10 Easy and Delicious Ways to Feed Your Holiday Guests

From big batches of everything to customizable dinners and sheet pan success.

Even thinking about feeding a big crowd of people over the holidays is exhausting. This year, avoid a full Clark Griswold Christmas breakdown and try one (or all!) of these 10 stress-free ways to feed your guests. From stocking your freezer with ready-to-go dinners to how to make a grilled cheese sandwich for 10, these genius ideas are designed to make your holiday a little easier. Hey, maybe your guests will be so appreciative they’ll even thank you with something special (after all, the Jelly of the Month club is the gift that keeps on giving).

Alexey Tulenkov/Getty Images

1. Rethink pasta

It's easy to turn to pasta when it comes to making dinner for a big group, but pasta suffers when you make it ahead. Therefore, you’re often left hovering over a big pot of boiling water and waiting for your noodles to cook while your hungry guests start filing into the kitchen. Skip this whole sweaty scenario but still enjoy the simplicity of pasta by making a spaghetti pie. This dish involves cooking your pasta until it is just al dente and then tossing it with cheese, eggs, and whatever vegetables or herbs your heart desires. Pack everything into a springform pan and then refrigerate it for up to 8 hours before you’re ready to bake. The result is pasta that’s crispy on the outside, sliceable like a cake, and can be served hot or at room temperature. Plus, any leftovers make a killer breakfast when sizzled in a pan and topped with a fried egg, or can be eaten cold as a snack. Here are two takes on a spaghetti pie to try out now:

Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie
© Andrew Purcell
Spaghetti Pie with Wild Mushrooms and Spinach
John Kernick

2. Put a spin on the taco bar

Set up a nori “taco” bar. Lay out toasted squares of nori sheets, steamed rice, julienned vegetables, and one or two prepared toppings like cubed raw salmon tossed with sesame oil, tamari, and scallions, or pulled crab meat mixed with kewpie mayonnaise and furikake. Let guests fill their nori squares like a tortilla — with a bit of rice and whatever toppings they want. Fold up and eat like a taco.

3. Make a big batch of soup with all the fixings

Select one simple, versatile soup to serve with an impressive spread of toppings for people to customize their bowls. Have a few vegetarians in the group? Make the soup veg-friendly and lay out chopped crispy bacon for the meat eaters to sprinkle on top. Offer a mix of store-bought garnishes like salted peanuts, cilantro, and chile oil, then two or three special homemade toppings such as pickled red onions or a flavored crema.

4. Ham is always the answer

Order a smoked ham and make it feel homemade by rubbing it with a mixture of whole grain mustard and brown sugar. Wrap it tightly in foil and bake at 350°F for two to three hours, depending on the size of your ham. Let it cool for at least an hour in the foil so the ham reabsorbs all of its flavorful juices. Serve the sliced ham with small rolls from your favorite bakery, sliced pickles, and a spread of different mustards and chutneys. Bonus: All those extra bits of ham can be turned into the next morning’s breakfast strata.

5. Make ahead casserole dishes

From a lasagna to a breakfast bake that can be refrigerated overnight, a 9- x 13-inch baking dish can do it all and is essential for cooking for a crowd. Choose recipes that can be assembled early and then popped in the oven when it is time to eat. We’ll be making these ultra-cheesy Green Chile-Chicken Enchiladas. If you’re pressed for time, replace the poached chicken with a shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken.

Green Chile–Chicken Enchiladas
© Eva Kolenko

6. Make a giant grilled cheese sandwich (kinda)

Knock out lunch for 8 to 10 people with a super-cheesy slab pie that you can assemble in advance and bake right before you eat. The best part? You can use frozen puff pastry. Here’s how you do it: Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out two sheets of thawed puff pastry dough to 10- x 13-inch rectangles. Transfer one piece of pastry to the baking sheet. Smear a thin layer of Dijon mustard all over the pastry, leaving a one-inch border, then sprinkle with shredded sharp cheddar or Gruyère; one cup or so should do it. If you want, you can also top it with a few slices of ham or, better yet, mortadella. Then lightly beat an egg and brush some of it around the edges of the dough. Set the second sheet of puff pastry on top and then crimp the edges together. Brush the remaining egg all over the top of the pastry and cut a few slits with a sharp paring knife. Bake until golden brown and puffed, 20 to 30 minutes. Cut into squares and then serve with more mustard.

7. Prep a salad worthy of its own meal

A robust salad loaded with veggies and protein is a pretty genius way to feed a crew. This modern Cobb salad features a stellar roasted sweet onion vinaigrette and would make a great lunch for four to six people or a casual dinner side for eight. It’s also convenient because you can make the dressing and chop everything in advance, then toss it when you want to eat.

Southern Cobb Salad with Roasted Sweet Onion Dressing
© Con Poulos

8. Meet congee, your new go-to dinner

Congee is an East Asian rice porridge that is simmered until it's thick and creamy. It’s inexpensive to make and super customizable. Simmer up a big batch of this hearty dish and then lay out pulled chicken, sliced scallions, soft-boiled eggs, and garlic fizzled in oil. It is truly the perfect canvas for whatever you’re craving. Also, it gets even simpler when you make it in a slow-cooker! Check out the recipe here. This is the perfect warming dinner for post-sledding or pond hockey.

Slow Cooker Rice Congee with Chicken

© Todd Porter & Diane Cu

9. Depend on sheet pan desserts

While cute, this is not the time to stamp out and frost personalized Christmas cookies for every person. Take those rimmed baking sheets and use them to make bars instead.

Chocolate Espresso Pie Bars
David Cicconi

10. When in doubt, go with granola

Running out of breakfast ideas (and energy) for your holiday house guests? Homemade granola is always a win. It’s simple enough to lay out with bowls, spoons, yogurt, milk, and fresh fruit so people can help themselves, but by making it yourself, breakfast still feels special. This loaded granola is packed with nuts and seeds and leans a bit more savory than sweet, so it's easy for guests to doctor with additional sweetener and fruit to their liking.

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