine: dinner parties don’t get much simpler or more delicious than that. (Especially if you ask guests to bring a salad or a bottle of wine along with them!)

The groceries you’ll need:


3 lbs. pasta, variety of shapes and sizes (I used whole-wheat spaghetti, white mezzi rigatoni, and whole-wheat penne)

2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes

1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

1 cup almonds or walnuts

extra-virgin olive oil

Spices: basil, oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper


2 lemons

1 bunch basil

1 head garlic

4 Russet potatoes

1 yellow onion

2 tomatoes


1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 small block parmesan cheese


1/2 lb. bacon


1 baguette

That’s it.

I’m serious.

The cost for this grocery list?

Around $35, if you have to go out and purchase everything on the list.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I always keep a majority of these items on hand, which means that I spent only $5 to pull off this dinner party for 8 people.

$5! I can barely believe it myself.

Prep time: It took me less than an hour and half early in the day to prep everything, including taking photos and recording measurements. It took another 40 minutes to pull everything together right before guests arrived, including taking photos and recording measurements. That’s only two hours total of prep time.

Clean-up was minimal; less than 30 minutes total.

It’s almost enough to convince me to start having dinner parties every weekend.

I began the day with a quick stop by my local farmer’s market to pick up the few supplies I didn’t have (all I needed were two tomatoes and a baguette).

I returned home at 1:30 and got to prepping.

I began with the spaghetti with marinara sauce so it would have time to simmer for several hours before serving. I reserved a small amount of the fried garlic to use in the pesto.

Then, once the marinara was covered and simmering with the parmesan rind stirred into it, I began with the pesto.

I put the top back on the food processor bowl, and placed the pesto in the fridge.

I then did prep for the Italian macaroni and cheese, which I cooked right before guests arrived.

I covered all the prepped items, placed them in the fridge, cleaned up the dirty dishes (there weren’t many) and set-up everything else so I could quickly finish everything up a bit later on.

Then, I did other things for the next few hours. I took a shower, did a little decorating, set out all the necessities for the evening, played outside with Ava, and generally wasn’t slaving away in a hot kitchen.

Our guests were set to arrive at 6:00, so at 5:15 I finished making the meal.

I cooked everything for the Italian mac and cheese.

I cooked all three pounds of pasta and tossed each pasta with its sauce.

Then it was go time. The table was set.

Everything was plated and ready to go.

The kitchen was clean.

And it was time for the guests to arrive.

 Then it was time to eat.

Everyone ate their full share of pasta, and then the night ended with all of us in the kitchen – right where we began.

I love a good dinner party.

I love a dinner party that costs $5, that is easy to prepare, and involves minimal clean-up.

Want to come over for dinner next weekend?

I’ll cook!


P.S. I planned and hosted this dinner party for Foodbuzz‘s September 24×24 blogging event! Head over to Foodbuzz to check out the other entries. As part of my involvement with this blogging event, I’ll be receiving travel expenses to the 3rd Annual Foodbuzz Festival (I’m so excited!) in November. I am still in need of a roommate for the Festival, so please let me know if you are going and if you still need a roommate too!

The $5 Dinner Party


    1. Jessica says:

      What a fabulous time dear friend!! The food, was OF COURSE simply amazing! The company, the wine…it was all divine :) And as simple as you make it sound in your post….I’ll be back next week!

    2. Kate D. says:

      Jon had a dream about that Mac n Cheese last night. Super awkward. And I sure am missing that delicious pesto/almond/lemon business. Such a wonderful night! Thanks for hosting, again! Also, this post is so colorful!

    3. Emily Sauey says:

      Basically, everything they said. Kell, this dinner party tops all parties. The food was delicious, very diverse, appealing and most of all tasty :) And, as always, you were the epitome of a perfect host. THANK YOU!!!

      P.S. If you ever have left overs of those meals…I’m your gal.

    4. Heather says:

      Thanks so much for cooking for us, dear friend. I love re-living our good times through your writings. :)

    5. [...] The $5 Dinner Party [...]

    6. Those pasta dishes look so elegant! Congrats on the 24×24, and see you at the festival!

    7. Love the pasta bar idea! I’m jealous that your basil is still growing. I had been making a lot of pesto until the first frost killed my basil. Looking forward to meeting you in San Francisco :)

    8. newlywed says:

      looks like fun! love the fall decor!

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The $5 Dinner Party

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