Last month I had the privilege of cooking a meal for my daughter’s high school choir before one of their dress rehearsal’s for the musical they performed. I chose to serve pasta and it was so much fun, especially because the kids were genuinely appreciative of the food.
I enlisted the help of my mom because having an extra pair of hands to serve a crowd of 40 is always a good idea. She also made a big pan of spaghetti which was a big help.
We used disposable pans for easier clean-up and because we didn’t have pans large enough to hold all of the pasta. While I usually like to use my glass pans, cleanup was a breeze. And, after making, transporting and serving the food, it was nice to not have to scrub pans that had pasta sauce caked on them.
Our menu wasn’t fancy but the kids had plenty to eat. They all told my daughter they wanted to move into our house so I could cook for them every night. 🙂 Here’s what we served.
Pasta Night Menu
- Chicken Pasta Alfredo
- Garlic Bread
- Salad with Toppings & Dressings
- Vegetable Tray
For the big pan of spaghetti that my mom made she used 4 pounds of spaghetti, 6 quarts of spaghetti sauce, and 5 pounds of ground beef.
First, she browned and drained the ground beef, and cooked and drained the spaghetti noodles. Then she combined the ground beef and sauce together, and then mixed in the spaghetti noodles. Next, she placed everything in a large pan and put foil on top. Finally, she put the spaghetti in the oven on warm until it was time to take it to the school.
To make the lasagna I used a simple recipe that our family has been using for years. The thing that makes it so easy is that the noodles don’t have to be boiled first.
The pan I used was 19 1/2 inches by 11 1/2 inches and I filled it with three layers of the lasagna ingredients.
I used 1 1/2 boxes of lasagna, 3 pounds of shredded mozzarella, 2 1/2 (24 ounce) containers of cottage cheese, 3 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 3 pounds ground beef, and 2-3 cups water.
First, I browned and drained the ground beef and mixed it with the spaghetti sauce. Then I layered the ingredients in this order: lasagna noodles, cottage cheese, meat/sauce, and shredded mozzarella.
I repeated the layers a total of three times and then baked it, covered, at 350 degrees for well over an hour. Then I baked it uncovered until the cheese on top was melted to a nice golden color. The trick to this lasagna is to let is sit for quite a while until it isn’t soupy anymore.
As you can see the kids ate about half of the lasagna.
While the kids loved the spaghetti and lasagna, this next pasta dish was their favorite.
Chicken Pasta Alfredo
My family loves the chicken pasta alfredo recipe I concocted a few years ago, so I thought it might be a nice addition to the menu for this occasion.
I wasn’t prepared for the enthusiastic response and the numbers of kids who came up for seconds and thirds of this dish. I am glad I had made such a large amount.
Basically, I used my recipe but quadrupled it and added extra butter and milk.
I cooked 4 boxes of bowtie pasta, one box at a time, and drained it. Then I placed it in a 19 1/2 inch by 11 1/2 inch pan with several cups of chopped, cooked chicken breast.
Then I melted the butter and added the parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, garlic, and milk.
Finally, I poured the milk and cheese mixture over the pasta and chicken. The pasta absorbed the mixture more than I thought, so I added some extra milk and melted butter before placing it in a low temperature oven to stay warm.
In the future, I might keep the pasta and milk mixture separate until closer to time to serve the dish.
The kids ate almost all of the garlic bread I fixed. One girl saw my husband in the hall and asked how I made the bread because she thought it was so good. I think he told her it was an old family recipe. 😉
I’ll let you in on the “secret” to this recipe. Store-bought French bread.
First, I sliced 4 large loaves of French bread in half lengthwise. Then I used a pastry brush to coat the insides with a ton of melted (real) butter and garlic powder.
Then I placed the two halves back together and sliced the bread into 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices. I wrapped each loaf in aluminum foil and baked it until it was nice and warm and the outside was getting a little crusty. It may have taken 10 minutes?
Side Dishes & Dessert
I made a veggie tray that only included carrots, broccoli and cauliflower because I forgot I had run out of celery. No one seemed to notice.
For the salad, I washed and shredded 2 heads of Iceberg lettuce and two large bunches of Romaine lettuce. My handy salad spinner (affiliate link) was very helpful for making sure it wasn’t a soggy mess.
We had bacon bits, shredded cheese, croutons, Italian dressing, and ranch dressing for the salads and that seemed to be enough toppings for the kids.
For dessert I made two types of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip blondies and best-ever chocolate chip cookies. Both are crowd pleasers. One boy thought he was being sneaky by putting a few cookies in his pockets right in front of me. I guess he liked them. 🙂
We served lemonade and kool-aid for drinks. I figured that was better than pop.
After making what felt like a million trips with this food we finally got it all set up.
You see, I first got the food ready at my house and started baking it. Then I took all of the hot food to my parents’ house to stay warm in their ovens. After I picked up the little ones from school, I went back to my parents’ house and loaded everything up again. Finally, I took all of the food into the school cafeteria. No wonder I was tired afterwards. 🙂
While we didn’t decorate or make everything all Pinterest-worthy, the kids went away with full bellies and were very happy with what they were served. I think that was the most important thing.
I think sometimes we think it is too hard to serve a crowd, but it really doesn’t have to be. I think the key to any event like this is to plan ahead and do as much ahead of time as possible. Also, ask for help if you need it, and try to keep things simple, especially if you have little ones.
While we ended up with quite a few leftovers, I think I would still make this much food if I were to feed a crowd again. Plus, my family ate on the leftovers all week. Score!
Here are a few more food ideas for feeding a crowd that are sure to please.
What is your favorite pasta dish? Have you ever made a large quantity for a crowd?
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