HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


What's your "go-to" recipe for a crowd?

With the summer upon us, and trips to the lake/beach/mountains on the horizon, I find myself thinking of the times when it's my turn to cook that day's meal for the group. There are usually 3-4 couples and some kids. My favorite idea last summer was shrimp tacos with cilantro slaw, chipotle cream, and then some sort of guacamole or avocado salad. I like something quick and easy that doesn't take all day - or that is easy to prepare after a day of cocktails in the sun! But I need some new ideas. Can you help?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My daughter was a water polo player and, at times, the whole team came over to eat after a game or tournament. These ladies have appetites that would shame a lumberjack! My go to "spread" was Lasagna (I think the recipe is Tyler Florence's from the Food Network) that weighs in at about five pounds per pan, a big pot of pasta e fagiole (for the vegetarians) and a huge Panzanella salad. The last time the team (college) was over, there were three pans of the Lasagna, the pasta e fagiole, the panzanella (had to make a second batch) and two sheet cakes. There were nearly no leftovers (22 women and coaches). I've also done pizzas on Weber barbecues on my in-laws farm for the haying crew. I've done do-it-yourself chili dogs for b-day parties (mixed adults and children) The Lasagna spread was easy because I could make the pans ahead of time and reheat them in the oven just before the crowd was due to arrive.

    2 Replies
    1. re: REFFI

      My go-to is definitely lasagna for a big, hungry crowd. I adjust it seasonally based on what vegetables are available but always add ground beef and hot Italian sausage. I only use red sauce in mine because that's the way we have always made it in my family. I also make my own Caesar salad dressing and croutons and that's always a big crowd pleaser. Those two things, a fresh loaf of good Italian bread and let someone else bring dessert.

      1. re: southernitalian

        This is funny. Because one of the "other" couples I'm often with at the beach always brings lasagne too! (So that's not an option for me, unfortunately.)

    2. For the summer time I like real Bratwurst simmered in beer and onions the night before and then grilled. I also steam clams and mussels in white wine with Old Bay seasoning. A pot of corn on the cob with butter and chili salt and a huge tosed salad. Everything is quick and hands on. Throw the shells and cobs in a garbage bag and everything else is basically cosumed. Don't forget the sauerkraut and mustard for the Brats.

      1. Grilled sausages and chicken (with lemon, garlic an rosemary) and roasted peppers, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes, tossed with green and black olives. Along with a salad and cut up fruit. fayedelicious.blip.tv

        1. Baked Ziti or a few trays of stuffed Manicotti - but that's too close to lasagna, so my other crowd menu is Sausage, Pepper & Onion Sandwiches- (on big rolls)
          Just grill the sausages (I use a mix of hot and sweet) and sweat a few sliced onions with a few sliced red bell peppers, add some tomato sauce to everything- spice it up a bit and let people fill up a roll. One time my neighbor introduced me to his chimi-churri type sauce on plain grilled sausages, and I've done that as well, just keep 1/3 of the sausages out of the peppers and onions.... His recipe is tons of garlic, a few green olives, parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper and I want to say he throws in jalapeno but I can't remember, -make it all super teeny tiny with your knife or use a food processor (I don't have one!) then cover in olive oil. I've made grilled flank steak sandwiches with that sauce also. I haven't met anyone who hates it...

            1. For summer (or indoor parties) I like to do no frill appetizers:
              - Melon wrapped with prosciutto
              - Tuna or Hamachi or Scallop ceviche
              - Tuna or Crab Meat Avocado Salad
              - Dessert: Super sweet strawberries with balsamic syrup or grilled peaches with molasses

                1. re: mar52

                  Can you share your recipe for this?

                  1. re: Aimee

                    Tamale Pie

                    5 large XLNT Tamales
                    1 pound ground beef (lean)
                    1 large onion, diced
                    2 cans tomato soup + one can water
                    1 can (small) tomato sauce
                    2 cans sliced olives, drained
                    1 can (small) golden hominy, drained
                    1 small can corn, drained
                    2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

                    Slice tamales into ½ inch pieces. Layer half of the slices on the bottom of a 2 – 3 quart casserole.

                    Saute the ground beef until done. Drain any fat from the beef. Add onions, 2 cans of tomato soup, the can or water, tomato sauce, olives, corn and hominy. Cook until everything is well combined.

                    Pour over the tamales in the casserole, cover with the remaining tamale slice and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.

                    Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

                2. being korean, my go-to dish for a crowd is always grilled korean short ribs (kalbi)...you can marinate it the night before, grill it at the park and eat it wrapped up in lettuce leaves and a smudge of ssamjang (fermented bean paste, chili bean paste, sesame oil, garlic, green onions and sesame seeds)...i also like to put a little spoonful of steamed rice in my lettuce package.

                  i'm terrible w/ recipes, but i'm sure hannaone has one posted somewhere...:o)

                  1 Reply
                  1. My sister makes a wonderful appetizer that's really tasty and super easy to prepare:

                    All you have to do is buy some fresh asparagus, and steam it, leaving it a little crunchy. Next, take pieces of deli ham and spread a thin layer of cream cheese on one side. Place a piece of asparagus on the cream-cheese side of the ham and roll it up. She cuts them into 1/2 inch bite-sized pieces, which makes them perfect for sharing.

                    1. My go-to is Frogmore stew. One pot and you can switch it up to use whatever fresh seafood is available.

                      1. I like to make a large pan of Savannah red rice; add in some cut-up kielbasa and shrimp. Pans of cornbread on the side.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: anni

                          I would love the recipe for your Savannah red rice!

                        2. I make a big batch of bbq pork in the crock pot. Pork shoulder, onions, water, cloves on low for 9 - 10 hours. Shred and add Sweet Baby Ray's bbq sauce and serve with crunchy cole slaw, soft buns, ketttle chips, fruit salad and beers and margaritas. You can even make ahead and freeze and then just heat and eat. Also great leftover to have for quick lunches for whoever is hungery the next day.


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: eatmyfood

                            Your a person after my own heart! I love Sweet Baby Ray's sauce and I do pork ribs in my crock pot to pre cook 6 - 8 hours, then onto the BBQ or into an oven and baste with sauce a few times to finish and caramelize them and crisp they edges (the best part!). Always with coleslaw on the side and gotta have the beer and margaritas

                          2. Enchiladas for sure! Any kind of filling and you can get the beans and rice from a local mexican place if you have a favorite, with a big salad, it's perfect for a group and it's great as left overs.

                            A couple of roast chickens are great, too.

                            We've done a pizza bar before and grilled the pizzas right on the grill. Buy your pizza dough from Trader Joe's if you have one, or from your local pizza joint. Set up all of the toppings and you're ready to go! This is a great one for the kids especially. And you have very little clean up!

                            Arroz con pollo, you can do this on the stovetop almost like paella, or in the oven to do it without having to watch it at all.

                            1. We always started our summer vacation with meatballs and spaghetti. You make meatballs and sauce at home, freeze and bring in the frozen state. If making spaghetti is inconvenient you can bring some crusty rolls and have meatball sandwiches.

                              1. For the summer, when we have a multigenerational crowd, we usually grill a few flank steaks, serve with home-made potato salad and/or corn on the cob, and a big tossed salad. For desert, strawberry shortcake or fresh fruit salad. Or, in lieu of the flank steak, simply grilled burgers, hot dogs, and brats. Nothing very fancy but tastes great, especially if everyone has been active, and easy to prepare.

                                1. I have often pre-cooked jambalaya upto the seafood stage. It travels well and heats great. Bring to temp, throw in the seafood and a little green onion, about 5 minute or so and it is a meal.

                                  1. Some alternatives:

                                    1. Fish cioppino (I'm alergic to shellfish).

                                    2. Musubi, teriyaki, and quick cucumber pickles.

                                    3. Taco line: stack of heated corn tortillas; cooked ground meat w/cumin, salt, pepper; grated cheese; diced seeded tomato; shredded lettuce; homemade HOT sauce. Always count on eight per person.

                                    4. Laap, rice, lots of leaves, green papaya salad, Lao sausages.

                                    1. I'll often do BBQ beef and a big bowl of coleslaw. Homemade hamburger buns and tortillas available to wrap up the beef. The BBQ beef is done in the crock pot, and is insanely easy and delicious. The coleslaw tastes better after it's been sitting in the fridge a day, anyway. The homemade hamburger buns are fussy, but worth it! They freeze well.

                                      Another common largish-crowd easy meal we do: grilled salmon, grilled Amish bread, big bowl of tossed salad. I let the breadmaker do the work making the dough for the grilled bread, so I just need to time that properly, but it requires very little effort. I form the dough into very rustic oblong disks, coat in olive oil, kosher salt, and whatever fresh herbs I have on hand, and grill for a few minutes. It's amazing, and so fast and easy.

                                      1. Paella, most of the prep work can be done in advance and the final cooking done over a grill while drinks are indulged.

                                        Simple and non fussy is Italian sausage sandwiches on a good baguette and a pasta salad, grill some peppers and onions to top. Grill some fresh peaches after and serve with some vanila ice cream.

                                        1. A version of frogmore stew -

                                          Just heap it up on serving trays with plenty of drawn butter, cocktail sauce, dinner rolls. There's something for everyone. And when my brother and his picky eater family joins us, I split it all up - potatoes and sausage in one pot, then add the corn to that pot, steam the shrimp separately (they don't think they'd 'like it' if the sausage and potatoes were steamed with the shrimp).......Whatever - it's still an easy dinner.....

                                          1. I generally start with a grilled vegetable antipasto, then put a couple of small turkeys (8-10 lbs) on the grill and cook them over wood --either mesquite or hickory. That, plus a big salad and some cornbread usually does the job. By the time they've had enough Mai Tais (see below) your guests are in heaven.

                                            Mai Tais for a crowd:
                                            2C sweet and sour mix (Mr.and Mrs. T)
                                            2C tropical juice (mauna lai paradise passion)
                                            2C rum (light or dark)
                                            1C mango nectar (Looza or Goya)
                                            1/2C grenadine

                                            Mix, Freeze, Serve (Don't forget the paper umbrellas). It's a good idea to put these into plastic half gallon milk containers and put them in the freezer. Take them out already frozen and let them defrost while you're tending to the turkeys.

                                            Makes about 2 Quarts

                                            1. For the (carnivorous) main course- pernil (latin roast pork shoulder), london broil, carne asada. My husband's extended family is about 25-35 people, so I've had to learn quickly. It doesn't hurt that these cuts of meat are among the most affordable too. Summer side dishes- rice with cilantro and lime, corn on the cob, capri-ish salad (throw together fresh mozz balls, grape tomatoes, torn basil, oil and vinegar), Nigella's watermelon feta salad, ceviche(put it together in the morning and it'll be done marinating by dinner), lentil salad, fattoosh, maybe soup if it's not too hot, served in coffee mugs so you don't have to find bowls and people can walk around...this reminds me, it's time for me to throw a party!

                                              1. Our favorite is cochinita pibil with fresh corn tortillas, homemade salsas, borracho beans and guacamole. In Denver the avocados are 2 for $3.00 now, so I'd substitute a green salad for the guacamole.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Pampatz

                                                  How do you make your cochinita pibil? Do you wrap it in leaves or parchment or something? Thanks!

                                                2. For me it's one of 4 items. On the grill:
                                                  Spicy new Orleans Shrimp
                                                  Pizza's made to order
                                                  In the kitchen it's jambalaya. W/ rice, a little goes a long way.

                                                  1. Lasagne is my go to ,but since your friends supply it, I'd go with another one "pot" dish.....a mock Shepherds Pie...Take a couple pounds of ground beef, brown and drain, ad a large can of Manwich and finish simmering.
                                                    Get a large bag of frozen mixed veg, place in colander and run water until defrosted, drain thoroughly.
                                                    Mix the veg with some sour cream ...16oz+-..set aside.
                                                    Take a 5 lb bag of redskins and boil as for making mashed potatos...leave skins on.
                                                    After cooking until fork tender, drain well and add your butter, milk or cream, S&P, and whipped cream cheese... (I know this is a heart attack in a pan, but its not for everynight...and you can play with lightening it up)....make these mashed potatos slighly tighter then usual...
                                                    Layer your beef mixture, veg, and top generously with the mashed potatos......dust with paprika if you want a little color and bake for 40 minutes +- at 350.
                                                    Very hearty quick and easy .

                                                    1. Frogmore stew or Paella!

                                                      1. Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback. There are some great ideas here - and for drinks and snacks as well! I look forward to hearing more of them - and I might be asking for some specifics later on particularly for preparing the pork and beef dishes. Thanks!

                                                        1. Grilled flatbread pizza. It's cheap, easy & quick. You can buy the dough already made at the store...Season the dough w/ some olive oil, salt, pepper & herbs & grill over medium-high heat. Flip the dough & while the other side cooks, add your toppings. You can put it under the broiler at the end to melt the cheese. Just make sure to stretch the dough out enough so it's thin...One ball of dough makes two thin pizzas usually.

                                                          1. Green grapes lightly coated with sour cream, sprinkled with brown sugar. Nothings faster, sounds weird, tastes great. Awesome for summer.