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Jan 14, 2011 11:40 AM

need ideas for authentic italian for a crowd

i have to make a large amount of some italian dish(es) for a large crowd for a school affair. the dish has to really represent italian cuisine (vs. just some pasta with something thrown in) .
i'd love some ideas.

i was thinking of the following:
Turkey meatballs and pasta
pasta with italian sausage and greens
baked ziti
proscutto and melon (wrapped)
chicken Cacciatore - with chicken thighs
fusili with shrimp and arugula

and just how hard to make (espec. in quantity) are rice balls?


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  1. If you are making "authentic" Italian food it would tend to be seasonal, so that would eliminate basil pesto and proscuitto with melon (that proscuitto would get expensive for a crowd.) Neither turkey meatballs nor baked ziti are very Italian, more Italian-American. Chicken thighs could be great, the fusili strikes me as a summer dish. I'll take a look through me Italian cook books and see what looks good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      I thought southern italy had baked pasta?

      1. re: flies

        Well, they do, but once a dish becomes something that is served in school cafeterias it just seems to me its hard to call it authentic Italian anymore. Most of the Italian dishes that have become an everyday food for us Americans came from the south because it was the poor southerners who jumped on the boat and came here for a better life.

    2. Authentic lasagna alla Bolognese is great to feed a crowd - it can be prepared in large trays in advance and just baked off. Rice balls (arancini) are actually pretty easy to make, especially out of leftover risotto, but they are really best served hot from the fryer IMO, so unless you have a fryer available at your venue I wouldn't recommend them.

      1 Reply
      1. re: biondanonima

        i was gonna say, you will never disappoint me with a well-made lasagna.

      2. How much do you need to make, how long will it take you to bring it to the school and serve it, what course are you providing, and how much do you plan to spend?

        My first thought was something with butternut squash or pumpkin. A risotto would be lovely but that needs to be served soon after it's made, so might not work. Can you find any pasta stuffed with pumpkin or orange squash? That would be lovely topped with sage/brown butter sauce and parmesan cheese, and would travel much better.

        Frittate are very nice served at room temperature and you can make them with just about anything. I often use spaghetti, rice, or any type of cooked vegetable (all with cheese, of course).

        Rotolo would also work nicely. There are many recipes on the internet. This one looks pretty good, though I haven't made it myself:

        Why don't you go to the library and check out a copy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking? Her recipes are delicious, for the most part VERY easy, and have always been popular in my experience.

        1. Is this for a buffet or a sit-down meal?

          2 Replies
          1. re: smtucker

            buffet. it's for a big event that shows the kids food from several different countries and i'm doing italy. kids and parents from k-12.

            1. re: redgirl

              How many servings are you planning on? If it's a baked dish, are you going to have some way to keep it warm or will it need to be room temp? BTW "just a pasta with something thrown in" is quite "authentic" :)

              ETA: how much are you willing to spend? Some of the things mentioned could get quite expensive.

          2. This thread made me think about what I ate when in Italy (rome-naples-amalfi).

            Simple antipasto (sp?)-small plates with cured meats, olives, white anchovies, marinated mushrooms, fresh mozz and maybe some roasted red pepper.

            Parmesano Reggiano cheese!

            Fried zucchini blossoms.

            White bean soup.

            Pasta vongole-pasta with white clam sauce.

            Stuffed pasta such as ravioli.


            Branzino or other whole fish with just olive oil, lemon, garlic and parsley.

            Simple hot and cold shellfish dishes squid salad, small shrimp with garlic butter etc....

            Simple roasted vegetables with olive oil and balsamic

            Veal dishes. Still the main reason I go to Italian restaurants.


            3 Replies
            1. re: AdamD

              fish for a crowd will be expensive, and having it on a buffet in any event is not pratical.

              1. re: alkapal

                Just letting the ideas flow without knowing the context. Given the setting, obviously fried blossoms are not a good idea.
                In this context, I would suggest:
                An antipasto, a bean soup, a simple salad with parm curls and artichokes, a shellfish dish like squid salad or shrimp with garlic, roasted eggplant with balsamic glaze, ravioli, veal marsala, and gelato.

                1. re: AdamD

                  eggplant is so versatile. i just saw a load of "different" eggplant recipes. i like to do rollatini stuffed with ricotta plus herbs with a savory tomato sauce.

                  it is good warm or room temp.