Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Throw a Pasta Party!

Hello, Friends! I hope you are all having a great summer. Ours is crazy as usual. Right now Ron is in Mexico with the youth group and I'm at home with three kids, 2 of which got the stomach bug that's going around. Why can't they get sick when he's at home!?!

The good thing is, I'm at home to write in my blog and give you some more ideas. I often get calls from people who need ideas for dinner parties. One of the most popular meals I've done is a pasta bar. While you have to think ahead and time it well, it's very easy, especially for someone not very fond of cooking. It could also easily be made into a pitch in by asking your guests to each bring a specific item. (Make sure you tell them what to bring or else you could end up with 12 pots of linguine and no sauce.) Sorry this is kind of long, but If you are planning a big dinner, this is a fun one.

Start with a salad, of course. I usually do a basic Ceasar salad, but I got a recipe at Sam's the other day that would be fabulous. It's so good, try it with out soon! It would even be good with a little grilled chicken or some fancy white albacore tuna.

Artichoke Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 small box grape tomatoes (or one medium tomato, chopped)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (4 hearts, quartered)
1 small red onion, sliced into rings
black pepper
1/2 tub feta cheese
1 cup red wine vinegar

Combine red wine vinegar with lettuce, tomatoes, artichokes, and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

Immediately before serving, top with feta cheese crumbles.

I was amazed at how good this salad is and with no oil, it's also very light so if anyone at your party is watching their weight, they will like this. (Ceasar salad can be very high in fat.)

For the rest of the party here is my basic plan:

3 choices of pasta: Spaghetti, linguine, and cheese ravioli (I buy this in the freezer section)

2 choices of sauce: Marinara (no meat) and Alfredo (I use store bought sauces. Alfredo is just to complicated and Bertolli makes a great sauce. I also just doctor up the marinara with a little more garlic and a tablespoon of sugar.)

3 meats: Meatballs, grilled chicken strips, and some sauted shrimp. (I use store bought meatballs and frozen grilled mesquite chicken from Sam's. To make the shrimp melt 1/2 stick of real butter in a skillet. Add one clove minced garlic stir fry for thirty seconds. Add 1 pound peeled shrimp and stir fry until pink all the way through.)

1 vegetable: I stir fry broccoli, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and red onions in olive oil and garlic. It's also good to add some butter at the end for extra flavor.

Now it might seem over whelming to look at this list and think about how on earth you are going to get this all on the table without anything getting cold. Get a friend to help or if you have a large kitchen, make the food prep part of the party. Borrow a crock pot or two and set your oven on it's lowest setting. Start with the Marinara sauce, meatballs, and chicken. Get them hot first and then put them in the crock pots set on low.

Boil the spaghetti and linguine first. After you drain them mix in a little olive oil to keep them from sticking. While they are boiling stir fry your vegetables. You could then put the veggies and pastas in serving dishes, cover with foil, and place in the oven to keep warm. (Turn your oven on to it's lowest setting.) The ravioli will only take about 10 minutes and is a little more fragile, so do it last. You can cook the shrimp and warm the Alfredo sauce at the same time. (Shrimp gets rubbery if it sits too long.) Stir the Alfredo sauce frequently or it will stick.

Set up your buffet with the salads first, then the pastas, followed by the meats and veggies, then the sauces. Your guests can fill their plates with their choice of pasta, their favorite meat and sauce. Most try a little of everything. Don't forget to have some Parmesan cheese on hand.

I'll do another post later for some dessert ideas. I hope you like these ideas! Ask away if you have any questions.

Happy cooking!


J Branson said...

I really am excited about that rotisserie chicken and noodle idea! I've given up on ever having good chicken and noodles again because I won't buy a whole chicken and cook it and the dish just isn't good with frozen white meat chicken breasts only! You may have restored my faith in poultry! :)
Thanks for the tips! You were made to do this! :)

Meriam said...

Thanks, Jill!

Anonymous said...

Do you have ANY idea where one can purchase the orange shrimp sauce they use at Japanese restaurants? I've looked at Kroger and Wal-Mart and a few other places as I've been out and thought about it but cannot find it at all! I did stir fry last night (delicious) but it was missing that orange sauce that ALL of us pour ALL OVER our stir fry! :)
If you could give me some suggestions, that'd be AWESOME!
Love ya,

Meriam said...

I've never seen this sauce anywhere except in a Japanese restaurant and never for sale. (Except for those little tiny cups.) I did a google search to see if you could buy it on line and only found several recipes. Some only had a few basic ingredients and others had quite a bit more. It starts with a mayo base. Let me know what you think. Maybe we can experiment until we found one we like a lot.


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