Recipes for Friending: The Getting-To-Know You Buffet Dinner

One of the trickiest parts of friend searching is finding time to follow up with all the people you meet. Let’s say you find 10-15 great potential BFFs and none of them know each other. This adds up to lots of one-on-one evenings, and it can feel like there’s not enough evenings in the month—the year!—to see everyone as much as you like.

What to do? Introduce them, of course.

I decided to host a girls-night-dinner-party-thing so I could catch up with some of my new friends, and also connect some ladies who I thought would hit it off. It would be like killing 8 birds with one stone, except for that phrase implies crossing a chore off the to-do list. This was more like eating 8 cakes for the calories of one. Or something else fabulous and delicious.

In trying to figure out what to serve potential new friends, I consulted some pals of the old variety: The ladies of Big Girls Small Kitchen. I’m usually the one who shows up with a bottle of Pinot, not the Suzy Homemaker, so could they suggest something delicious but easy?  Culinary problem-solvers to the core, they immediately had the perfect plan: A make-your-own-pizza party. An activity would help break the ice, they said, and mask any awkward silences that arise when strangers meet for the first time.

So last week I faked domesticity and (with more than a little help from Mom, I admit) prepped my kitchen for a cooking extravaganza. The pizzas were the ideal project, as those who wanted to don an apron and getting a little messy could, and those who were more the drink-wine-and-chat type did that. And, not surprisingly, everyone partook in the decorate-your-own-cupcake portion of the evening. No one is too good for cream cheese frosting.

Turns out awkward silences weren’t an issue—I’m a better matchmaker than cook. But I still endorse the make-your-own-dinner girls night. It helps foster chatting (wine helps with that, too) and, if nothing else, deflects total blame if the food is anything less than success.

I bought pizza dough from a local parlor and unfrosted cupcakes from my favorite bakery instead of making my own. If you want to make everything from scratch, check out the BGSK ladies’ recipes here.

Pizza Sauce
Makes about 2 cups sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 can crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes pureed in a food processor
6 basil leaves, coarsely torn
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of red pepper flakes

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups. Add the basil, and season sauce with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes more, then turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. (You can make this 3-4 days in advance).

White Pizza with Ricotta, Sundried Tomato, and Scallion

1 ball pizza dough
1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1/2lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup pizza sauce (optional)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Spoon the ricotta over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top of the pizza. Arrange the fresh mozzarella, scallions, and sundried tomatoes on top. If using, dot the top of the pizza with small spoonfuls of tomato sauce.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt, hot pepper, and grated parm if you like. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.

Pepperoni & Shallot Pizza

1 ball pizza dough
3/4 – 1 cup pizza sauce (see above)
6 oz (3/4 cup) shredded whole milk mozzarella
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
6 oz pepperoni, thinly sliced
1/4lb fresh mozzarella (optional)
red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Spoon the sauce over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. You want every inch to have some sauce, but not be overly saturated. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pizza. Arrange the shallot and pepperoni slices over the top. Add some coarsely torn fresh mozzarella (if using).

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and hot pepper or oregano if you like. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.

Margharita Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella & Basil

1 ball pizza dough
3/4 – 1 cup pizza sauce (see above)
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
10 basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Spoon the sauce over the pizza dough and spread with the back of your spoon. You want every inch to have some sauce, but not be overly saturated. Arrange the fresh mozzarella and half of the basil leaves on top.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust has browned and the cheese is bubbling and brown in spots. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with salt and hot pepper and the remaining basil leaves. Rest for a minute or two, then cut into slices and serve.

Cupcake Cream Cheese Icing:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Toppings:

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles
1 cup blueberry compote or other chopped fresh fruit
1/2 cup toasted coconut flakes

To make the icing, beat together all the ingredients with an electric mixer until completely combined and very creamy. You can make this ahead and store in the fridge, but be sure the icing has been at room temperature for 1-2 hours before you try to ice the cupcakes.

Arrange the toppings in small bowls. Place lots of butter knives in the icing bowl, and arrange the cupcakes on a plate. Let guests get creative!

All recipes and photos reprinted with permission from


Filed under The Search

21 responses to “Recipes for Friending: The Getting-To-Know You Buffet Dinner

  1. Oooh, very exciting to see recipes on here this morning 🙂

    I think the key to why this party was a success – which it sounds like it was – is that none of the potential friends knew each other, right? I’ve thrown parties before where I’ve wanted different *groups* of friends to meet each other (like my friends and my boyfriend’s friends), and typically it’s pretty cliquey and only a few people will reach out and talk to the party guests that they don’t know. Then again, I’m doing all the work in the kitchen, so there’s less activity/interaction involved beyond “Pass the bacon-wrapped [fill in the blank].”

    So, do you think you made any matches?

    • Yes! I think this same group of girls may do another one soon.. sushi! Yum.

      It’s true that none of the girls knew each other. I’d like to think that with only 8 people, even if they did they would mingle with everyone, but who knows…

  2. Very cool idea, I really like the idea of having ‘something to do’ while I interact with new people. Plus that pizza just looks delicious!!

    I do agree with Anne though that if you gather groups of gals who know each other, it can tend to break off into the mini-cliques. All new friends though – awesome!


  3. What a great idea! I love this and am totally stealing the idea. Wanna do a guest post about it on The Frugal Hostess?

  4. Karen A.

    The food looks fantastic! I think it is so considerate to ensure your guests have something to do to break the ice. Pizza, wine and cupcakes sounds like the perfect menu to me, and it is nice to have mom in the background to help with the preparations.

    Glad to her it was a success!

  5. How fun! I wish I lived in Chicago so I could have scored an invite to this BFF buffet. Great idea with the pizzas and cupcakes.

  6. Your post totally resonated with me because I’ve been throwing “no one knows anyone else” events for years now, first for fun, and due to their popularity, now as part of my business.

    I’m involved in lots of random activities – improv, yoga, volunteering, guitar, Boston College alum group, etc. – so have a lot of friends who don’t know each other. Because I LOVE helping people make new connections and get such a thrill when they become friends/dates via my assistance, I started throwing dinner parties where I knew everyone but none of the guests knew one another. Long story short, those became so popular, friends of friends asked if they could come and now, four years later, Mac ‘n Cheese Minglers are regular events.

    I just had twenty-one people over Saturday and am still on a high from all the positive feedback flooding my inbox!

    The one rule is that you can’t come with anyone you know, leveling the playing field, so that everyone is the new kid and you don’t need to stress about coming solo — everyone’s solo!

    You should come check one out, I’m in Chicago too. My website has tons of info – ABC-TV segment, pics, FAQs, testimonials, etc. – I’m always amazed at the quality, energy and diversity of the guests.

    Good luck with your BFF search, fascinating adventure!

  7. This is such a great idea. I did a dinner party on Friday for a bunch of my boyfriend and my couple friends, and I put more work into it than I was interested in. I love this idea for a girls get together. Too cute. I’m trying it.

  8. This sounds like so much fun. Sometimes it seems like my different group of friends wouldn’t mix particularly well, but now I’m thinking I have no more excuses. You’re right: NO ONE resists cupcakes. Baked good transcend major differences, right?

  9. Ana

    I agree with the above comments about having “cliques” when GROUPS of friends that don’t know each other get together. But I also think it depends on the itinerary. People HAVE to talk if you’re doing a game night, or any kind of activity. And making your own dinners takes away a LOT of the pressure of entertaining, making it more likely that you’ll do it again. We just invited over one couple for a simple dinner last night, and yet the prep work, the cooking, and the clean-up was exhausting, we are loathe to do anything similar again. But I might try your idea! Pizza, wine, cupcakes, if there was chocolate in/on the cupcakes, you have just described my heaven 🙂

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  11. tommy

    It’s always been fun to introduce friends and see them hit it off – sometimes better than you and they originally did….. My wife and I have had discussions on being friend “matchmakers” so it’s funny to see you use the term, too.

    For cooking fun, we would have what we called Iron Chef parties with cooking teams. I think the game we started with is Stir Crazy ( but we ended up just using the spinner to select, swap and steal ingredients, devise dishes for them, and grade dishes for a winner. I can get a full list of “rules” from my wife if anyone is interested. You can learn a lot about people working two or three teams in a small kitchen. And we ended up with several novel new recipes that are really good.

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