Easy Entertaining: Comfort Food for a Cozy Fall Dinner

By Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza
Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

I fell in love with fall when I first went to New York in my early 20s. The crisp, fresh air and those endless blue skies are like food for the soul, energizing and invigorating.

In addition, the autumnal calendar is filled with feasts and reasons to celebrate. From apple picking and fall foliage tours to more serious pursuits like barrel-jumping, corn-husk matches, and tailgating, every week there is an exciting excuse to invite friends and celebrate the day. Fall is the most fun season of all.

On that note, I’m inviting friends to celebrate with me … I haven’t decided on the exact reason yet, but I feel I don’t really need one. Actually, as I write this, having just ordered my first cord of firewood, this idea comes to mind: Let’s celebrate the lighting of the first fire of the season. It seems fitting to make a cozy, comforting, and nurturing dinner to match.

My favorite dinners always include a dish that everyone is familiar with, whether it’s a creamy soup, classic mashed potatoes, or a decadent dessert. These old-fashioned, home-cooked comfort foods bring back memories from long ago, providing a point of connection to help break the ice at the table and make all the guests comfortable.

fall comfort food serving plate
Bring fall to the table with warmer tones, decorative gourds, and a cozy menu. (Victoria de la Maza)

Meatloaf is perhaps the ultimate in comfort food. I make mine free-form, wrap it in bacon, and cover it in tomato sauce before baking so it’s browned, crunchy, and flavorful.

Gnocchi alla Romana was a favorite of my mother, who often served it as a filling crowd-pleaser for buffets and large events. These Roman-style gnocchi are made with semolina flour, shaped into delicate, creamy rounds, and baked with plenty of cheese.

Finally, creamed spinach, a classic side, can be made in myriad ways, ideal for weekend dinners and elegant suppers.

I love this menu when serving a crowd, as these dishes can all be prepared ahead of time and then reheated in the oven.

To balance the richness and soft, creamy textures of the main course, I’ll also add a crisp green salad with crunchy honey-glazed pecans. In lieu of a sweet dessert, chunks of stilton cheese and glasses of port will encourage lingering at the table.

Setting the Table

The table is set with classic, elegant touches: Pink seersucker tablecloth, brown-and-gold speckled plates, and a hint of silver. Bringing fall to the table is as easy as incorporating some darker, warmer colors, such as chocolate-hued glasses and brown-speckled linen napkins. Pink and brown make an elegant color combination. Pink roses continue that theme, and I add a touch of whimsy with a few fun seasonal pieces: ceramic pumpkins and mini decorative gourds.

RECIPE: My Favorite Meatloaf

RECIPE: Gnocchi alla Romana

RECIPE: Creamed Spinach Bake

Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home.