If you have ever cooked for a large group before, be it a party, a church group, or a giant, lower-middle class family, you already know that when you have to feed a lot of people with a little money, pasta is the answer. The problem with pasta is that everyone else knows that, too.
I cannot count how many times I have heard someone in the chow line ask a volunteer to put “your spaghetti” on top of all the other spaghetti. Spaghetti is great, macaroni and cheese is great, buttered noodles are great. A dinner of pasta with no meat or vegetables is not so great.
Noodles and sauce are cheap, so there is always a lot. If this is all that you can bring, bring it. Something is always better than nothing. If you can, meatballs, chicken, broccoli, mushrooms or spinach will go a long way.
Here is my formula for pasta-
Pound of Noodles + Pound of Meat + ½ Pound of veggies
When I make baked ziti for example, I use two pounds of noodles, two pounds of meat and one pound of spinach. You can catch that recipe below.
Baked Ziti Primavera
2 lbs dry ziti or any tubular pasta
2 lbs ground Italian sausage
1 lb spinach leaves
4- 24 oz marinara sauce
1 lb sliced provolone
3 C sour cream
16 oz mozzarella
4 TBSP Parmesan, grated
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a medium-sized pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add your noodles and let water return to a boil. Boil for about 8 minutes or until your pasta is al dente. Remove from heat and drain.
Brown the ground sausage in a large pot. While the meat cooks, trim the stems off of the spinach. Run the spinach leaves through a food processor until thoroughly diced. Add to the meat and mix well. Add marinara sauce to the beef mixture and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
I use a “heavy-duty,” aluminum roasting pan for this dish. It is 16 inches by 11 inches and 2.5 inches deep. Do not use a dish that is less than 2.5 inches deep.
Fill the empty tray with half of the noodles. Layer half the provolone on top and sprinkle with half the parmesan, about 2 TBSPs. Spread the sour cream evenly. Spread the meat mixture over the sour cream. Add the remaining noodles, the rest of the meat-mixture and the remaining provolone. Cover with mozzarella. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan.
Cover the dish with tin foil and bake in the oven for forty minutes. If you want the cheese on top of the ziti to get brown and bubbly, remove the tin foil and bake for another five minutes. Since everything is precooked in this dish, you just want the tray heated through and the cheese melted.