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Italian casserole?

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I am having a Valentine's Dinner Party for couples at our church. I have no idea (yet) how many people will be there, but I can safely guess between 10-18 couples. I will know when the tickets are sold.
I am thinking of having bruschetta at their tables, the buffet style for the main meal, and dessert served.
Is there a good casserole that isn't typical, ie: lasagna, pizza, or the like that I can use? I am trying to make it something that I can make a lot of, but without it being boring. Am I making any sense?
If you have a recipe, that would be wonderful also.

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  1. http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/itali...
    http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/It...

    1. How about a butternut squash lasagna?

      1. The trouble with bruschetta at the tables is that bruschetta does not improve with sitting around waiting, if that's what you meant. Salami, olives, and marinated vegetables with a basket of bread gives you more flexibility.

        As for the casserole, you can combine vegetables, mushrooms, bechamel, cheese, and optionally bits of ham with somewhat undercooked short pasta in a baking dish, top with dots of butter and some grated cheese and bake till brown. The proportions are variable and you skip the tedious layering of lasagne.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mbfant

          D'accordo! Te suggero usare ditalini.

          Translation: I agree! I suggest you use 'ditalini' (short pasta).

          1. re: mbfant

            I like your post mbfant.
            agree about the bruschetta, it can sog up quickly.
            also like the casserole idea.
            who wouldn't like a boatful of veggies with lots of wonderful fragrant mushrooms and bechamel lots of cheese butter and bits of meat strewn throughout, I'd sure be happy :)

            Always remember though, things like these types of pasta dishes can go dry really quickly.
            The pasta just sucks in all the liquid and you're left with dry and bland so timing is important also.
            Do you plan on setting this all up before and having in chaffing dishes or a buffet line?
            One big giant casserole serving dish?

          2. Giada's Chicken Tettrazini with a large salad would fit the bill. It's delicious and easy to make too. I switch out the spaghettin to ziti for easier serving squares though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mcel215

              Giada's Chicken Tettrazini is delicious!

              I also enjoy this Giada dish. I use less pasta (I like it saucier) and have added Italian sausage to take it a little further. You can also use any combo of vegetables you choose - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...

              Enjoy!

            2. I have made this Baked Ziti for small groups and it is very popular.Two things- bake it in a lasagna dish and use top ingredients, i.e. imported pasta and fresh sausage,olives, basil and cheeses.
              http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe...

              1. Just a few thoughts: the bruschetta, if you pre-assemble, will be a lot of trouble for you and will not hold particularly well at table - you might want to put out baskets of the bottoms, 1 per table, with bowls of topping (maybe keep it to two: classic tomato and a mushroom/onion one) so they can do it themselves....
                And, must the entree be pasta? In Italy, it wouldn't be. Maybe a baked chicken, cacciatore-style, with wine and herbs? A great white herb cacciatore is a beautiful inexpensive thing and most people really really love it. You could side it with a plain pasta - to serve over, and catch the juices.
                Enjoy Valentine's Day.

                1. Thank you for all the great suggestions! I will think on these.
                  :)

                  1. This is so delicious. I have made many times.

                    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: angelsmom

                      This looks great except for the nutty crust. Do you always use the pine nuts?

                    2. I really like Marcella Hazan's polpettine (meatballs) recipe, which is not traditionally served over pasta, but I'm sure you could do it that way if you want.

                      I also think chicken cacciatore is a good idea.

                      1. When I don't feel like making lasagne, I make cavatappi (short squiggly tubular pasta) with bolognese, bechamel, and parmigiano-reggiano. People aren't used to having a "baked ziti" kind of dish with two sauces, and it always gets raves.

                        I have a book of casseroles by Maryann Esposito, but I haven't made anything from it yet.

                        1. chicken, ziti,brocolli is always a hit and you can also make it with shrimp to change it up or have a variety.

                          1. This would move a bit into Greek world, but I think a moussaka would be lovely, unusual and unexpected, and you could even do a vegetarian one (in which you use a grain to replace the meat) if you have to worry about vegetarian diners.

                            1. I've gotta get the cookbook out where it's posted.
                              It sounds awful [what I'll post if I can find it].
                              Mom and I had it at an Easter buffet for the lady's club at her church years ago.
                              It made such an impressioin I had to include the idea in the family cookbook that I contributed to. Only problem was, I was going from memory of what was in line and the order it was presented. Hope I can find it. If not I'll try to think of something that could work. Sorry so vague ;:+(

                              1. How about an eggplant lasagna with red sauce and ricotta cheese? Or eggplant slices done rolled up with ricotta filling? Or stuffed shells with a spinach ricotta and olive filling in a light cream sauce. Or cheesy garlic bread over roasted veggies? Or make a pesto spread to go with roasted zucchini sticks. So many great ideas above too. Have fun!