When I talk about my love of at-home dining, I don’t just mean dinner parties. I mean all the cooking, eating and thinking about food at home – when it’s just us. For all the times we’re parked up at our dinner tables – which, let’s face it, is most of the time – let’s try and do a little better. Here are two things you can do, quite easily, to make midweek dinners both more enticing and with a little more love.

One: set the table. If it’s something you reserve for special occasions – don’t. It’s an all-the-time thing, and it needn’t be fancy. Something I wish I got in the habit of sooner is setting my table like the good folks at Dumpling & Noodle House: a box of tissues next to a large jug of water and a collection of condiments (they stock you up with Chinese black vinegar, a deep red chilli oil and soy sauce).

The Stanley Street spot is my top spot for plump handmade dumplings (that you can buy frozen to cook at home) and hand-stretched noodles slick with spicy oil. My meal here always ends with a questionable amount of scrunched tissues tucked around my bowl — used when extremely juicy dumplings spray across the table and for the constant-yet-satisfying sniffle of someone who, once again, added too much chilli oil.

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Setting the table also means that once you’re down: you’re down. Regardless of cuisine, dress your table like the dumpling joint – you’ll be well hydrated, your dinner will get more interesting as you perfect your add-ons, and you’re sorted if things get messy.

Monday-through-Thursday dining often means rustling up something from nothing, which brings us to point two: stockpile nice things. I rely on my haul of supplies from Will and Milko at Emilio’s Butcher in Rozelle. You know the saying: a couple of pork and fennel sausages in the freezer saves many a dinner.

I’m going to be bold: these are the best snags in town — preservative-free and made the Italian way, thanks to Milko’s butcher lineage going back generations in Abruzzo. The veal, pork and sage or salsiccia di fegato (pork and liver) are also worth snagging. While you’re there, grab a bottle of Marrazzo Cuor d’oro (fancy passata), Ortiz anchovies and a bag of Mancini pasta from the shelf of pantry staples and you’ll have everything need to make an excellent pasta sauce.

Not a local? Me neither. Your meat-sourcing trip to Rozelle will be more than worth it. I’m not alone in my Emilio’s devotion – you’ll find the goods on the menu at Poly, Fratelli Paradiso and Lucky Kwong. (And you can stop off at Home Croissanterie for laminated beauties that hero the likes of Emilio’s pasture-raised ham.)

Pair your pasta-midweeker with a “standing salad”. It’s exactly what it says on the tin. This is the salad you eat while your pasta sauce simmers – so you get your greens out of the way and you can sit and eat your pasta in peace. I’m a sucker for a good, simple restaurant salad – a great mix of leaves, very good dressing, always found at Bar Vincent – an often overlooked and underrated part of dining out.

At home, I grab my large silver mixing bowl, add a good splash of olive oil, half a diced shallot, a mashed anchovy, a splash of white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon, a light drizzle of honey and an aggressive crack of pepper. Mix it into oblivion then throw in your leaves, grate some parm over the top and toss. Eat standing up in the kitchen while the more important dish simmers on the stove.

Set the table with your condiments: extra Parmigiano-Reggiano, dried chilli flakes and a chunk of Baker Bleu sourdough for scarpetta.

Gemma Plunkett is a Sydney-based dinner party tragic. She works as a food writer, recipe rambler, producer and content strategist. Find her (but mostly food) in pictures or fortnightly in your inbox via her newsletter Ding!.