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Italian main dish for 20-30 6th graders. Not pasta.

Every year the 6th graders have an ancient civilizations celebration. It is a day devoted to the ancient cultures they studied all year - Rome, Greece, India, China, and the Mediterranean. They have entertainment - belly dancers, Chinese dancers etc. Part of the celebration is a feast.

I'm responsible for bringing an Italian main dish to serve 20-30. I'm betting that the other parents bringing Italian are bringing pasta so I don't want to do pasta.

I need ideas for a dish that doesn't require keeping warm. I will drop it off at 11 and the kids will eat at approx 11:30. I have the morning to cook.


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  1. A panzanella. You can add whatever you want to it. I like to add bacon/prosciutto to something like this but you can vary it a lot:


    The short cut version, if you live near a Costco, is to buy their marinated bocconcini. Drain the bocconcini for the salad and add balsamic vinaigrette to the oil. You can also get the bread and tomatoes there, too.

    If you want to add extra flavor, toss the bread cubes into bacon fat.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chowser

      They have a category for salads already so I don't think the panzanella will work for this but I am going to book mark that recipe because it looks really good.

    2. How about a frittata? You can be as adventurous as you like...add ingredients like sun dried tomatoes, sautéed zucchini, roasted red peppers, and fresh basil. i well, and. Is perfect served at room temp.

      3 Replies
      1. re: critter101

        Oops, sorry, that was supposed to say it travels well and is perfect served at room temp.

        1. re: critter101

          This is something I'm considering. I just need to figure out how many to make and how much time to allow for each frittata.

          1. re: suburban_mom

            if you want to go this route, will be there be tons of other food? do lots of kids go for this sort of thing?

            i make an "egg-bake-thing" most weeks for myself, with 12 eggs in a 9x13 pan. you can easily do these in disposable pans, so make 4 or 5 pans. mine bake in about 30-40 mins. i prefer cooking them at 300, and they taste even better the next day.

        2. What about something like making little "personal pizzas" using portobello mushrooms instead of pizza crust? I am not experienced w/6th-grade palates re: mushrooms, but you could certainly mix up the toppings (some plain, some w/meat/olives/veg) to provide some variety. I think they would travel well and taste good at room temp; also not tricky to do in large batches. They're also a snap to prepare; put the mushrooms in the oven at 375 for about 5 minutes, then add your toppings (sauce, cheese, etc.) and bake for another 15-20 minutes until done.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pickledtink

            My daughter specifically requested I make something without mushrooms because she doesn't like them. Thanks for your suggestion though.

          2. Fried eggplant. Buy baby eggplants and peel them and slice lengthwise into thin strips. Boil some salted water. When water is boiling, add strips, turn off water and cover. Keep in hot water for 1/2 hr.
            Meanwhile, beat a few eggs with some milk. Keep some flour on the side. Dip in egg, then flour, then fry in shallow olive oil. So good!!

            1. Grilled Cod with Caponata

              Italian Lentil and Vegetable Stew (Crock would keep it warm)
              Italian wedding soup

              1. Porchetta. Slices well into sandwiches, serves warm or room-temp with a little arugula and caramelized onion.

                1 Reply
                1. re: wattacetti

                  A big hunk of meat is something I'm considering. I think it would balance all the pasta.

                2. Perhaps a minestrone or another Italian-style soup.. might be lukewarm by the time you get there though.

                  An Italian vegetable ragout with white beans may be better at room temp. You could make it meatless or include ground beef/ Italian sausage/ Italian chicken sausage.

                    1. re: tcamp

                      This would be a piece of cake made with the breaded eggplant from Trader Joes.

                    2. I love the fritatta idea - you can do it as finger food in squares stacked up on a tray.

                      Another one along those lines would be doing a firm polenta cut into squares...I did this once for the holidays mixing pesto into the polenta and topping it with a sliver of roasted bell pepper.

                      Or a polenta strata in casserole form...layers of polenta alternating with spinach/ricotta/pine nuts, or sausage/mushroom/onion, or tomatoes and fresh mozz and basil....

                      Crostini, bruschetta....

                      Little caprese skewers - a toothpick with cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella, and a piece of fresh basil....probably counts as a salad....

                      Meatballs - little ones with toothpicks...packed full of Italian flavors....

                      1. Ooh, what about an Italian style sub?
                        Make one big, long one and slice it into individual pieces. Use Italian meats, cheeses, and condiments.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: OhioHound

                          ohhhhh She could just do a giant italian platter antipasto with those little mozzerlla balls soaked in olive oil( our cosco has them) and some varitey of meats like pepperioni and meat balls..olives and stuff????

                        2. I would do meatballs in sauce. Bring some buns and the kids can make sliders. A modern take on a traditional favourite. Who doesn't love meatballs. If you bring them hot in a crockpot they'll stay warm for that 30 mins regardless of whether or not the pot is plugged in.

                          A fully room temp option would be bruschetta or focaccia.

                          1. i like the frittata idea too, but am just curious: are you supposed to bring something semi-roman? or just what americans consider to be italian food?

                            they weren't eating polenta or any kind of tomato anything -- those are new world foods.

                            dunno your budget, but roasted chicken drumsticks, marinated in lemon and either thyme or rosemary, could be done cheaply, are great at room-temp and don't need utensils. i can often get them for <$1 pp.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              The letter from the school specifies Italian for the food style. When my now senior was in 6th grade, he had Indian food for his class's contribution. I made chicken tikka. Way more exciting than Italian.

                              I do like the drumstick idea and maybe I could translate that into wing portions to extend the dish to more kids.

                              1. re: suburban_mom

                                the wings have so very little meat vs bone though. they never seem like a good value to me. perhaps your area is different.

                                1. re: suburban_mom

                                  How about chicken cacciatore? Otherwise my vote goes for meatballs with gravy or frittate.

                                  1. re: suburban_mom

                                    To get the excitement back up I'd definitely suggest you think "Roman" rather than "Italian." Not a single Italian person ever had a tomato until the Renaissance was well under way. How cool is that? A Google for ancient Roman recipes for kids brings up some good possibilities, including a frittata-like dish with honey and a hamburger-helper kind of dealie that might stay warm in foil for long enough.

                                    1. re: nokitchen

                                      there also was no "italy" until 1861 :)

                                      i mentioned this exact thing up-thread and don't know that meatballs or antipasti platters are anything but ho-hum to most kids.

                                      i could be totes wrong though.

                                      1. re: nokitchen

                                        I wonder if this is a country wide thing or the OP is in my area because we had the same assignments and teachers varied. Some wanted authentic and provided a list of acceptable ingredients/dishes (hard to find sometimes); others were free- for-all where fortune cookies were fine for ancient China. My friend's was the former and had the toughest time finding ancient Egyptian food that would not just be thrown out.

                                        Assuming this in the latter, what about a torta rustica? What kids wouldn't devour deep dish pizza?

                                        Egg based:


                                        Or layered:


                                        I fill it w/ whatever I have on hand. It can be served warm or room temp.

                                  2. I'd probably opt for salumi and cheese or meatballs. Both are very kid-friendly.

                                      1. If you can get fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and some nice tomatoes, how about a Caprese salad?

                                        1. A ricotta & prosciutto tart is good served warm or at room temp. This recipe looks tasty http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/18583...

                                          1. Not so much traditional Italian fare but deep-fried cheese ravioli with marinara dipping sauce is cheesy goodness.


                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: letsindulge

                                              These sound fantastic. I bet 6th graders would love these!