Stanley Tucci’s five tips for entertaining with gusto this holiday season

stanley tucci

The actor has teamed up with Sanpellegrino on a pasta kit that brings his family recipes to your table

Stanley Tucci knows a thing or three about entertaining. The beloved actor is just as skilled in the kitchen as he is on the screen, and he’s published two cookbooks plus a food-focused memoir in the past decade. Tucci is fond of sharing a—quite literal—taste of his Italian heritage with the world through that country’s culinary traditions. His travel show, Searching for Italy, is a prime example, as is his most recent collaboration with Sanpellegrino.

Tucci has teamed up with the drink company on a limited-edition kit that shares a couple of his family recipes with home cooks across the United States. Stanley Tucci’s Stelline Two Ways contains fresh ingredients, Italian products, and two bags of Sanpellegrino Stelline pasta—a star-shaped pasta that has recently become harder to find in America—which can be used to make the actor’s Brodo di Gallina con Polpettine di Pollo (Chicken Soup with Tiny Chicken Meatballs) and Pastina Classica (a simple dish made with Parmigiano Reggiano and butter). Naturally, both recipes come with a bottle of Sanpellegrino sparkling water, and make for a welcome addition to anyone’s holiday table this season.

Robb Report had the chance to talk with Tucci about the collaboration and the upcoming holidays. Below, the actor shares his tips for hosting as we head into the busy entertaining season.

Stanley Tucci’s Chicken Soup with Tiny Chicken Meatballs. Photo by Evan Kalman

Try out dishes on yourself first

As someone who travels extensively, Tucci is always gathering new recipes from the places he visits. If you’re thinking about introducing a dish that you haven’t cooked before, it’s probably a good idea to test it out before serving it to friends and family—although Tucci admits “that doesn’t always happen.”

At home in England, for example, Tucci has a pizza oven that he said he was only recently taught how to use properly. Before that, he would make pizzas for people, to less-than-stellar results. “It was a disaster,” he said. “They just burned, or they just didn’t cook enough. It was a mess.” Avoid that same fate by practicing ahead of time, and maybe skipping the pizza if you don’t feel so confident in your pie-making abilities.

Get the timing right

Timing a meal can be one of the hardest things to do, Tucci said, admitting that he himself isn’t very good at it. (His wife is much better at it, according to the actor.) If you’re serving a dinner with several courses, it’s important to know how long each dish takes to prepare, which parts can be made ahead and reheated, and which will need finishing touches right before guests arrive.

If you’re concerned about being overwhelmed by this portion of the evening, you can always outsource: Tucci said that he sometimes brings in someone else to cook, especially foods that he isn’t as skilled at making, like Japanese cuisine. “I wouldn’t be very good at that,” he said. “A really great Japanese chef is kind of amazing.”

Don’t make too much food

Recently, Tucci had the experience of dining somewhere and “there was so much food on the plate, you couldn’t discern what was what.” For him, that’s one of the biggest faux pas people make: offering too many discrete dishes and putting them all on the table at once. Instead, he prefers the Italian way of serving a meal. You may start with some small appetizers before moving on to a pasta course, the main course, and then a salad. While Tucci said he doesn’t eat a lot of sweets, we think you should always finish with dessert. At Thanksgiving, Tucci likes both pumpkin and pecan pie, but his favorite pie “in the world” is blueberry.

Prioritise a good-looking table

Presentation is key, from the decor and place settings to the food and drinks. “It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of food, but inevitably it ends up being a huge amount of food,” Tucci said. “And make sure the wine is good.” In England, he’s found that Brits really love Thanksgiving, particularly the cornucopia of food on the table. (This may be the only time it’s okay to break the previous rule, since Thanksgiving is in part about eating as many different side dishes as possible.) And at Christmastime, Tucci is admittedly a fan of all the decorations, although he does wish there was a bit more snow in London.

Make sure people have a good time

Tucci’s No.1 tip for entertaining over the holidays is perhaps the simplest. Hosting may be all for naught if your guests don’t leave feeling full of both food and joy. That’s part of what the actor loves most about gathering during the holidays. At Thanksgiving, for example, “everybody’s there to share,” while few things are better than a Christmas dinner “that goes on forever.” Food may be the centerpiece of these holidays for Tucci and many others, but it exists as a way for people to come together more meaningfully. We can all raise a glass of bubbly (water) to that.