On a stack of plates, three Sformata on toasted baguette topped with mint leaves, with small cast iron containing the rest of the calzone cheese dip (sformata)
Do-ahead Apps for Easy Entertaining

Sometimes I find myself scrambling to get snacks organized before dinner party guests arrive. It never feels good. My mantra is “prep ahead”, and when the doorbell rings and I’m not ready, it adds stress to what should be an evening of laughs with friends.

Around the holidays can be a particularly fun time to entertain. Though, for many, it can be hard to know where even to start. I can’t tell you how often we hear the request, “I’d love to host more, but it’s so overwhelming. How can I make it easier?” These do-ahead apps remove the stress and will help you breathe easier when planning your evening. Some of our most memorable gatherings are low key affairs where we’ve served drinks and heavy apps, and everyone, including me, gets to kick back and let loose. Whether you’re looking for do-ahead apps for a dinner party, dishes for an evening of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, or something to bring to a friend’s house, you’ll love these flavorful options.

Easy need not be boring! Not only are these apps do-ahead, they are also incredibly delicious. A wild mushroom flatbread with warm, melted brie gets a hint of sweet from chopped dates. Shrimp cocktail gets a make-over with a homemade spicy tomato dipping sauce. An Italian baked ricotta dish, called Sformata, gets even cheesier – perfect for smearing on toasts warm out of the oven. Plus more.

If you’re inclined to serve these as a starter with a larger meal, make sure to check out 10 Tips for Hosting a Dinner Party for more ways to gather, with less stress.

Shrimp with Spicy Chili Tomato Dipping Sauce

I can’t call this a shrimp cocktail, even though presentation and preparation-wise it’s not too dissimilar. But the dipping sauce, while tomato based, is far from the usual ketchup and horseradish combo. This supremely flavorful dish uses tomato paste for depth of flavor, chipotle chili flakes for a kick, and fresh lime juice to brighten it up. This will serve 4 people as a light appetizer, with about 4 shrimp per person.
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Beet, Pear, Feta & Walnut Endive Boats

This is a great way to incorporate a gluten-free app, and even non-GF won’t miss the carbs. Endive leaves create the perfect little boat to hold all sorts of delicious fillings. Here, beets and pears are seasoned and tossed with tangy feta and sweet candied walnuts for a seasonal hors d’oeuvres. Use store-bought roasted beets if you like, to save on time.
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Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotem Ottolengi
I’ve been making this spread ever since I got my hands on this cookbook, almost a decade ago. It always gets rave reviews whenever I bring it to a party… everyone wants the recipe. I’ve only tweaked it slightly, as the chef is a genius and it’s pretty much perfect as is. You’ll love how it hits all the right seasonal notes; winter squash, cinnamon, and maple, and can be served with pita bread, pita chips or cut veggies. Make sure to take it out of the fridge ahead of serving to take the chill off and let the flavors emerge.
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Sformata – Or Calzone Cheese Dip

Imagine a hot cast iron skillet, filled with creamy ricotta cheese, studded with fresh mozzarella, seasoned with garlic, mint and nutmeg. Dig in, scooping up a big spoonful, and smear it all over a slice of crusty baguette. If you’ve ever had ricotta stuffed calzone, it’s kind of like that. Rich, garlicky, and delicious. Make this ahead, and bake to serve.
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Mushroom Brie Flatbreads

There’s nothing that brie doesn’t make better – this easy appetizer is no exception. Buy a package of naan bread, scatter it with sauteed mushrooms and onions that have been seasoned with garlic and thyme, then toast it up with sliced brie until it’s melty and crave-worthy. Chopped dates add a touch of sweet that is perfect with the woodsy mushrooms and melty brie.
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