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Non-tomato based pasta dishes that can be made ahead of time

I'm trying to find relatively simple recipes for pasta dishes that can be made ahead of time and serve large crowds. I'd prefer them to be non-tomato based as I will already be serving baked ziti, but if you have a fabulous recipe with tomatoes, please share.

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    1. re: davmar77

      Yes! This is always better with time to sit, same with shrimp scampi.

    2. Artichoke stuffed shells (or lasagna)

      1. Would a cold pasta salad work for your event? I have a few very good recipes for those -- one is mixed veggies in sweet/sour dressing with pasta, another features mandarain oranges, chicken and small ring pasta.

        1. Pesto can be kept and served hot or cold.

          Another option would be to make a pasta salad.

          1. Pestos work well

            also pasta tossed with veggies in oil - like artichoke hearts - black olives and roasted peppers with white wine or a good vinegar

            sorry on pasta dishes I am not great on pasta recipes usually off the cuff - but a warm pasta salad in place of a style that requires a quick pan made sauce seems to work better.

            the biggest trick is keeping the pasta from going mush between the making and the serving - consider making the pasta - al dente - lightly oil and keep dressing separate until serving

            pasta that sits in its dressing too long gets mucky - I would say pesto is sort of an exception.

            avoid cream based sauces

            and choose a pasta shape that will hold up well - something with some bite.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JTPhilly

              Another fan of the "pasta salad" concept.

              A pasta that can be served warm, cool or at room temp.

              I cook the pasta al dente. Perhaps even a little "firmer to the tooth" than I would in a ready-to-serve hot dish.

              I usually just like to pick a "flavor profile" and riff on that.
              For instance a "Mediterranean" inspired dish might be tossed with feta and olives and chickpeas. (A good olive oil and smushed garlic as per usual...)

              I usually like to include a wilted green of some sort, and a crunchy element such as toasted pine nuts or walnuts. Add fresh herbs from your garden if you've got 'em.

              Oh, and I have found that you can dress the salad ~lightly~ (very lightly!) when you make it. Keeps the elements from sticking together and allows the flavor to develop. I do agree that more dressing should be reserved to be used the day-of or passed at the table.

              1. re: pedalfaster

                Another cold pasta option---Cook boneless skinless chicken breasts, shred the meat, and douse it generously with soy sauce and garlic powder. Cook some kind of pasta that has a lot of surface (to absorb flavors)---I use a spiral pasta for this---cook, drain, and while warm mix with the marinated chicken, cut up pineapple (fresh, frozen, or canned), a touch of hot red pepper, and cashew nuts. If you want more crunch, add celery. If you want more flavor contrast, add chopped green onions. But the backbone of this is the teriyaki flavor and that the chicken makes the salad more substantial, an entree really.

              1. I have always loved pasta with creamy Greek yogurt. There is a warm Greek are laced with sweet caramelized onions and salty cheese, though I prefer the cold or room temperature Middle Eastern version made a little spicy with fresh garlic and Aleppo pepper. An overnight rest in the fridge mellows the heat of the garlic and allows the flavors to come together. Sprinkle with sumac to serve.

                Yotam Ottolenghi's version of yogurt noodles with peas, basil and pine nuts is meant to be served warm, but it's still delicious cold: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandsty...

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  I will be trying that ottolenghi recipe tomorrow night. thank you!

                  1. Cavatelli and Broccoli (can add grilled chicken) Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
                    Orecchiette with Pesto tossed with Pine Nuts

                    The thick shapes like cavatelli and orcchiette hold better than thin pasta.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Springhaze2

                      I 'hear" you Springhaze - I like the orecchiette for the same reasons. It can go in a cold preparation as well.

                      General question, why are there two pasta dishes? For choices/menu selections for Primi?

                    2. Butternut squash lasagna. There are thousands of recipes out there but I am particular to this one.


                      1. I do a RIF on several asian salads I've found on the internet combined. Might be a work-around for you. We love it. You can do most of the ingredients ahead of time. I have done the pasta, tossed with a little asian salad dressing in the bottom of the bowl (to coat so they don't stick together), then just layer the other ingredients (except the crispy chow mein noodles) on. Toss, add chow mein noodles and you are ready to eat. Great summer time dish.


                        8 oz. spaghetti
                        1 tbs. sesame oil
                        1 chicken breast
                        1 bag cole slaw cabbage
                        4 green onions
                        2 stalks thin sliced celery
                        1 sm. bag mung bean sprouts
                        1 sm. Jar pimentos or 1 julienned red pepper
                        1 can chow mein noodles
                        Chopped peanuts (Optional)
                        1 jar Asian salad dressing


                        Salt and pepper chicken, then saute chicken breast in olive oil and let rest 5 minutes before slicing thinly.

                        Cook spaghetti to al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water. In a large bowl, toss noodles with sesame oil. Slice Green onions on a bias – both white and greens and add to bowl.

                        Next, add in cabbage, bean sprouts and drained pimentos (or red pepper strips). Toss well.

                        Add salad dressing to taste. Sprinkle on chow mein noodles for crunch and enjoy.

                        There is also chicken spaghetti (which I make in double batches and freeze half to be made later and is still delicious). I use a Pioneer Woman recipe with a lot of changes :)

                        Linguini with Roasted Red Pepper sauce.

                        Almost any pasta can be made ahead of time, then dropped in a quick hot water bath and the sauce added at that time.

                        I also have a "killer" Confetti Pasta Salad if you are interested.

                        1. My sister's go-to potluck dish is orzo tossed with pesto and sliced roasted red peppers (one container), tossed with baby spinach (container 2), feta (container 3) and toasted pine nuts (container 4) in it. She just tosses or layers everything from the 4 containers into a larger vessel at the event. People go crazy for it every time. Since baked ziti is so rich and heavy, I think this kind of thing might be a nice contrast.

                          1. I love the Angela Hair Pasta with a lemon butter sauce from Christina F. Big Bowl of Love, will try to find link for you.

                            1. As promised the link for the lemon angel hair lemon infused pasta. The recipe that I had used basil and butter but am sure this one will be equally as good.


                              1. I make a spinach alfredo lasagna that freezes well unbaked. It is my go to when I make a freeze a meal for family and friends with a new baby.

                                While it isn't necessarily the most simple, it is pretty quick once you have all the ingredients together. It also has the benefit of taking only a little bit more time to double or triple the recipe - when I make it I often make two and freeze one for later because it is barely any more work than making one.

                                1. Sorry this has tomato, BUT you can also eat room temp.
                                  Get a bunch of tomatoes, dice up---now for exact measurements--it wil be based on how many you will serve. Us for two I use 7 or 8 medium juicy. Put in a bowl, add about a handful of fresh basil leaves, add salt to taste, garlic powder to taste and pepper. Add about at least a 1/3 cup of olive oil---you want them swimming(not a pool type but a puddle type :-) ),stir well and taste the oil on a piece of bread to adjust spices. Set aside to give time to have the flavors blend.
                                  In the meantime cook your pasta--I prefer penne---I think they are called quills in English--you know tube type with points..Now cook about 5-6 minutes you want them still raw because they will be popped into oven for about 15-20 minutes.
                                  Now mix tomatoes and pasta together well and pour into baking dish. On top sprinkle breadcrumbs mixture, (mix breadcrumbs with grated cheese, parmigiano or romano) enough to form a sliver of a layer and then drizzle with a wee bit of oil. Cover with foil, pop in oven at about 350° for about 15 minutes, taste and see if pasta is al dente, if not continue baking, then take off foil for about last 5 mins to toast the bread mixture. Serve hot or room temp.

                                  Easy recipe to adjust sizes for your needs, want more tomatoes just dice up more, then the remaining tomatoes are great sopping up with bread. Hope you like.
                                  p.s the photo doesn't show the breadcrumb mixture on top. sorry, but you get the idea :-)

                                  1. How about lasagna rollups? You can fill them with anything you want and either refrigerate until you're ready and then pop in the oven or even freeze and then thaw out and cook. Here is one recipe but there are tons out there if you Google it. I like to do spinach and artichoke.


                                    Also I like to do a mediterranean orzo salad. Cook orzo and add chopped up tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red onion and then dress with a lemon juice and olive oil and top with feta cheese.

                                    1. Pesto was my initial thought, but I was worried about it turning brown over time or separating into an oily mess after time in a chafing dish. Some of these suggestions sound delicious. If I don't use them for my reception, I'll be making them for family dinners.

                                        1. Any variant of macaroni & cheese or chicken & noodles? I know they can be made ahead and even frozen as I routinely freeze individual portions of both--cooking now only for myself, I could never enjoy either if I didn't cook a bunch of it and then freeze most of it.

                                          Also, does it have to be pasta? How about rice? And why tomatoes? Here is a delicious do-ahead dinner party dish--- if you put raw rice, chunks of sauteed chicken, mushrooms, onions, and peppers in a large deep baking dish, add frozen green peas and artichoke hearts and olives, and then fill the dish to the top with water you've soaked some saffron in, cover tightly with foil, and bake for an hour, you have a huge Arroz con Pollo that will feed the multitudes. You can make it ahead and refrigerate it. Serve it with grated Parmesan cheese.

                                            1. Israeli couscous salad is very friendly and very forgiving.
                                              Make it in advance and walk away to do other tasks.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                Walking away to do other tasks is the idea. I needed these suggestions for my wedding reception so, the less I have to do on my wedding day, the better. :)

                                                1. re: melondeca

                                                  Besides your hubby,
                                                  Israeli couscous salad would be your perfect companion that day. Congrats.

                                              2. Depending on how far ahead of time you need to make it, Giada de Laurntis's butternut squash lasagna is excellent. A 9x13 pan feeds eight to ten easily, especially if there are other foods available as well.

                                                I make it during the day and just bake when company is over. The leftovers are also great, so it would probably be a good candidate for baking and reheating (but I haven't tried that)

                                                1. White lasagna
                                                  I am making a spinach lasagna with alfredo sauce
                                                  You can use no bake lasagna
                                                  Just set it up, bake off when ready, baking instructions on box