Credit: James Carrier

Our porcini meat sauce or savory roasted eggplant marinara serves 8 to 12; choose one for a party, or make both for a really big crowd. Either is delicious with tender, juicy meatballs, made from a recipe that three generations of the Gonnella family have served up at the Union Hotel in Occidental, California.

Round out the menu with toasted garlic bread, plenty of parmesan cheese and easygoing red wine, and a simple layered ice cream terrine with spumoni flavors, and you have a homey dinner that's perfect for a crisp fall evening.


Put together a family-style first course with three or four of these purchased or easily assembled items.

Canned kidney or white beans tossed with minced garlic and olive oil


Roasted bell pepper strips

Mozzarella cheese sticks

Rolled thinly sliced salami or mortadella

Rinsed, trimmed radishes