Nothing Fancy

Unfussy Food for Having People Over



About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The social media star, New York Times columnist, and author of Dining In helps you nail dinner with unfussy food and the permission to be imperfect.
“Enemy of the mild, champion of the bold, Ms. Roman offers recipes in Nothing Fancy that are crunchy, cheesy, tangy, citrusy, fishy, smoky and spicy.”—Julia Moskin, The New York Times

IACP AWARD FINALIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST COOKBOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • The New Yorker • NPR • The Washington Post • San Francisco Chronicle • BuzzFeed • The Guardian • Food Network

An unexpected weeknight meal with a neighbor or a weekend dinner party with fifteen of your closest friends—either way and everywhere in between, having people over is supposed to be fun, not stressful. This abundant collection of all-new recipes—heavy on the easy-to-execute vegetables and versatile grains, paying lots of close attention to crunchy, salty snacks, and with love for all the meats—is for gatherings big and small, any day of the week.
Alison Roman will give you the food your people want (think DIY martini bar, platters of tomatoes, pots of coconut-braised chicken and chickpeas, pans of lemony turmeric tea cake) plus the tips, sass, and confidence to pull it all off. With Nothing Fancy, any night of the week is worth celebrating.

Praise for Nothing Fancy

“[Nothing Fancy] is full of the sort of recipes that sound so good, one contemplates switching off any and all phones, calling in sick, and cooking through the bulk of them.”Food52
“[Nothing Fancy] exemplifies that classic Roman approach to cooking: well-known ingredients rearranged in interesting and compelling ways for young home cooks who want food that looks (and photographs) as good as it tastes.”Grub Street
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Praise for Nothing Fancy

“Ms. Roman offers recipes in Nothing Fancy that are crunchy, cheesy, tangy, citrusy, fishy, smoky and spicy. . . . They work, and not only for company . . . squash scattered with spiced pistachios or pasta with chorizo bread crumbs and broccoli rabe could appear anytime. For dinner parties, she provides cocktail recipes, extra snacks and pep talks so urgent and encouraging that having people over for leg of lamb and tiramisù suddenly seems like a bucket-list event.”—Julia Moskin, The New York Times

“Roman makes food more interesting. . . . [Nothing Fancy] has a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that simplicity.”The New Yorker

“[Roman] could offer a master’s program in Approachable Recipe. . . . [Nothing Fancy is] a manual not just for dinner, but for life.”The Washington Post

Nothing Fancy is like an all-access pass to [Roman’s] stunning-yet-relaxed recipes.”HuffPost, “Best Cookbooks to Give as Gifts”

“The title of this book says it all. Alison Roman delivers relaxed-but-impressive, easily executed, people-pleasing food like single-pot dishes of aromatic coconut-braised chicken and chickpeas and sheets of lemon turmeric tea cake.”Forbes

“The recipes will provide well for friendly dinner parties, while still being straightforward enough to cook quickly on a midweek evening after work.”Vogue

“Roman's recipes are elegant but straightforward, impressive but actionable, with an emphasis on easy vegetables (like peppers with yuzu), homespun desserts (like blackberry and cornmeal cake), and show-stopping entrees (like lamb chops for the table).”Esquire

“This follow-up to Dining In answers the perennial question of what to serve when people are coming over as only Alison can: with legit fun ideas—Pizza Night! Baked Potato Bar!—and unfussy recipes. (I’ve already bookmarked ‘A Very Good Lasagna’ and ‘Casual Apple Tart.’)”—Julia Kramer, deputy editor, Bon Appétit

Nothing Fancy’s recipes are on-trend but unpretentiously so. . . . Most relevant of all is Roman’s attitude toward hosting: that all of us can do it, that we should embrace the imperfections of our plans, and that it’s more fun to try than to stress. . . . Roman is leading the charge in revitalizing the art of gathering your community around the dinner table.”Eater

“In her signature wry voice, Roman lays out simple and elegant recipes, recipes including spritzes, coconut-braised chicken and chickpeas, celery and fennel with walnuts and blue cheese, and more. It’s worth noting that one of our editors already took a crack at the lemony turmeric tea cake, to delicious results. (Also worth mentioning: the DIY martini bar.)”Food & Wine

“This has to be one of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year—Alison Roman’s Dining In is a modern day classic, and her new work is sure to join it on scores of ‘best’ lists soon enough. It focuses on having people over for dinners that are the opposite of fussy, but are still festive (just witness the DIY martini bar guide within its pages for proof).”Chowhound

“In this follow-up to the award-winning Dining In, [Roman] transitions her signature breezy panache to that most fear-inspiring topic: entertaining (or, as Roman likes to call it, ‘having people over’). But the recipes are just as laid-back and uncomplicated to attempt on an average weeknight, when you're cooking for yourself.”Food52
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Nothing Fancy

This is not a book about entertaining.

“Roasting a nice chicken for people is such a good way to say, ‘I love you.’” I recently found this note to myself scrawled on the back of an electrical bill I had probably forgotten to pay, written one night after a dinner party. There was likely a lot of wine that night (the best ideas always come from a lot of wine), which explains my poor penmanship and well-intentioned (but fragmented) deep chicken thought. 

Not exactly poetry, but I realized after reading it that it was the first time I articulated exactly what I wanted this book to be about it and what I want you to get out of it: Using your time and resources to feed people you care about is the ultimate expression of love. And love is about expressing joy, not producing anxiety, so the other thing I want you to get out of it is: You can do this.

I have always been allergic to the word “entertaining,” which to me implies there’s a show, something performative at best and inauthentic at worst. But having people over? Well, that’s just making dinner, but you know, with more people. Unfussy food, unfussy vibes and the permission to be imperfect, no occasion necessary (other than to eat, of course). 

For anyone looking for tips on how to fold linen napkins or create floral arrangements, I am not your girl. I don’t have any clever hosting tips, and I will not teach you the secrets to mood lighting. (I told you, this is not an entertaining book, but also: candles!) But I will give you low-stress and high-impact recipes and ideas designed to make your life easier when cooking for others. Colorful platters of vegetables doused in crispy crunchy bits, casually roasted meat scattered with herbs, one-bowl just-sweet-enough desserts. 

This book is organized by how I like to put together most meals, broken up by what I think are the five most important parts: snacks, salads, sides, mains, and sweet things. Not to say all categories must be represented to have a complete experience, but using that framework is a good place to start. 

Most of the recipes serve 4 to 6 people and are designed to be doubled easily. If you’re cooking for fewer than four, well then consider the bounty a gift to your future self in the form of leftovers. There are carefully considered do-aheads (my favorite phrase) and ideas for what goes with what, although I will say most things in this book would be so happy served next to one another (I find the concept of menus to be both inspiring and creatively stifling, so consider this my compromise). It’s a book with a true choose-your-own-adventure spirit, encouraging you to make as many or as few of the dishes as you wish.

This is not about living an aspirational life; it’s about living an attainable one. You know, the one that comes with not really having enough time to braise a whole pot of short ribs before people arrive (but you try anyway), accidentally burnt cakes (just cut those parts off), and not enough chairs to seat everyone at once (sit on the floor?). It’s the life we live, it’s messy as hell, it’s nothing fancy—I’m sure you wouldn’t want it any other way.

Three Helpful Things

1. Ask for help

“Asking for help is not a weakness, it’s a strength.” —me to myself every time I cook for others If you’re a control freak like me, delegating does not come easily. But come to think of your guests as contributors and collaborators and you’ll notice everyone loosen up, things happen more quickly, and the whole vibe gets significantly more fun. Asking guests to participate by picking the stems from herbs, mixing a yogurt sauce, or slicing vegetables is a small but significant way to ease the load. 

2. Pick your battles
One of the most common questions I get is “How do I make sure everything is hot when I serve dinner?” My answer is always: You don’t. Trying to make sure everything is pipinghot is a fool’s errand, and one I refuse to participate in. Unless you’re living an exclusively soup-and-stew lifestyle, there is no reason every dish on your table needs to be hot. If you are serving a pasta that should be, then guess what, you’re getting a side of blanched and room-temp broccoli. If that stewed pork with kimchi needs to be piping-hot, then everything else has been made hours ago and stored in the fridge, probably. Pick your battles. Serving different foods that all need to be hot at the same time should not be one of them. 

3. Never apologize
Having people over means never having to say you’re sorry. Not for your mismatched plates or the fact that you don’t own any “real” wineglasses or the fact that dinner is actually being served closer to 9:30 than the hoped-for 7:30 (just make sure there are snacks). Embrace the quirky imperfections that make dinner at your house special and different. It’s not a restaurant—you shouldn’t feel pressure to make it feel like one.

About the Author

Alison Roman
Alison Roman is a New York–based cook, writer, and author of the New York Times bestselling cookbooks Nothing Fancy and Dining In. She is the host and producer of CNN’s (More Than) A Cooking Show with Alison Roman, the creator of a bi-weekly YouTube series called Home Movies, and the author of a bi-weekly newsletter titled A Newsletter. More by Alison Roman
Decorative Carat
Random House Publishing Group