Super-easy entertaining—on a weeknight!

My husband and I have friends over for dinner at least once a week. And more often than not, our entertaining is done on a weeknight. Seems counterintuitive, I know, but our friends seem to have fewer plans on a weeknight, so it's easier to get together.

An impressive dinner can be super-easy, especially when you follow my formula: start with an entree that's ready in 45 minutes or less.

Last time we had friends over for dinner, I planned the meal around Seafood Linguine, a restaurant-worthy seafood pasta dish that is a snap to make and an easy way to impress guests. We like the sweet taste and extra-saucy consistency of canned diced San Marzano tomatoes in sauces like this one. Marjoram pairs well with the seafood, but basil or even parsley works too.

Seafood Linguine

8 ounces whole-wheat linguine or spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 littleneck or small cherrystone clams (about 1 pound), scrubbed
8 ounces dry sea scallops
8 ounces tilapia or other flaky white fish, cut into 1-inch strips
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain and rinse.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes, wine, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Add clams, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in scallops, fish and marjoram. Cover and cook until the scallops and fish are cooked through and the clams have opened, 3 to 5 minutes more. (Discard any clams that don't open.)
4. Spoon the sauce and clams over the pasta and sprinkle with additional marjoram and Parmesan (if using).

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 453 calories; 10 g fat (2 g sat, 6 g mono); 62 mg cholesterol; 51 g carbohydrate; 36 g protein; 8 g fiber; 733 mg sodium; 656 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Iron (50% daily value), Vitamin C (40% dv), Magnesium (34% dv), Potassium (19% dv), Vitamin A (15%).

Round out the menu with a quick appetizer, a green salad and a fast and simple dessert:

Spinach-&-Brie-Topped Artichoke Hearts
Entertaining Tip: Prepare the frozen artichokes according to the package directions the night before.

Pears Baked in Marsala with Crumbled Amaretti
Entertaining Tip: Have these ready to put in the oven when you sit down to dinner.

By Carolyn Malcoun

When associate editor Carolyn Malcoun came to Vermont to attend New England Culinary Institute, she knew she didn't want to work in a restaurant but knew that she wanted to do something in the food industry. Luckily she discovered EatingWell, where she's able to combine her love of food and writing.

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