Stanley Tucci Shared His #1 Tip for Holiday Entertaining—Plus the 3 Dishes He Always Makes

It's a brilliant plan, if you can make yourself stick to it.

a photo of Stanley Tucci
Photo: Courtesy of S. Pellegrino

The holidays are (basically) upon us, and it's time to finalize menus, set party dates and haul out the decorations. If you're someone who can't resist hosting a shindig during the festive season, juggling the food, the entertainment, the cleaning and the rest of your daily life can get a bit overwhelming—which is where Stanley Tucci's advice might come in handy.

The actor and host of CNN's Searching for Italy says that "limiting the number of dishes that you're going to make" for a given soiree is a must, especially if you, like Tucci himself, have a tendency to go overboard.

"You want everybody to be satisfied," Tucci tells EatingWell. "It just comes from the way I grew up, when there were so many dishes. There was never just a soup and a salad, that never happened, especially around the holidays. The meals just went on forever. So I think if you can do that—have a nice range of dishes, but not too many—it makes it more satisfying for you as a host, but actually easier for your guests, too."

At this point, you might associate Tucci with delicious food almost as much as you associate him with his movie star status. He has starred in gastronomy-obsessed movies like Big Night and Julie & Julia, written three food-focused books, including his 2021 memoir, Taste: My Life Through Food (buy it: $14, Amazon) and entertained us with his Instagram cocktail tutorials and recipe recaps.

Of course, such an intense love for food can make it tough to follow his own advice, making it important to have an accountability partner next to him in the kitchen. "My wife's much better at [limiting dishes] than I am, and then I'll have a tendency to go, 'But I think we should also make—' and she goes, 'No, we're not making that,'" Tucci explains.

But there are still some nonnegotiables when it comes to setting the holiday menu at the Tucci house. Tucci, who lives in England, says main dishes usually include something that reflects the English, American and Italian priorities at the table.

"Well, I do love that, in England … they always do turkey for Christmas, but we never did turkey, really, because we had just had Thanksgiving," Tucci says. "They don't have Thanksgiving, so they want the turkey. I don't want a turkey. I want a leg of lamb or a ham, like a glazed ham. And I do like to have, obviously, some Italian component, which is usually like a lasagna or a timpano, which is what my family made all the time."

If you want to take Tucci's lead and add a pasta dish to this year's festivities, he has just the recipe for you. The actor is teaming up with San Pellegrino and World Chef, a meal-kit service, to share a cozy dinner recipe he loves.

Tucci's meal kit—which you can buy from World Chef for $120—serves between four and six people, and it supplies just about everything you'll need to make his Gnocchetti Sardi con Salsiccia e Broccolini, a hearty, savory pasta dish that Tucci has been making for years. "I've been making it a long time and sort of adapting it over the years," Tucci tells EatingWell. "This recipe, to me, is the perfect way to make it … but you can make it a little spicier if you want, make it not spicy if you want. It's a really, really simple, straightforward recipe that everybody loves."

The heat in this pasta dinner comes from the tablespoon of Calabrian chili flakes included in the recipe, but there's also the mild, fresh sweetness of fennel to balance it out. While you can always dial back the amount of pepper flakes you use in a recipe, you might want to keep them in for the anti-inflammatory benefits—just pour an extra-large glass of water (or sparkling water like Tucci's favorite San Pellegrino) to compensate.

This kit would be a fun pre-holiday gift to send to a pal who loves making delicious meals—World Chef offers ship dates from November 16 to December 21—but it would also be a delicious experience to share with family during the hectic holidays. Gather everyone in the kitchen to pitch in on the cooking, or add the dish to your holiday lineup. There's an added bonus for folks who love to unwind while watching cooking videos, since this meal kit comes with a watch-along tutorial hosted by Liz Hong, a professional chef.

There are all kinds of options for adding a showstopping pasta dish to your holiday menu, including favorites like our Minestra Maritata (Italian Wedding Soup). You could even sneak some pasta into the Thanksgiving festivities with an autumnal dish of Gnocchi with Bacon & Creamy Pumpkin Sauce. No matter what ends up on the menu, keeping things simple, Tucci-style, can help you focus on the pleasure of sharing a meal with friends and family this holiday season.

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