DIY Pasta Party
By Fabiana santana
Pasta dishes are always a big hit at dinner parties. They are a versatile dish that can satisfy any food allergy or diet. For your next party, why not set up a DIY pasta bar so that guests can design their own pasta dish. Set up index cards at each place setting so that guests can write down their culinary creations and swap recipes.
You can start by setting up the “bar” with bowls of ingredients to mix in. Mario Batali is a huge fan of olives in his pasta. He also suggests dressing your pasta with mayonnaise, especially if you’re serving it room temperature, for more of a pasta salad kind of dish. His base recipe includes cooked bowtie pasta tossed with a citrus mayo dressing, sliced chicken, green olives, raisins, red onions and parsley. The Iron Chef then suggests creating a buffet bar with extras like lemon zest, mushrooms, peas, cheese , capers and fresh tomatoes. Serve everyone a portion of the base pasta and have them add in their own extra ingredients for a personalized dish.
We love the idea of a personalized pasta. A DIY Pasta Party is a fun and easy way host your next dinner party.
The Perfect DIY Pasta Bar
Think of those toss your own salad bars. This is the same idea. Only your guests are doing the tossing here. All you have to do is set the bar up. Create a decorative pasta bar with fun elements like a red checkered tablecloth and chalkboard listing the toss in ingredients.
Prep the ingredients by chopping them up and placing them in mismatched bowls or oversized cocktail glasses. In addition to Mario’s suggestions, we love the idea of including fresh herbs like basil and parsley, a selection of grated cheeses, veggies like sauteed eggplant, roasted peppers, sauteed onions, and roasted garlic. All of these are available in the condiments section of your supermarket already cooked, so the prep is literally pouring it into a bowl.
Here are some other ideas:
Pitted Black Olives (available in the deli counter at your supermarket)
Marinated Artichoke Hearts
Use decorative accents like empty wine bottles, wooden spoons, dried pasta and unopened jars of your ingredients to decorate the table.
You really only need to offer up two or three protein options for your pasta party. A simple grilled chicken is a great neutral ingredient that pairs well with most sauces. Ditto for grilled shrimp. For your vegetarian and vegan guests, have portions of beans like chick peas and cannellini beans set up. Just like the chicken and shrimp, these beans are delicious, but still neutral enough to pair with most sauces and dressings.
Even though your Italian grandmother might gasp at the thought of jarred sauce, there are actually a lot of delicious options on the market today. If you’ve got the space, set up electric burners with sauce pans so that guests can toss their pastas with warmed sauce. If not, just heat up some sauce on the stove top and pour into heat safe bowls and set out with the pasta when it’s ready. Opt for three or four sauces. A classic tomato sauce, a meat sauce and a cheese sauce, like an Alfredo.
It’s also a great idea to put out some bottles of extra virgin olive oil and infused olive oils for. Plus, they are pretty, too!
The only cooking you will have to do is boiling the pasta. Get four big pots going and boil some salted water. Just as your guests arrive, add the pasta to the water. Choose four pastas. We suggest a traditional penne for one, a spaghetti for another, and go creative with the other two. Maybe a gluten free option and veggie based pasta like spinach linguini.
If you want to get guests more involved, then have each person bring an ingredient. That means all your are doing is cooking the pasta and prepping the table. Each person brings an ingredient or a sauce. Put it all on the table and see what you come up with!
Marcella Hazan’s Famous Tomato Sauce
This is perhaps the most famous recipe created by Marcella Hazan, the cookbook author who changed how Americans cook Italian food. It also may be her easiest. Use your favorite canned tomatoes for this and don’t be scared off by the butter. It gives the sauce an unparalleled velvety richness.
- 2 cups tomatoes, with their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
- Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
- Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
- Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.
Mario Batali’s Chicken Pasta Salad Recipe
- 1 pound Bow-Tie Pasta
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 pound Chicken Breast (cut into strips)
- 1/2 Red Onion (sliced into half moons)
- 3/4 cup Green Olives (pitted and halved)
- 1/2 cup Raisins
- 1 cup Hellmann’s Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup Orange Juice (or more to taste)
- zest of an Orange
- 1/4 cup Parsley leaves (lightly packed)
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions.
- After you cook the pasta following the package instructions, submerge it in ice water so that the pasta stops cooking and keeps its al dente texture.
- Add oil, chicken strips, onions, olives and raisins to a hot pan.
- Ask your butcher to slice up your chicken breast for the salad.
- Cook until chicken is cooked through and onions are softened.
- Set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine Hellmann’s, orange zest and juice to create a dressing.
- You can use dried cranberries instead of raisins and other juices like grapefruit or lemon instead of orange.
- Add cooled pasta, parsley, chicken and olive mixture to dressing and toss to coat.
- This pasta salad can be served chilled or at room temperature.