This Summer Dinner Party Menu Has Everything You Need to Host an Alfresco Soirée for 6 People, from Drinks to Dessert

I’ll make dessert, you bring the wine

summer dinner party menu: triptych image of pink negronis, lemongrass coconut steak and mini peach tarts
Jon Cospito/Chelsea Kyle/Matt Weinberg

I love hosting my friends and family for dinner in the summertime. To me, few things are more satisfying than gathering everyone I love and serving them delicious food—even better if it can be enjoyed outside. But I still find the planning and cooking to be overwhelming from time to time. My solution? Perusing the market for summer fruits and veggies to spark recipe inspiration.

With this summer dinner party menu—which includes everything from summer cocktails to seasonal appetizers, side dishes and dessert for six people—you can host an alfresco fête for six without breaking a sweat. If you throw in a few bottles of wine—a chilled red, perhaps?—it’ll really seal the deal.

34 Easy Dinner Party Recipes for Stress-Free Entertaining

strawberries at a farmers market
SimpleImages/Getty Images

Shopping List:

8 lemons
1 small, extremely ripe honeydew melon
3 limes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
6 medium peaches
1 small red onion
1½ pounds sweet potatoes
Fresh cilantro
Fresh rosemary
2 garlic cloves
1 stalk lemongrass
One 3-inch piece ginger

3 pounds skirt steak

4 ounces feta cheese (Valbreso or French)
8 ounces goat cheese
1½ sticks unsalted butter
⅓ cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 cup heavy cream

Canned and Packaged Goods
½ cup Campari
1 cup Lillet Blanc
2 cups gin
2 teaspoons bitters (such as Angostura)
Edible flowers (optional)
2 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 cup coconut milk
Chile crisp
Fish sauce

Pantry Ingredients: extra-virgin olive oil, flaky salt, honey, freshly ground black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, coconut oil, kosher salt, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, brown sugar

Cocktail: Big-Batch Pink Negronis

  • Time Commitment: 10 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <15 minutes, crowd-pleaser
  • Serves: 8

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of a traditional negroni (too bitter, too boozy). But swap the usual vermouth for Lillet Blanc—a light, slightly floral aperitif—and suddenly they’re palatable, refreshing and ideal for sipping on the patio. Instead of individual drinks, this big-batch cocktail recipe makes eight servings at once, so you don’t have to play bartender. Edible flowers make a sweet garnish, but you can leave them out if you want to keep the drinks as simple as possible.

Appetizer: Mini Peach Tarts with Goat Cheese and Honey

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, vegetarian
  • Serves: 12

When I’m not eating fresh summer peaches straight over the sink with juice dribbling down my wrists, I’m putting them in these easy, impressive mini tarts that make a mean summer appetizer. With store-bought puff pastry, it requires no baking skills, and since you cut them into squares, there’s no waste or scraps. A drizzle of honey and sprinkling of red pepper flakes adds a spicy-sweet flavor to wow your guests.

Salad: Honeydew, Feta, Jalapeño and Lime Salad

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients
  • Serves: 6 to 8

Is it just me, or do most fruit salad recipes conjure visions of underripe melon and overripe grapes slip-sliding together in a bowl? If you’re careful to choose the ripest fruit possible, you can easily avoid that pitfall. Honeydew and spicy jalapeño make this salad a new twist on the usual watermelon and feta combo. (Not sure how to tell if honeydew is ripe? Try pressing on the blossom end.)

Main Course: Lemongrass-Ginger Coconut Grilled Steak

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Why I Love It: gluten free, beginner-friendly
  • Serves: 6 to 8

Frankly, I find most easy steak recipes to be a little boring. But this one is as exciting as it is simple to make. The key ingredients are coconut milk and fish sauce in the marinade, which add a touch of sweetness and umami that come to life on the grill. Make sure you slice the skirt cut against the grain, so the pieces aren’t impossible to chew.

Side Dish: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sriracha and Lime

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why I Love It: <10 ingredients, gluten free
  • Serves: 6

Your summer dinner party menu needs something starchy to please the crowd (and soak up those negronis), but French fries aren’t going to cut it. These sweet-hot spuds require just six ingredients (including salt) and pair nicely with that steak you’re making. If you want to use a different hot sauce than sriracha, be my guest—Crystal or Tabasco would add a vinegary bite.

Dessert: Strawberry Galette with Whipped Cream

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes
  • Why I Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion–worthy
  • Serves: 6

Speaking of vinegar, this freeform pie has a secret: The strawberries are macerated in balsamic for an intriguing flavor that offsets all the sweetness nicely. Normally, I’m all about shortcuts, but I truly believe you should try making your own pie crust here. It will be flakier and butterier, plus, it comes together in a food processor in no time.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...