Newsflash: Teenagers like to eat. A LOT. So what do you do when you've got fifty of them about to descend on your house for a party and your kids don't want to serve just pizza? Try a pasta bar.
We've served this at more than a few parties now, and it's always a big hit. Much like our popular ramen bar, it's all about giving them choices – let them choose the toppings for their pasta and they'll feel like they can conquer the world. Well, at least the dance floor.
Start by cooking the pasta the night before, and store it in ziploc bags in the refrigerator. I used penne since it's easy to serve up with a spoon but any similar pasta like fusilli or farfalle will do. I suggest you estimate how much you'll need, laugh at that paltry amount and then cook way, way more if you're serving a party of teenagers.
For example, when we were expecting fifty kids I used the 'two-ounce per person' rule and figured that came out to a little more than six-pounds of uncooked pasta. Just to be safe I bought ten pounds of penne, which proved to be a grave underestimation. Halfway through the party we ran out of pasta and some of the kids started eating the sauce by itself, which was both sad and disgusting.
The day of the party, keep the pasta warm in a chafing dish on the table. I suggest putting out two pans of pasta at a time for easy serving since teenagers tend to stampede when they're hungry and you don't want any fistfights breaking out over the penne.
I used jarred sauce, but if you're fancy and masochistic you can make your own the night before. I served both marinara and Alfredo sauces, and also put out a small bowl of pesto for the rebels. Keep the marinara and Alfredo sauces warm in separate chafing dishes.
For the toppings, use your imagination. I put out another chafing dish of grilled chicken breast strips along with bowls of parmesan cheese, sundried tomatoes, chili flakes, fresh tomatoes, olives, chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts and mushrooms. Again, put out way more than you think any humans could possibly eat in an evening and I guarantee you it won't be enough.
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