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Need ideas for a dinner party for 15 college kids!

My sister has just asked me to cook for 15 of her fellow college-aged (18-20 year old) interns on Friday night. I have been dreaming of having a big group to cook for, and now I have my chance! The best part--someone else is footing the bill, so I have some money to play with. She has requested Italian (read: baked ziti or chicken parm, but I want to take that and run with it). I would love to hear some of your suggestions on what to make. Here are the details:

-The food will be served buffet-style
-I am hoping to have some smaller bites for them to munch on when they first arrive
-I want to stay away from any sort of make your own pizza/ pasta bar type thing
-My sister is fairly picky, and I imagine at least a few others will be also. So I am hoping to find things that are fun and different, but that many people would eat.

Thanks!!

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  1. 2 ideas for Italian for a lot of people (these are my stand-by's and they're always well received).
    Sausage & Peppers - Grill (or fry) the sausage the night before (to brown them). Cut up some peppers & onions (dependent on taste). Thrown them in a huge stock pot the morning with a bunch of Ragu (or your favorite sauce & add red wine and spices to taste) of the party and let them simmer for a few (i.e. 4 or so) hours (sausage & Ragu bought a Costco). Sausage always tender (never rubbery). Just be sure to keep it on low heat and stir occasionally as to not burn the bottoms.
    Lasagna – Using the no cook noodles I make & freeze these ahead of time (if I need the time and the room). I usually make 2 types. One meat (browned chopped meat, onions, mushrooms, parmasan cheese, shredded mozzerella) and one veggie (drained chopped thawed spinach, extremely chopped brocolli [I hate it so I have to not see it] onions, mushrooms, parmasan cheese, shredded mozzerella). Again, I just use Ragu as the sauce (because that's what's cheapest at Costco).

    1 Reply
    1. re: HunterJay

      How about bbq-cookout theme. Cooking pork butts for pulled pork, homemade bbq sauce, potato dish-something to bake in large pans(some kind of version of scalloped), cole slaw, dev eggs and chips and dips. And either rolls and/or wraps for the pork. On the appetizer plates-mini smokies wrapped in puff pastry with honey mustard dip and mini hamburgers. And vegge platters with ranch or onion dip. (some sorta retro dishes )
      I did this for Christmas-after every year of typical brunch items-all loved it. (the smokies were demolished and I made lots)

    2. I would start with a huge antipasto platter for snacking while everyone arrives. Have marinated artichoke hearts and mushrooms, salami and whatever meats you prefer, provolone cheese, olives etc.

      For dinner, I would have a meat lasagne, green salad, bruschetta. Or if you want to be fancier, serve in courses, green salad, spaghetti with evoo, parmesan and chopped green onions, main course (chicken, veal), dessert.

      Either plan should end with Lemoncello.

      1. I made a huge Italian fest for friends after they helped me move. My menu was as follows: eggplant parm (made in advance and then warmed in oven), a lasagna (also premade and warmed), gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce (gnocchi made except for boiling ahead), grilled chicken with pesto (pesto made ahead), and a veggie alfredo pasta. It made quite a spread and kept both vegetarians and meat eaters happy. Plus, this menu helped me to not run into an issue of "not enough burners" on the stove. The key is to have a mix of casserole type dishes and then things that need to be finished just before serving.

        I didn't do appetizers with this, partly because the food was so much and a little on the heavy side. But, perhaps a caprese salad offering, some bruschetta, or cheese and tapenade could keep their mouths happy while they wait for the main event.

        1. Smaller bites:
          Stuffed mushrooms have been a favorite with my (formerly college age) sons. Shrimp cocktail is still very big at family events - low fat!
          A cold Italian antipasto made of marinated vegies, olives, italian cheeses and meats.
          I have thrown an antipasto platter together after a quick trip to Trader Joe's.

          1. You could do some fried bocconcini (sp?) for an ap. They're fairly easy...if you don't mind the frying. I think lasagna's a good idea and easy. Vitello Tonnato would be seasonally appropriate. You could offer eggplant parmesan or zucchini involtini for the vegetarian crowd. I would also offer a big salad with the meal. For dessert tiramisu...or something else really italian and pretty easy to like is affogato - vanilla ice cream with shots of espresso poured over...or I guess whatever ice cream you want.