5 Fall Dinner Recipes Your Guests Will Love
Autumn may be the loveliest time to host a cozy supper. The fiery heat of summer is fading and the air is gentler and the light is golden.
Outdoor entertaining is still an option and has the advantage of flickering candlelight as the sun sets sooner. As the air cools, insects make themselves scarce and we can enjoy each other’s company without suffering the presence of theirs.
It’s also a wonderful time to hit the Farmers Markets and snag some seasonal gems. You’ll get the freshest, brightest vegetables and also be supporting your local farmers. Here are several of my favorite recipes that you’ll love.
Pesto gives a powerhouse boost of flavor to your recipes, whether you’re adding a dollop or featuring it as the main ingredient. Take a regular soup and add some pesto and you have a dish that everyone in the family will be begging for seconds!
It’s also a fairly simple process to make your own pesto at home.
Easy Homemade Basil Pesto and Pasta
This pesto is rich in flavor and super easy to make, especially during late summer / early fall when you have loads of fresh basil in your garden.
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) pine nuts
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend till smooth but still a little chunky.
Prepare 1 box of your favorite pasta – I prefer fusilli because it holds the pesto in the curls to give you a sensational flavor with each bite.
Toss the warm pasta with all of the pesto. Add more olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Garnish with a cluster of basil leaves tucked in at the edge of the pasta, and a few sliced grape tomatoes for a pop of color, if you’d like.
*The pesto can last in an airtight container for a week but I prefer to use it all at once so it’s super fresh.
This is a basic minestrone recipe, but you can use any vegetables you have on hand. Feel free to substitute chicken broth for vegetable, if you’d prefer.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced leeks, white part only
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Pink salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup cooked elbow macaroni
- 1 spoonful of basil pesto per bowl, depending on taste
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add onions and stir until softened. Add the garlic, and stir for a minute. Add the rest of the vegetables through the carrot, and stir occasionally until all are softened about five minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients through the seasonings. Cook, partially covered, until all the vegetables are soft, about twenty minutes.
Add pasta, beans, and peas and cook for a few minutes longer.
Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl in the basil pesto, only going in one direction. Don’t stir it completely into the soup so a green thread of pesto shows.
Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and basil, for a gorgeous presentation.
Remember what we said about the farmers market? Roasting brings out a vegetable’s sweetness and flavor.
You’ll want to choose vegetables that will cook together and finish in about the same amount of time. Root vegetables work particularly well together, but really, you can make almost any vegetable work.
Simple Roasted Vegetables
- 2 lbs vegetables like squash, parsnips, carrots,
- 2 medium red, quartered
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Pink salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup thyme leaves, stripped from their stems for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut the vegetables into equal-sized pieces, about 1-in chunks. Toss the vegetables and thyme in olive oil in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.
Spread the pieces out in a single layer on sheets or shallow baking pans so that the vegetables don’t touch. Roast until the veggies are browned and just tender, about 45 minutes or so. The time will depend on your vegetable choice.
Toss veggies with additional olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme for a lovely presentation.
Roasted Vegetables in Phyllo
Speaking of a beautiful presentation, you can chop up those cooled, roasted vegetables and serve them in phyllo dough cups. You’ll find phyllo dough in the frozen section of your market.
- Vegetables from the previous recipe, chopped small
- Several sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
- 3/4 cup shredded cheese such as Swiss, Havarti, or Gruyere
- Olive oil for brushing
Stack 5-7 sheets of phyllo, depending on how thick you want the vegetable tarts. Any other sheets you’re using, keep under a damp cloth.
Brush each sheet carefully with the olive oil. Take each little stack and push them into an oiled muffin tin slot. Add 1/4 cup of vegetables and sprinkle with cheese. Fold over the phyllo dough towards the middle. The vegetables will be mostly covered.
Repeat the process so you have 12 vegetable tartlets. Bake at 350 degrees until the phyllo dough is browned, about thirty minutes.
If you’re using a tart cheese like feta or goat cheese, don’t use thyme when you roast the vegetables, Instead, mince a handful of fresh dill and fold into the vegetable mixture with the cheese before you scoop it into the phyllo cups.
A few touches can make a simple chicken dish into an extraordinary feast. Here, dates and green olives make this delicious main dish memorable.
Rustic Farmhouse Chicken
This recipe was inspired by The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella, which I first came across in 1991! It’s been a favorite over the years and I have adapted it to make it my own for ease of prep and ingredients. This is great for a crowd and the prep the night before makes it stress-free.
- 8 – 10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed (I use a garlic press)
- 1/4 cup dried oregano
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup chopped fresh Medjool dates
- 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
- 1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
- 6 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
In a large bowl combine chicken thighs, garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, chopped dates, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place chicken in a single layer in a 9×13 pan and spoon all the ingredients from the marinade over top, distributed equally. Sprinkle brown sugar over the chicken pieces and then pour the white wine over top and around the chicken.
Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, basting frequently with the juices from the pan. The chicken is done when a clear yellow, instead of pink, juice flows from the chicken when pricked. Transfer the chicken, olives, capers, and dates to a platter and moisten with some of the pan juices. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve the remaining sauce from the pan in a gravy boat.
This recipe can be served warm or at room temperature.
Serves 4-6 people
The pesto pasta also goes well with the chicken. Serve with a salad and loaf of crusty bread, which can soak up the juices from the rustic chicken.
We hope you enjoy these recipes and the company you keep. Put on some pleasant music, light the candles and create some lovely memories around the table with the people you love.