Hit a dead end with my Italian Menu for large crowd
I think i've overthought this menu and now i'm turned around and dizzy : ) I could use my fellow cooks' wise advice and suggestions.
i'm having a pumpkin painting party/dinner for approx 22 adults and 15 kids. I know I want to lay out a big antipasto platter with bruschetta (w/pesto and mushrooms). Main menu: Jamie Oliver's Hunter Chicken (making this day before), a big pot of polenta (Thomas Keller), a tomato salad with goat cheese and walnuts. Dessert will be store bought cupcakes and cookies.
I would like to add one additional pasta dish that all the kids AND adults will love. I think it should be creamy, and the key is that it's EASY to make. If i can make the sauce ahead of time that would be helpful as I have a 6 month old and 2 yr old and for some reason i've taken it upon myself to invite a ridiculous number of people (KIDS!!) : ) thank you in advance for helping me!
Perhaps a mac n cheese using a novel pasta shape with some Italian touches like ricotta and mozzarella used in the sauce, some parmesan crouton type things for the crust, maybe some bits of pancetta or mild Italian sausage and sauteed mushrooms with the pasta?
You can bake it off the day before and just reheat the day of, and it would definitely appeal to adults and kids alike.
Does it have to be creamy pasta? You already have polenta for creaminess and not everyone likes creamy sauces (as a child, creamy pasta sauces turned my stomach but I have grown to be ok with them). A simple tomato-based sauce will be familiar to most people and is usually pretty popular. Plus it's easy to make.
How about a classic baked ziti (or other shape of pasta)? For the sauce, simply saute shallots and garlic in a saucepan and add two cans of crushed tomatoes, season with salt & pepper, simmer covered for about 20 minutes. Cook 2 boxes of pasta until the very al dente stage (about 5 minutes less than the box directions say). Combine a large container of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, grated parmiggiano and a couple of eggs in a bowl, season with a little salt & pepper. Mix pasta and ricotta mixture together with a few ladles of sauce. Pour this into a greased lasagna pan and ladle over more sauce, more shredded mozzarella and grated parmiggiano. Bake covered tightly with aluminum foil for approximately 30 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the top is nice and crusty. You can always do all of this up to the baking stage a day or two before. The day of the party take the pan out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature and then bake as directed, keeping in mind you may need more than 30 minutes for the covered baking time.
Of course this is all very basic and you may add whatever you like to the baked pasta: cooked sausage, crumbled meatballs, etc.