Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pasta Bar Menu for 30

I hosted a January baby shower for my sister and a little over 30 of her closest friends. The cold weather meant I wanted to serve hot food, so the sternos, pans and stands (purchased at Costco) came in handy. I also made signs for each side of the pan, so guests could see the name of the dish, including main ingredients. Lastly, instead of one big pan of each dish, I used two smaller pans in each one and allowed guests to serve from both sides. I also made sure to include one meatless dish and one meatless salad - hoping there would be a little something for everyone. Please note, this menu does NOT include desserts. I ordered cupcakes for the event. As usual, if you notice anything missing or have any questions please let me know!

Main Dishes: Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto; Baked Italian Sausage Pasta; Pasta Fagioli (meatless)
Salad: 'That Good Salad' - one meatless one with meat
Bread: 2 loaves of French bread with spread
Bread close up
Pasta Close up
Salad (same salad - one with bacon and one without for our non-meat-eating buddies)
Signs show which has bacon and which is meatless
Dessert: Hire out! :) Unless you're a baker, which, i'm not!


Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto
Makes 12 Servings (x3 of normal recipe)

24 oz. rotini
3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained (300 grams)
¾ package basil leaves cut into ribbons
6 tbsp slivered almonds (42 grams)
6 tbsp reduced fat parmesan cheese
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
6 oz. fat free feta cheese
36 oz. Chicken
3 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (for chicken)

Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain through a sieve over a bowl, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid. Return pasta to pan. While pasta cooks, add chicken, olive oil and salt and pepper to a large pan. Cook chicken until no longer pink, about 4-6 minutes. While pasta and chicken are cooking, place tomatoes and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper) in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Combine tomato mixture and the reserved cooking liquid, stirring with a whisk. Add pasta to chicken pan, and add mix to pan. Stir well. Serve in tray and sprinkle top with feta.

Baked Italian Sausage Pasta
Makes 12 Servings (x2 of normal recipe)

2 packs of 5 Jennie-O Hot Italian Turkey Sausage links, casings removed
22 oz. pasta of your choice (I used Ziti), cooked per package instructions
6 tbsp parmesan
200 grams fat-free ricotta cheese
4 tbsp fresh basil, finely diced
4 cups low-calorie spaghetti sauce
100 grams Fresh Mozzarella, grated
2 tsp dried basil

Preheat oven to 400. Set a large pan (that has a lid) to medium and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add sausage to pan, and top with lid. Cook sausage for 15 minutes, turning and breaking up with a spoon every few minutes. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine parmesan, basil, ricotta cheese and 3 cups spaghetti sauce and mix thoroughly. Add cooked pasta. Stir. Shred now-cooked sausage with two forks. Add to mixture and stir. Divide mixture into two rectangular baking dishes that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Spread remaining 1 cup sauce on top. Bake for 12 minutes. Spoon into serving pans, pat the tops flat with a spoon, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and dried basil.

Pasta Fagioli Recipe
Makes 8 Servings

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, small to medium size
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 celery stalk, diced
2 15 oz can cannellini beans
2 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 large bay leaf
2 tbsp basil, dried
2 tbsp parsley, dried
2 tsp oregano, dried
8 cups fat free chicken broth (or 2 cans)
4 cups water
Sea salt and pepper to taste
16 oz. small pasta (I used mini fusili)
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
80 grams fresh mozzarella, grated

In a deep pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Blend can of beans with one cup water in electric blender until smooth. Repeat with second can of beans and another cup of water. Add blended beans to pan then add the tomato sauce, celery, chicken broth, basil, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, sea salt and pepper. Add 2 cups water and bring to slow boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook uncovered until pasta is al dente*, according to pasta directions. Ladle into pan, and top with parmesan and mozzarella.

*Do NOT cook pasta early on this recipe. It's important that it cooks in the other ingredients to make it less soupy/easier for guests to eat.

That Good Salad (double it for two salads)

Dressing (Make TWO of mixture below for two salads if you do one meatless):
3/4 Cup EVOO
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup lemon juice

Salad (Make TWO of mixture below for two salads if you do one meatless; just omit bacon from second one):
2 bunches Romaine Lettuce
2 cups tomatoes, diced
1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
8 strips bacon, fried & broken into pieces
1 cup caesar salad croutons

Mix ingredients together; cover & refrigerate until ready to serve. Pour dressings over salads just before serving and mix well.


2 loaves Italian bread, sliced to 1-inch thick

Spread for bread: 10 tbsp butter, softened; 4 tsp olive oil, 2 tbsp minced garlic, 2 tsp oregano, salt and pepper. Preheat broiler. Mix all ingredients except cheese. Spread on bread. Arrange on baking sheets and broil for 5 minutes. Add to bread basket.


Weekend Before
  1. Make grocery list and buy all ingredients you need.
  2. Make sure you have plenty of plates, napkins, silverware, etc. - especially if you're using paper products
Day Before
  1. Dice package of basil and two tomatoes
  2. Defrost 36 oz. chicken
  3. Defrost 2 packs of Jennie-O turkey sausage
  4. Cook 22 oz. ziti and put in large zip lock bag
  5. Make ALL Pasta Fagioli – put in large Tupperware dishes and store in refrigerator
  6. Mix dressing for salads and store in plastic containers on counter
  7. Clean lettuce using salad spinner. Dice lettuce and store in large zip lock bags
  8. Shred cheeses if not purchased shredded
Day of
timeline to have food on sternos at 6 p.m. (adjust timeline for time of event start)
  • 3 p.m. Put out plates, sternos, etc., where you want to serve them
  • 3:15 p.m. Remove Pasta Fagioli from refrigerator
  • 4 p.m. Make salad in bowls you plan to present them in – put in fridge (do not add dressing yet)
  • 4:30 p.m. Make spread and spread on bread
  • 4:45 p.m. Start pasta with sundried tomato pesto (important that this cooks day of as you need to reserve pasta liquid, helps for consistency, etc.)
  • 5:20 p.m. Start baked Italian sausage pasta (noodles are already made for this)
  • 5:30 p.m. Start microwaving pasta fagioli to get it heated up a bit before it goes on sternos; stir in between heat
  • 5:40 p.m. Remove salads from refrigerator, place on counter for serving and drizzle with dressings
  • 5:45 p.m. Bake bread and add to basket
  • 5:50 p.m. All pastas, bread and salad should be in dishes ready to go. Top each dish with cheese if desired and cover loosely with foil to keep warm before serving.


Tami said...

I love how you have the step by step plan on how to pull this off!

Planning the menu can be daunting and you have made it all so simple. Are you thinking of starting a catering business?

fittingbackin said...

Thanks, Tami! Well honestly - I had done it that way for the month of the event (timeline included making favors, signs, cupcake flags, etc.). I've never thought about starting a catering business, I just enjoy hosting parties for my friends and families and as much as I cook now I refuse to pay someone else to do it! :) I did the math on this one and for food, I want to say it came out to under $100. Like $3/person!

Domestic Nerd said...

The salad looks great! I think I'll try it next time I'm making one for my family.

Thanks for visiting my blog...glad to have found yours. Looks like some great recipes!