Pasta is one of the most versatile, delicious and simple foods to prepare.
There are half-inebriated college kids whipping up spaghetti dinners every night at the frat house. If the frat dudes can do it, so can you! Plus, there’s something about that first fall season cold snap in the air that leaves people craving carbs. So invite your friends over for a pasta party that will knock your socks off without putting you in the kitchen the entire time.
It’s Gravy, Not Sauce!
If you ever watched The Sopranos, you know that they called tomato sauce “gravy.” While my family was definitely not in the same line of work as Tony, we too call regular sauce “gravy.” If you want to be a true pasta fan, follow in the footsteps of the many Italian-Americans who call it GRAVY, NOT SAUCE (as my grandfather so politely announced during a toast at my wedding). My suggestion is to have three different kind of “gravies” or “sauces” at your pasta party. If you have vegetarian friends like I do, be kind and make at least one meatless sauce.
Whatever you may call it, marinara sauce is a classic Italian sauce. Pair it with meatballs for a real treat. I like to quickly pan-fry my meatballs (not all the way through) and then let them cook in the gravy the whole time. I desperately wish I could share my gravy recipe, but then I would be excommunicated from the family. I can tell you that if you combine lots of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and Italian seasonings, you can’t go wrong. Capish? Or if you’re a little skittish not having directions, try one of these:
Vodka sauce is a personal favorite of mine, and one that not many people have on a regular basis. The vodka burns off while you cook, so don’t expect to feel a buzz after eating this (unless you pair it with a delicious bottle of vino). I have always liked Rachael Ray’s “You won’t be single for long Vodka Sauce recipe.” If you don’t have the time to go all out, get a jar of your favorite marinara, then add heavy cream, vodka and basil for a delicious creamy sauce.
Tomato Caprese Sauce
If you want to try something really unique, check out my Tomato Caprese Sauce recipe below. This is a super-quick chunky topping that would be great as a warm dish or a cold pasta salad. I love using Muir Glen diced tomatoes for this, because they’re seasoned so perfectly.
The logistics for your pasta party don’t have to be tricky. I’d suggest making your sauces the day before, or even way in advance and freeze them. Prepare one or two large batches of pasta (penne goes well with everything) and keep your three sauces simmering on the stove. As guests arrive, ask them which pasta combination they’d like.
To make it even easier, set out the cooked pasta, sauces and serving utensils with pasta bowls in the kitchen for a simple self-serve station. Serve bread and a delicious salad, like my Goes with Anything Salad recipe, to go with the pasta and tell your guests to eat until their heart’s content!
Here are some fantastic ways to decorate for your pasta party:
Pasta-cation: Give your guests an education in pasta (aka a pasta-cation!). Scatter clusters of dried pasta and label each cluster. People will be shocked to find out there is a difference between penne and rigatoni! Really get into the theme by creating an Italian flag with construction paper to display your pasta-cation.
Ingredients as décor: Breadsticks, tomatoes, garlic and basil all look great on the table and really embody the pasta theme. Rinse out your crushed tomato cans and use them for simple flower arrangements!
The possibilities for a pasta party are endless. With a little planning ahead and some guests with hearty appetites, your pasta party will be an absolute blast! MANGIA!