Penne pasta

Photo: Jeff Kauck

A Pasta Dish for Pizza Lovers (Read: Everybody)
A bowl of plain penne with tomato sauce may not seem special enough for a dinner party—but this recipe from The French Kitchen Cookbook,by Patricia Wells, turns it into a dinner with rich flavor that stands completely on its own. You mix rosemary, olives, artichokes, capers and fennel seeds into the sauce, which impart flavor similar to that of authentic Neapolitan pizza. Then, just before serving, you stir in bite-size pieces of mozzarella, which melt into the hot pasta.

Get the recipe: Penne with Tomatoes, Rosemary, Olives, Artichokes and Capers
Shrimp and White Bean Cassoulet

Photo: Antonis Achilleos

The Updated Bistro Classic
A traditional French casserole, cassoulet is usually made with sausage, duck fat and beans. This recipe has you use shrimp instead of meat, though, which takes away some of the heaviness and also has the bonus of cooking in a flash, so you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen. Creamy white beans are still present, though, and leeks and garlic add a flavor boost. A finishing touch of bread crumbs get a pop of color from flecks of chopped parsley.

Get the recipe: Shrimp and White Bean Cassoulet
Warm Rare Beef Salad with Miso Mustard and Spring Vegetables

Photo: Christopher Baker

A Way to Serve Steak Without Spending a Fortune
A steak salad is a delicious—and budget-friendly—way to serve meat at a dinner party. You slice the beef before arranging it on each guest's plate, and lay it atop a bed of greens, which makes for a lovely presentation and allows you to stretch the meat farther than if you were giving each guest his or her own steak. This particular rendition includes a miso-mustard dressing that hits every note: sweet, savory and just a little spicy.

Get the recipe: Warm Rare Beef Salad with Miso Mustard and Spring Vegetables

Photo: Chris Granger/Colin Lacy

The Lasagna You Can Come Home to
We're used to relying on slow cookers for soups and braised meat dishes, but the appliance also makes rich lasagna—so you can start it in the morning, spend the day out of the house, return home and still serve your guests a home-cooked baked pasta oozing with cheese that is so satisfying, it needs nothing else with it.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooked Lasagna

Photo: Gentl & Hyers

Roast Chicken and Vegetables, All in One Amazing Dish
This one-pan wonder includes spicy chorizo, vibrant green beans and juicy chicken—all surrounded by a savory dipping sauce made from white wine and broth. It's a great-looking dish, too, with bright vegetables and golden brown meat, so set the roasting pan in the middle of the table so guests can take it in, and then let everyone choose their own drumstick, thigh or breast. (And have a loaf of bread on hand to sop up the delicious liquid.)

Get the recipe: Roast Chicken with Green Beans and Artichokes