Pasta for 50

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Pasta for 50

Postby Jenise » Mon Nov 13, 2006 12:13 am

It was my big idea to turn our next neighborhood wine tasting into a spaghetti dinner, and now I've got to come up with the goods. How does one actually deal with that kind of quantity and not serve gummy, stupid pasta? I'm thinking that preparing the noodles to extreme al denti, then refreshing in boiling water, will do the trick, but I've never done it. I'm going to test the efficacy to get it right (using mostaccioli instead of string/long noodles, for sturdiness), but I'm still wondering if anyone else has done it and has any tips to offer. We obviously can't plan on cooking 15 pounds of pasta the conventional way.....
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby ChefCarey » Mon Nov 13, 2006 8:21 am

Jenise wrote:It was my big idea to turn our next neighborhood wine tasting into a spaghetti dinner, and now I've got to come up with the goods. How does one actually deal with that kind of quantity and not serve gummy, stupid pasta? I'm thinking that preparing the noodles to extreme al denti, then refreshing in boiling water, will do the trick, but I've never done it. I'm going to test the efficacy to get it right (using mostaccioli instead of string/long noodles, for sturdiness), but I'm still wondering if anyone else has done it and has any tips to offer. We obviously can't plan on cooking 15 pounds of pasta the conventional way.....


You have two choices. Holding it in cold water will work for a short period. If you have to hold the pasta for a few hours, toss it in olive oil. Yeah, I know the sauce won't stick as well, but on the other hand, the pasta won't stick to itself either.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Howie Hart » Mon Nov 13, 2006 9:38 am

15 lbs. of pasta seems like a lot for 50 people, unless you mean 15 lbs. cooked, or about 5 lbs. dry. An alternative to Chef Carey's suggestion of tossing with olive oil is to cook it al denti, toss it with a small quantity of the tomato pasta sauce, put it in one of those aluminum foil pans, cover with foil and keep warm in a 175 deg oven while you cook the rest.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Thomas » Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:04 am

I vote for the toss in olive oil.

I haven't hosted 50 people, but I have done it for 25. Although I didn't use spaghetti. I find pasta like penne or ziti easier to handle.

Anothr wya of doing it, if you can, is to get frozen pasta like cavatelli. It cooks faster and so you can cook it in groups for maybe ten people at a time rather quickly.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby John Tomasso » Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:10 am

It's doable - not ideal, but doable, and your instincts are taking you in the right direction.

Par cook your pasta in manageable batches - say 2lb increments.

Pull it before it reaches al dente - cool it as quickly as possible. Perhaps spreading it out on sheet pans will speed the process.

I agree that tossing with olive oil will keep the pasta edible.

For service - just have a very large pot of simmering water - dunk the pasta in the water to bring it to temp - and serve. While you're serving up one increment of the pasta, another can go into the hot water.

One thing I learned when feeding crowds - if your sauce is hot, it covers up the fact that your pasta might not be as hot as it should be.

I really don't like serving pasta this way, but if your back is against the wall, what are you going to do?

Of the hundreds of things I learned from my Mom about feeding large numbers of people - one was that baked pasta is always a less stressful alternative. I guess that's why we always had lasanga on holidays.
I would strongly suggest doing five or six hotel pans of baked ziti and calling it a day. You can get all the work done ahead of time and enjoy the party - unless you're lacking oven space.
Then, you're screwed.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:06 pm

Howie Hart wrote:15 lbs. of pasta seems like a lot for 50 people, unless you mean 15 lbs. cooked, or about 5 lbs. dry.


I'm not sure I'd agree with that, Howie, unless a lot of Jenise's guests are picky eaters. As we've discussed here before, my standard pasta ration is 2 to 4 ounces of <i>dry</i> pasta per person - the former as a side dish or if counting calories/carbs, the latter for a generous portion. Fifty people times 4 ounces is 200 ounces or 12.5 pounds, so Jenise's plan for 15 pounds isn't that far off - and if the pasta dish is to be the main course, a lot of people will eat more than 4 ounces.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Karen/NoCA » Mon Nov 13, 2006 1:47 pm

I like the idea of the baked spaghetti. I've done this several times for large groups, or to take to an event. This is not your elegant al dente dish, rather savory and comforting, and darn tasty. My recipe is a rather simple one, created by the wife of my dentist while they were raising their nine children. Some of the ingredients are 1 lb. each of spaghetti, bacon, and cheddar cheese. It also has tomato soup and a few other things I cannot recall now. But you could bake the typical red sauce and meatball type too. I'm sure there are others on sites like EPI, Chowhound, etc.
Saves lots of work. I use my 22 lb. roaster and fill it up.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Jenise » Mon Nov 13, 2006 2:55 pm

Chef, olive oil was definitely already on the list, knew it had to be.

Howie, what Robin said: I always plan pasta at 4 oz per person (main course, 2 oz as starter) so and we need about 20% extra, so 15 lbs is how it calcs out.

Thomas, yes, we'll be using that kind of a short noodle--I'd never get string noodles apart.

John T--thanks, yes it's less than ideal, but it should be fun. And there are three ovens in the clubhouse....

....which brings me to Karen: believe it or not, I hadn't thought of saucing and baking. Since we have the ovens, maybe we should give that some thought. Hmmm....

Thanks, everyone.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Thomas » Mon Nov 13, 2006 3:27 pm

Jenise,

If you've got the ovens--bake the stuff. It will be much easier for control. But please, don't goo it up with too much cheese. What am I talking about? I won't be there!
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Bob Ross » Mon Nov 13, 2006 4:55 pm

Chiming in late but for the record: the CIA is in the cook to just done, plunge in ice water, add olive oil, reheat to "correct" doneness level.

This was our technique in a fairly upscale pizza joint many years ago -- often served 500 pasta dishes a night.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Bernard Roth » Mon Nov 13, 2006 11:56 pm

I would make lasagna, which holds very well in a warm oven.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Jenise » Tue Nov 14, 2006 11:49 am

Bernie, I wish we'd started out with a plan to make lasagna. It's too late now, but you're right.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Barb Freda » Tue Nov 14, 2006 5:52 pm

One more suggestion...first, I like the spreading on sheet pans to cool so you don't have to olive oil it AND you keep the starch on it. Did that at one restaurant in Philadelphia and the flavor...yum

And skip the reheat in water step...Instead, reheat it in the sauce. If it's a cream sauce, think with cream; tomato? thin with more sauce or some broth...the cook it until it's hot and the pasta soft. That was Union Square's method. Works great and eliminates one step.

B
Last edited by Barb Freda on Tue Nov 14, 2006 7:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Jenise » Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:42 pm

Barb, I appreciate that idea and it's easy to do one batch or so at a time, but the gentleman who is making the sauce prefers plain noodles with sauce over. I found that out when I lobbed John/Karen's idea. And that's okay, I get my way often enough. :) Going to have to do the water bath. BUT YOU'VE GIVEN ME ANOTHER GOOD IDEA: I'll save some of the cooking water and use that for the refreshing stage instead of starting with clean--it will be much tastier. Thank you!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Barb Freda » Tue Nov 14, 2006 7:17 pm

Mairo would be proud of you. He loves pasta water...me too.

b
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Jenise » Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:21 am

The things you never plan on...what a trial it was yesterday to round up 17 lbs (the 15 I need plus two extras in case I botch a batch) of the same pasta shape (Ronzoni penne rigate).
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Barb Freda » Wed Nov 15, 2006 2:41 pm

When are you cooking? We'll all want to hear how spag for 50 turns out.

B
Ps. And I've said it before, so I'll say it again. Next time I move, I'm moving to Jenise's neighborhood. Party city.
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Re: Pasta for 50

Postby Jenise » Wed Nov 15, 2006 5:07 pm

It's Friday night. And yes, you should move here! It's total fun. Great neighborhood all around, and yet I live almost alone down here on my little beach. It's the best of both worlds.
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