You can order these decked-out foods at restaurants, but why bother when you can make just-as-tasty (and healthier) versions at home?

By Elizabeth Laseter
February 12, 2019
Photo: Jamie Vespa

If you believe that dishes like paella, risotto, and lobster are best enjoyed at fancy restaurants, think again. What if we told that you could easily cook any of these in the comfort of your own kitchen? And, because you control the ingredients, you could also save on calories, fat, sodium, and sugar? If you’re still skeptical, keep reading.

What often stands between a restaurant-quality meal and a homemade dinner is an approachable, easy-to-follow recipe. No complicated ingredients, no obscure kitchen tools—just honest, straightforward guidelines. If you have that, you can cook just about anything. Our achievable recipes will have you whipping up elegant French desserts, restaurant-quality sauces, impressively large cuts of meat, and other seemingly difficult (but very doable) dishes in no time.

So, channel your inner Julia Child, be fearless, and challenge yourself in the kitchen. What’s the worst that could happen? Below, find 10 simple, delicious, and healthy recipes that are sure to impress, whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a special dinner with friends.

Risotto

Cooking risotto is like watching a baby—both need constant attention (and a lot of love)—so making it at home can be an intimidating task. Nail it, and you have an ultra-luxurious dinner fit for a special occasion. While traditional risotto uses Arborio rice, our whole-grain version makes clever use of the ancient grain farro. Like risotto, your “farrotto” should be creamy and a little runny, but not overly thick. Cook the grains to a perfectly chewy al-dente and serve right away, as the farrotto will thicken as it cools (you can thin it out with extra stock if needed).

Learn the Technique: How to Make Creamy Tomato and Mushroom Farrotto

Get the Recipe: Creamy Tomato and Mushroom Farrotto

Paella

Victor Protasio

Named for the vessel in which it’s cooked, paella is a perfect meal for two or a larger group. This classic Spanish rice dish is festive and fun to eat, but a long ingredient list—seafood, meat, sausage, vegetables, seasonings, and more—can deter some home cooks from making it. However, with a few tweaks, you can make it at home in under an hour. Our effortless recipe builds vibrant flavors by cooking each ingredient in the pan. Yes, saffron threads are a bit of an investment, but they have a very long shelf life.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Paella

Spanakopita

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This savory Greek pie (pronounced span-ah-koh-pee-tah), traditionally made with crispy phyllo dough and filled with spinach and feta, is a show-stopping app at any gathering. What tends to be the most challenging part of this otherwise simple snack is the phyllo pastry—its delicate, paper-thin sheets dry out easily, so you’ll want to work quickly when using them. Our easy Spanakopita recipe is a party-perfect app, but for all the flavors without the fuss, try our crowd-pleasing Spanakopita Tart.

Learn the Technique: How to Use Phyllo Dough

Make the Recipe: Spanakopita Tart

Lobster

Ann Taylor Pittman

Lobster is a splurge-worthy treat that can make any occasion feel special, but cooking it can evoke fear in even the most confident of cooks. With the help of a few kitchen tools and a little muscle, breaking down a whole lobster is much easier than it sounds. Or, you can take a shortcut and buy the sweet, succulent tail meat. Our elegant recipe serves two and is perfect for a romantic dinner at home.

Learn the Technique: How to Prepare Lobster

Get the Recipe: Miso-Glazed Lobster Tails and Sesame Bok Choy

Hanger Steak

Caitlin Bensel

Cross the rich flavor of rib-eye steak with tender beef tenderloin and you get hanger steak, a tasty cut of beef that hangs from the diaphragm of the cow along the plate, or lower belly. Because this muscle does very little work, it’s extremely tender and packed with beefy flavor. Home cooks may be intimidated by this less common cut, but cooking it is actually much easier than cooking a tenderloin or ribeye. Because hanger steak is so flavorful already, all it really needs are a few seasonings (a marinade or rub certainly wouldn’t hurt though) and a good strong sear.

Get the Recipe: Coffee-Rubbed Hanger Steak With Brussels Sprouts Salad

Scotch Egg

Ann Pittman Taylor

The Scotch egg is a gastropub favorite in the U.S., but it’s better known as a staple picnic food in the U.K. This rustic, yet elegant dish is composed of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage, then breaded and deep-fried to crispy perfection. A Scotch egg certainly looks impressive, and it’s not a dish you’d think to make at at home. However, if you can nail a couple of simple techniques, you can easily whip up a batch to impress your dinner guests. They also make a delicious addition to a leafy green salad.

Here’s a tip—Because the eggs are exposed to high heat two separate times (boiling and deep-frying), you’ll want to take extra care to not overcook them. Undercook the hard boiled eggs slightly to ensure perfectly-cooked yolks.

Get the Recipe: Lightened-Up Scotch Eggs

Romesco Sauce

Don’t fear the sauce. A great sauce can instantly elevate any number of dishes. And yes, Béarnaise, Bordelaise, and Beurre Blanc require a bit of technique, but there are plenty of easy sauces that any cook can tackle. Take romesco sauce, which is more common in restaurants, but lesser-used in home kitchens. This traditional condiment from Spain’s Catalonia region is made from almonds and roasted red peppers. Add it to fish, shrimp, steak, pork, and grilled vegetables for a bright, tangy, and sometimes spicy punch of flavor.

Learn the Technique: How to Make Romesco Sauce

Get the Recipe: Romesco Sauce

Galette

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Don’t be intimidated by the elegant name—a galette is actually much easier to make than pie. In fact, you barely need a recipe. This French freeform tart is the perfect way to elevate seasonal fruit, whether it’s fresh fall apples or juicy summer berries. Simply roll out your dough, spoon your filling into the middle, fold the sides in, and bake. Best of all, no pie pan required. Guests will love the rustic presentation of our Apple Galette recipe, which gets a boost from a drizzle of vanilla bean-yogurt sauce over top.

Learn the Technique: How to Make Apple Galette with Vanilla Yogurt Drizzle

Get the Recipe: Apple Galette with Vanilla Yogurt Drizzle

Clafoutis

Photo: Jennifer Causey

The clafoutis is the perfect classy (but super simple) French dessert to whip out at your next dinner party. With five basic ingredients—eggs, flour, sugar, butter, and milk—plus any fruit you have on hand, you can easily pull off this baked custard dish on the fly. A clafoutis requires little technique, and there are endless variations to be enjoyed. Keep it in your arsenal all year long—try blueberry clafoutis during summer and cranberry clafoutis during winter. Serve it straight from the skillet and top each serving with a scoop of ice cream.

Get the Recipe: Cranberry and Dark Cherry Clafoutis

Poached Pears

Caitlin Bensel

Poached pears feel luxurious, but they’re much easier to make than you’d think. Simply simmer the pears in a poaching liquid of wine and other aromatics until tender, reduce the poaching liquid until syrupy, and that’s it. You’ll get the most flavor from your poached pears if you make them ahead of time and chill them in their poaching liquid overnight. Serve with dollop of crème fraîche or mascarpone and save the leftovers—they make a delicious addition to yogurt, or toppers for pancakes and waffles.

Master the Technique: How to Poach Pears

Get the Recipe: Pomegranate-Poached Pears

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