Food Network Staffers' Favorite Appetizers for Holiday Parties

Get the party started with these staff-approved picks.

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Food Nework Kitchen's Garbage Breads, Supreme Pizza Garbage Bread.

Food Nework Kitchen's Garbage Breads, Supreme Pizza Garbage Bread.

Photo by: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Kate Mathis, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

'Tis the season for celebrating with friends, family and plenty of food! Though there's a time and place for a big, sit-down dinner, the best part of holiday parties is always the appetizers. That's why we asked the Food Network staff to send in their top picks for festive party apps. See what we love to serve (and eat!) below:

Pizza-Inspired Perfection

In my family, Christmas Eve is all about the appetizers. Sure, there’s a sit-down dinner, but it takes a backseat to the spread of antipasti, shrimp cocktail, deviled eggs, hot peppers and —best of all — Stromboli. Also known as garbage bread, this work of art consists of buttery pizza dough stuffed with cheese, meat, peppers and onions. The pizza version (pictured above) is by far the most popular, but we always have a vegetarian version, too. Don’t forget extra marinara sauce for dipping!

- Leah Scalzadonna, Associate Editor

An Instagram-Worthy Cheese Board

I love starting a holiday party off with a MAJOR cheese board. Cheese, meat, fruit, nuts — all in one giant heap in the middle of the coffee table — makes for the perfect Instagram moment and gets everyone gathered around the same table from the start. Seriously, have you ever met anyone who could resist a super creamy Brie? Yeah, me neither. This year, I’m tuning into Ina Garten’s Cheese Board class on the brand-new Food Network Kitchen app for some design inspiration, and to pick up some board-building tips. I’m confident that with her guidance, this year’s spread will be my best one to date.

- T.K. Brady, Senior Editor

Close-up of Cacio E Pepe Cheese Puffs, as seen on Barefoot Contessa: Back to the Basics, Season 16.

Close-up of Cacio E Pepe Cheese Puffs, as seen on Barefoot Contessa: Back to the Basics, Season 16.

An Updated Classic

I’m a big fan of the one- or two-bite appetizer — mostly because I want to make sure I have enough room to try everything! When I have friends or family over during the holidays, I take the same approach: make lots of small bites to snack on pre-dinner. The most popular (by far) is always the Gougeres (savory cheese puffs made from the same dough as eclairs or cream puffs). Gougeres are unfussy as far as appetizers go (just pop ‘em in your mouth!) and they pair perfectly with just about any wine. Ina’s Cacio e Pepe-inspired version is one of my favorite takes on the classic — the flavors of cracked black pepper and Italian cheeses are always a hit!

- Kristie Collado, Manager, Digital Programming


Photo by: Ryan Dausch

Ryan Dausch

All the Shrimp Cocktail

As an homage to our annual Italian fish dinner on Christmas Eve, I have to say the party appetizer I look forward to the most is classic shrimp cocktail. It's simple, refreshing and the perfect precursor to an night of indulgent dishes and treats. Served with a side of cocktail sauce and a few lemon wedges, this light bite brings me back to the holidays whenever I eat it.

- Rachel Trujillo, Associate Content Editor

I don’t think anything beats shrimp cocktail. It’s simple and elegant and has glitter factor for a special occasion. For Christmas Eve, I’m following Amanda Freitag’s class on the Food Network Kitchen app — her tips are an aha even though I’ve made shrimp countless times. I always put out two bowls of cocktail sauce — a mild one and one with extra horseradish.

- Debra Puchalla, SVP, Digital Programming & Video, Food

Original cropped

A Holiday-Themed Cheese Ball

A good cheese ball always helps perk up a party spread. And when that cheese ball takes the shape of a frosty penguin on pepper skis, it adds so much holiday spirit that the carols practically sing themselves. This Chilly Penguin, from our own Michelle Buffardi’s Great Balls of Cheese, is as scrumptious as it is adorable. I’ve made it for every holiday party for the past 6 years, and it continues to surprise and delight everyone. Depending on my mood — and the contents of my vegetable drawer — I’ll swap up the accessories, using scallion-slice ear muffs, peppercorns for eyes, a carrot tip for the nose, which ends up making him a snowman-penguin hybrid that we dub Frosty the Fromageman.

- Erin Hartigan, Senior Managing Editor

Stuffed mushrooms with sausage


Stuffed mushrooms with sausage

Photo by: Marshall Troy ©2012,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Marshall Troy, 2012,Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

A Traditional Favorite

I’ve never met a stuffed mushroom I didn't like, and they are easily my favorite appetizer of all time. My mom makes sure to have them on our Christmas table every year and her go-to recipe is Tyler Florence’s Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage. Sausage, pine nuts, green olives, cheese and breadcrumbs all packed together in a juicy mushroom cap? What isn’t there to like?!

- Michelle Baricevic, Online Editorial Coordinator – Food Network Magazine

This is the receipe for Christmas Jello Shots

This is the receipe for Christmas Jello Shots

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

Ultra-Festive Jello Shots

My family and friends almost always make classic party appetizers for our holiday get-togethers, such as pigs in a blanket and a basic cheese board. However, I always add a fun boozy drink to the mix, such as these Christmas Jell-O Shots! The festive colors, hint of white rum, and fluffy whipped cream topping make for the perfect starter.

- Amanda Neal, Recipe Developer

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