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Spaghetti at a dinner party?

Is there any pasta dish fancy or special enough to serve at a dinner party?

While I have had success with homemade fettucini and DO know that that degree of preparation leads to delicious and pleasing results, I'm really hoping to find a use for some of the Barilla spaghetti rigati I was sent in bulk. Can it be jazzed up, or should I just explore other (slightly less convenient) avenues?

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  1. pasta with a nice lobster sauce can be good. Fancy and special dont have to be the same thing. there is a big difference between a spaghetti dinner held in a gym by the cub scouts and a pasta dinner prepared lovingly for guests with good wine and fabulous conversation. Heck a milllion Itlian Grandmascant be wrong

    7 Replies
    1. re: girloftheworld

      I had a wonderful linguine with lobster at Street & Co. In Portland, ME. http://www.streetandcompany.net/home

      There was a whole lobster in that dish though so it ain't cheap.

      1. re: girloftheworld

        I so agree with you--it helps to be in the company of loving friends.

        Unfortunately I'm cursed with a shellfish allergy so I will never know the joys of lobster sauce :(

        1. re: cooktease

          Your shell fish allergy is really unfortunate cooktease. If you're also serving salmon do you want a pasta side dish or main dish?

          How about a spaghetti in an alfredo dill type sauce with the salmon lightly mixed into the pasta? With lots of dill (and of course garlic too) and freshly grated parmesan? One of my favorite pastas.

          1. re: Jeanne

            I'm confused. OP didn't mention salmon. ???

              1. re: coll

                Oops, obviously I didn't read everything. Then forget the rec for carbonara also. OP is obviously look for a side dish.

            1. re: Jeanne

              I love that idea! Thank you, I think I'll go that direction!

        2. At times to make things "special enough" for a dinner party, you might just want to take the simpler route and be a little more soignée with your plating. Or at least more than I did the last time I served Barilla with some ramp pesto.

           
          1 Reply
          1. Somebody boycotting Barilla send their already-bought pasta to you? Happily, I only had one box to chuck, and the squirrels ate it once I mixed it with peanut butter.

            Seriously, though, if I were serving spaghetti to guests I'd make it known ahead of time, and make it clear they should feel free to dress down. No reason to ruin a favorite article of clothing with a fatty splash of tomato or other sauce. I'd serve Spaghetti Carbonara and call it Thanksgiving a la Trillin (google it).

            8 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              One of my faves is Hazan's carbonara. A little arugula salad with OO and vinegar and shaved Parm. Some bread. Sparkling rose' (a rec from the Wine board a few years ago). Simple but everyone always seems to think it's special. And no tomato-splashing :)

              1. re: greygarious

                Seriously? You would warn your social circle? You're worried about 'ruining' things? I didn't specify tomato sauce in the initial post, but even if I had, I'm glad I'm not surrounded by people as fussy as you. That's no party at all.

                1. re: greygarious

                  Your friends are that uptight (and clumsy) that you have to *warn* them when serving tomato based dishes? I assume you also don't serve red wine, beets, dark sauces or gravies? only clear based soups and liquids?

                  Never mind that a traditional carbonara can really leave a stain, especially on silk. Would you tell the men to leave the ties at home and the gals to wear washable cotton?

                  1. re: foodieX2

                    How about lobster bibs, and be done with it!

                    1. re: coll

                      LOL! Somehow I think that grey would consider any kind of bib to be gauche.

                      1. re: foodieX2

                        Retro/fun would be my take. Start the party off on the right foot! .

                        1. re: foodieX2

                          Not at all - ponchos all around, for all I care! Plenty of people - including CH posters - mention consideration of what they're wearing before choosing a restaurant cuisine or before making their menu choice. Unless you're klutzy, you can probably manage wine, gravy, etc. But stringy foods splash and drip more. If I know there's going to be wet strands of food, I'm not wearing something light-colored that can only be dry-cleaned.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            My apologies for implying otherwise.

                  2. Do you have a sauce or prep in mind? Some are more "fancy" and easy to pull off than others. And how many are you serving? And what else is on the menu? This would n help me give you suggestions.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                      I'm happy to go in any direction with sauce or preparation.

                      Other things being served: a coconut curry butternut squash soup, broiled salmon and I've made a simple syrup with fresh ginger that'll probably go in bourbon based cocktails.

                      1. re: cooktease

                        Ok, then I would do a simple pasta sauce like an aglio olio (oil & garlic) or butter and herbs if serving it with the salmon. You don't want to be competing with the fish with a tomato or meat sauce.

                        If serving it as a separate course, then you can be a bit more adventurous with ingredients & flavors.

                        1. re: cooktease

                          My thought was something like this sauce served on the pasta with your broiled salmon on top (not shredded and mixed in). Sometimes I add peas or capers. Just not sure how it will work with a coconut curry soup as the starter.

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

                          Or this: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...

                          Or how about something like this, but maybe cut down on the jalapenos ?
                          http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                      2. I'd make Cacio e Pepe and serve it as a second dish in small and elegant portions. It takes a bit of practice, but once you've got it down (took me 3-4 tries), it's delicious and elegant.

                        http://talesofambrosia.com/2013/03/04...

                        1. I do a lot of dinner parties at my own place and the dish I make most often is spaghetti bolognese. It's very hard to go wrong making it.

                          If I was taking spaghetti to someone else's house, I would probably go with a pesto sauce (like the one recommended by wattacetti) as they do better cold.

                          1. I live in Kansas City, and everyone I know is extremely casual, there really is no such thing in my life as a formal dinner party. If you wear slacks and not jeans, it's pretty darn fancy. I have enjoyed lovely spaghetti and meatball suppers with friends, and it was delightful because I love them and the spaghetti was fine. The pasta was from a box and the meatballs were divine. The wine is usually excellent, and the company is even better. I don't really understand formality. I am sure it has its place. Just not in my life I guess.

                            1. My grandmother, who hosted a lot of formal dinner parties, thought nothing of serving individual chicken pot pies on good china and sterling silver. Everyone loved them. I've also been guests at very formal dinners in Italy where pasta was served as one of the courses.

                              There's a mistake in assuming that if you're having a formal dinner party then the food must be fussy. That's not the case. If the food looks and tastes good, you're fine. Even a plain homemade tomato sauce and rigati, served in small pretty bowls, will look just as nice anything more "fussy" and will probably be enjoyed more. Of course it helps to have good wines too ;)

                              1. My brother had a pasta party with a variety of pasta sauces and let the guests try what they like. He set it up like a salad bar, buffet style, with the sauces, cheese toppings, breads and garlic, olive oil, etc. different wines. It was fun.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: BobbieSue

                                  I forgot to mention he also had a few different pastas as well.

                                2. Pasta for a dinner party is fine, but specifically spaghetti takes some thought, as you have realized. Make it both easy to cook and easy to eat.

                                  Easy to cook means as little as possible to do after the guests have arrived. The 10 or so minutes while the pasta is actually cooking are available to you for work because you don't want to abandon the cooking pasta on the stove. Avoid anything like carbonara or cacio e pepe that are tricky to make in quantity and require a certain tranquility of mind and careful temperature control. They're too risky.

                                  Easy to eat means nothing too oily or tomatoey. A small amount of tomato and lots of cheese, which helps the pasta stick together and makes it easier to twirl and keep on the fork.

                                  Unfortunately tomatoey and oily sauces are the ones that go best with spaghetti.

                                  So what does that leave you? Not bolognese (which does NOT go with spaghetti in any case), which is too heavy for the rest of your menu, as would be any meat sauce containing pieces of meat. Meat sauce in which meat has been cooked and then removed would do, but add plenty of cheese to the pasta before adding the sauce. Gricia (like carbonara without the egg) goes well with spaghetti and would work if you can get good guanciale or pancetta. "Umido di cipolla" (there's a recipe in "Sauces & Shapes") is made of onions cooked till very soft with a small amount of tomato, so that would work. Another that's good with long pasta is crema di peperoni, pureed roasted bell peppers.

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: mbfant

                                    For some reason, I had the feeling the OP really meant "pasta" not "spaghetti" from the mention of "fetticini", "rigate" and "fancy pasta dish". If that is the case, I was going to suggest some type of stuffed pasta like ravioli, but to me the rigati is fancy enough for most purposes. Maybe with a primavera sauce? Spaghetti is more for family type meals in our house.

                                    1. re: mbfant

                                      I like the 'tooth' of rigati. Depending on how many courses you are planning a heavy pasta like rigati can be pretty filling.
                                      How about making a light aioli type sauce? This is one I sort of accidently discovered: In a food processor add six hard cooked egg yolks. Six whole garlic cloves which have been blanched. At the lowest speed drizzle in enough good OO to make a light thin dressing. S&P. Add a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice to your taste. Toss this into the steaming hot rigati. Dress with some capers.
                                      I like to add a teaspoon of anchovy paste to the processor at the beginning. It's optional.
                                      In some places along the Mediterranean coast they toss in an anchovy into pretty much every savory dish.
                                      No cheese.

                                      1. re: Puffin3

                                        You are confusing rigati (an adjective that means ridged and yes, there is ridged spaghetti) with rigatoni, a ridged tubular pasta.

                                        1. re: greygarious

                                          When I hear "rigati" this is what I think of (not Ronzoni though)
                                          http://pasta-products-ronzoni.newworl...

                                          Rigatoni is fat penne rigate.

                                          1. re: coll

                                            Rigatoni have nothing to do with penne except that they are both tubular. The opening of penne is quite a bit smaller and penne are cut on the bias, rigatoni straight across.

                                            I had never heard of spaghetti rigati till today. Indeed Barilla makes them, but I don't THINK they're a traditional shape. In any case, whereas it's true that the righe of pasta rigata help a little to grab the sauce, what is more important is the texture of the pasta itself, which should be quite rough. Rough-surfaced pasta (extruded through bronze) doesn't just make the sauce stick, it actually absorbs the sauce, which is better.

                                            1. re: mbfant

                                              Maureen, I've tried the Barilla spaghetti rigati, and it;s an unusually odd and unpleasant cut--neither fish nor fowl. I've never seen the form outside the Barilla line, either.

                                              1. re: mbfant

                                                I guess I was picturing ziti, which I know is NOT ridged but has the straight cut. I use both of those interchangeably myself,I even mix together. I'm not a purist by any means: It's all a big happy tubular family to me.

                                                My true favorite though is mezzi rigatoni, for something a little different.

                                        2. re: mbfant

                                          This Sicilian pesto, with cherry tomatoes and almonds, would go well with spaghetti.

                                          http://www.lidiasitaly.com/recipes/de...

                                          1. re: mbfant

                                            Thank you for the very thoughtful comment!

                                            You are right--I am talking specifically about spaghetti. Barilla was promoting a relatively new pasta shape which they call "spaghetti rigati," basically spaghetti with ridges. I do like a lot of things about it--it holds sauce better than typical spaghetti, and it's great when you just want something quick and convinient. But I would not call it "fancy" or "special" on its own.

                                            Thank you for introducing me to umido di cipolla--that looks lovely and do-able.

                                            Really great information on this thread in general. Thank you everyone for taking my query so seriously!

                                            I do have some weird confounding variables, like the fact that my housemates like to keep a kosher kitchen, so the meal is kosher dairy (no pancetta in house for me). But both of your recommendations look great and will probably go well with my main course.

                                            Thank you everyone! Luckily my friends are mostly arty bohemian New Yorkers for whom a home cooked meal is a novelty in and of itself. I think this will go well!

                                            Thanks again!

                                            1. re: cooktease

                                              I looked up Barilla spaghetti rigati and it looks interesting. I've never had a ridged spaghetti before but anything that keeps the sauce from sliding off appeals to me as I am a big sauce person. Maybe an Arabiata sauce would work with your menu? I think I'll try a meat sauce with my spaghetti rigati as soon as I buy some more pasta. Currently the pantry is full.

                                              1. re: Berheenia

                                                Also try buccatini sometime, it is marvelous with a thick sauce.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Thanks I have tried it and didn't care for it at all- it was too too dense a pasta for me.

                                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                                      Luckily there are hundreds of pasta shapes, something for everyone ;-) Buccatini is very heavy, I agree. I also like angel hair, for something lighter and more elegant.

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        I wouldn't call bucatini heavy, properly prepared. It's more resilient than spaghetti, and can, as a result, be a little harder to manage neatly in the plate. But I find it extremely satisfying, and the form works beautifully with ragu and heartier sauces.

                                                        1. re: bob96

                                                          Personally I love it! But I can see that others might find it too different, if only used to the usual suspects.

                                            2. I frequently prepare sofrito with ample garlic and oil, add clams, mussels, and shrimp, and serve over linguini, and yes, grated romano. I know which friends have dietary restrictions or preferences.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                Unfortunately the OP has a shellfish allergy. Your sauce sounds good though. I often do Fra Diablo with a mix of everything for company myself.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  And the OP is already planning to serve coconut curry butternut squash soup as a starter and broiled salmon as the main entree.

                                                  But yes, that does sound good. I just might need to make some kind of clams/mussels/shrimp over pasta dish today.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    I missed the fine print not in the original post.

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      It's OK I do that myself all the time!

                                                      1. re: coll

                                                        More fine print - kosher also. I can't be of help.

                                                2. Don't forget that OP is serving pasta as a SIDE DISH with a coconut curry butternut squash soup and broiled salmon. I missed that first time around!

                                                  46 Replies
                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Pasta is usually served as a first course, not a side dish. That's how I would do it anyway. She didn't say it was a side dish necessarily.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      In an Italian meal, yes. With that soup and the salmon, I'm betting not.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        I've never had pasta served with anything else (beside some bread), but maybe that's just in this part of the world. I don't even know how that would be accomplished...on the same plate with the salmon filet?

                                                        1. re: coll

                                                          Yep. And it's probably just in your "crowd." "Pasta" isn't necessarily only part of an Italian meal.

                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                            Could have fooled me, and my "crowd" ;-)

                                                            So when is pasta not a part of an Italian meal, just out of curiosity.

                                                            1. re: coll

                                                              You may want to start a thread about that. You might be surprised. I serve pasta frequently that's not part of an Italian meal.

                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                  Are we talking "pasta" or "noodles"? Just curious, examples?

                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                    Well, I suppose you now need to differentiate between your "pasta" and your "noodles."

                                                                    I can't think of a 'shape' that I haven't served as a side dish for any number of dishes. But, again, I think this is a topic for its own thread if anyone is inclined.

                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                      pasta. Thought I still consider egg noodles to be pasta.

                                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                                        Orzo is pasta, right. Macaroni? But, honestly, I use "pasta" as in long things like linguine as a side dish for, say, grilled chicken. With some kind of green as the other side dish. I'm surprised that coll hasn't heard of such a thing.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          yes orzo is pasta and one of my favorite uses is Ina's roasted veggie one. Not what I consider "Italian".

                                                                          I make lots of pasta salads in the summer. I use various shapes of pastas in lots of soups (chicken noodle, pho and other asian soups, etc) Another favorite in our house is dan dan noodles which I make with spaghetti when I don't have rice noodles.

                                                                          And as you do pasta is often a side dish too.

                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                            Oh, sheesh, I totally neglected all the Asian pastas! BTW, Andrea Nguyen's pho is great!

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              just googled and that does look really good!

                                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                VERY good! I make the broth in a LARGE stockpot and then freeze in serving size portions. Super easy then to have a wonderful couple of bowls of pho.

                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                  brilliant! It's making the broth that often stops me from making pho because it a big time commitment. You inspired me to make big batch!

                                                                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                    YAY! It's quite luxurious to be able to say 'hey, let' have pho.' :)

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      and not have to go out! (which is what I usually do when the craving strikes)

                                                                          2. re: c oliver

                                                                            Do I sound like a 'Greens" kind of girl? Not that I don't haven't heard, or even made, them, but I don't think pasta as an accompaniment. Unless you are talking mac and cheese, which I feel confident in saying is not pasta.

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              What's a "'Greens' kind of girl"? You lost me with that one.

                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                When I make "pasta" the only greens that go in there are fresh herbs, or maybe some spinach.

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  So you don't serve a green vegetable along with pasta? Okey dokey.

                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                    Not usually no. Unless you count salad.

                                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                                So even italian foods you don't serve pasta on side?

                                                                                What about things like veal scaloppine? One of my favorite dishes I ate at a small place outside of Vinci and it was served with garlicky greens and pasta as an accompaniment.

                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                  Not on the side, as a first course. I can't comment on your experience since I wasn't there, but I too have been in Italy and there is usually a progression of courses. Not all at once. Pasta and then the meat.

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    There was progression of courses, in this case pasta was not one of them and the sautéed greens were such as what you find in the states-swiss chard. Though I had many others when living there- kale, turnip, rapini to name a few

                                                                          3. re: coll

                                                                            Mac and cheese, or macaroni salad with celery & relish & and mayonnaise don't seem Italian to me, but I get the point.

                                                                            1. re: BangorDin

                                                                              I get YOUR point.

                                                                              Not that wiki is the be all and end all, but here is some concrete info:

                                                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasta

                                                            2. re: c oliver

                                                              Yes yes, but I'm curious philosophically about the serving of pasta at parties in general, so I'm glad for the added conversation. I've learned a lot!

                                                              1. re: cooktease

                                                                You may want to start a thread about that. Especially since coll has never heard of pasta as not being part of an Italian meal.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    Isn't that what this thread is already? I left out excessive specific detail in the original post for that reason, and the replies seem to be mostly addressing pasta in general.

                                                                    After all, there will be future dinner parties.

                                                                    1. re: cooktease

                                                                      Yes, but now you're digressing to generic discussions so will miss feedback. I don't care as I'm quite comfortable with my "PASTA" use.

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        As far as I'm concerned, pasta means Italian. Noodles are Chinese and egg noodles are Jewish/Eastern European. Orzo is middle eastern. Mac and cheese, 100% American. Maybe some will disagree but this is how I see it. I think this is an argument that no one can win, I'm sorry you don't want to see it that way. Pasta means Italian....Americans used to say Macaroni, same difference. Just sticking up for my heritage.

                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                          Er, weren't you the one who said that all pasta is Italian? Sorry. "Pasta" is a generic term. Egg noodles are Jewish? Orzo is Middle Eastern? Macaroni? Definitely Italian. It's not an argument at all IMO. It's just what is and isn't.

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            Now I see why we aren't in sync. Where does the word pasta come from then?

                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasta

                                                                              So, what about egg noodles, orzo, macaroni? Aren't they all pastas?

                                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                                No read your link: "Pasta is a staple food[1] of traditional Italian cuisine". Macaroni is just an old fashioned word for pasta, used, not sure if used by Italians as much as not.

                                                                          2. re: coll

                                                                            Orzo is middle eastern?? I may be mistaken but I thought Orzo is the Italian/latin name for barley. When I lived there it was most often packaged as risoni but you still saw it called orzo as well.

                                                                            1. re: foodieX2

                                                                              Orzo is pasta that is shaped like wheat (or perhaps barley, if you have a good imagination).

                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                Oh I *know* it is pasta that is supposed be shaped like small pieces of barley, hence the name.

                                                                                Frankly I'm just amazed that a self proclaimed "italian" considers it middle eastern. And that Pasta all'uovo is "jewish"

                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                  Egg noodles are "Jewish", at least here in NY. However we don't put Italics around the word here, it's not a slur as far as I know. Anyway Italian "pasta" made with eggs is not called egg noodles that I've ever heard. It's just pasta, made with eggs.

                                                                                  This whole conversation is getting ridiculous and OT and I am on to bigger and better things. See you on the next thread.

                                                                                  1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                    foodie, the first time I ever had orzo was from the Greek 'section' in Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Cuisines. Last I checked Greece was in Europe. And 'elbow macaroni' is pasta. Again, I think coll is referring to regional, Italian-American jargon.

                                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                                And another. So in your mind Pasta all'uovo (egg noodles) are considered jewish??

                                                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                  I make pasta with egg. Egg noodles, as such (like Goodmans) is something else all together here in the USA.

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    semantics but if it keeps your heritage "clean" in your mind, go for it

                                                                    2. Just got this in an email, some more ideas from Barilla themselves:
                                                                      http://o.contactlab.it/ov/2003847/139...

                                                                      1. I'd recommend a short cut pasta, like gemelli or penne rigate (with ridges), for ease of eating, cleanliness, and easier bowl presentation. The following zucchini cream/pesto, from the cookbook author Rosetta Costantino, is ridiculously easy to make, and elegant, fragrant, and smoother and lighter than traditional herb-only pesto. Don't skip the bouillon cube--it gives hidden flavor, and is used commonly by Italian home cooks. A shower of freshly grated pecorino or parmigiano, and a fresh leaf of basil on top, makes this an elegant, delicious, and distinctive plate.http://www.food.com/recipe/pasta-with...