When friends come over and you find yourself the cook, you don’t want to get stuck at the stove. You’d rather be chatting and enjoying the fun. Easy-to-serve do-ahead food that can be put out buffet-style is just the ticket.
Pasta shells filled with a ricotta-spinach mixture, sauced with marinara (a meat or mushroom sauce would work well, too) and sprinkled with cheese can be put together up to two days ahead, then baked while you’re munching on appetizers.
Serve it with a chopped antipasto salad, a crunchy, robust mix of appealing ingredients that improves in taste when made in advance.
Chilled beer or a jug of Chianti works well with all of these flavors. Add a bowl of fresh strawberries with cookies for dessert, and you’re all set for a great time.