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first time Pasta Bar party - cooking tips?

m
meyeri Dec 1, 2011 06:33 AM

Hi everyone,

Any tips for a "pasta bar" party/cooking pasta servings to order?

We're having about eight friends over for a pasta dinner the night before they run a marathon (so ten people total). We thought a "pasta bar" would be fun, and would let everyone choose exactly what they'd like to eat (since they'll be racing the next morning...one friend has said he'll want to eat only plain pasta, others will probably want to avoid rich creamy sauces etc).

One of our favorite restaurants does a pasta bar and makes it look easy...they have a couple of chefs with saute pans and you choose your ingredients (veggies, meats, sauce, pasta, cheese) and they cook up individual servings...Typical ingredients: onions, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, peas, fresh spinach, chicken, bacon, various kinds of pasta (already cooked), white sauce and marinara, Parmesan.

If anyone has done this at home I'd really appreciate and tips, tricks or suggestions! The pasta bar at the restaurant is SO good...I'm wondering what is their secret, and is this worth trying at home? (or will I just end up with something boring and gummy).

The things I'm considering:

How to keep the pasta hot but not sticky? (oil? but then the sauce won't stick). Reheat in boiling water? (the restaurant doesn't do that).

How hot to make the saute pan? (I think they make it really hot). I'd like to use minimal oil, just to keep it from being too rich.

Any tips on the order of adding ingredients? (I'd assume quick-saute onions, garlic and peppers first...doesn't seem like the restaurant cooks them for too long...then things like mushrooms and and cooked chicken, then pasta and spinach). They often add a splash of wine, but can't remember when. Or would it be better to pre-cook the vegetables and just mix everything together?

I'm wondering if it's a good idea to do a white sauce...might be too heavy. Does anyone have a great, maybe lighter, recipe that would sit well in a pot?

Any other ideas or thoughts...?

Thanks so much!

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  1. ROCKLES RE: meyeri Dec 1, 2011 08:00 AM

    Only thing I can help with is to just slightly undercook the pasta and drain, then warm it up to finish in the sauce. I know they cook the pasta and then drain and add a bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Good luck , sounds great. Maybe if you can, ask the pasta bar, they are usually very helpful

    1 Reply
    1. re: ROCKLES
      m
      meyeri RE: ROCKLES Dec 7, 2011 08:04 AM

      Thanks Rockles!

      We tried the cooked to order pasta and it worked out pretty well. We ended up just rinsing the noodles...they didn't stick in the time it took to cook for 10 people. We pre-chopped all the ingredients before the guests arrived and cooked two pans at a time (for up to two people in each pan)...onions and peppers first and adding a big splash of wine with the mushrooms, pre-cooked (grilled) chicken, etc. (artichokes, sundried tomatoes, and olives were also popular). At the end we added a big handful of spinach and then we finished off with lots of chopped basil, grated parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. It turned out well & our guests loved it...though still a lot slower than the pasta bar & cooking so quickly doesn't seem to give the flavors as much time to meld - we'll have to keep experimenting :-)

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