How to make pasta for a crowd | Italian trick to keep it fresh and al dente


pasta for a crowd_ spinach and plain pasta noodles for 20 people
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Cooking pasta for a large crowd is budget-friendly and only takes a short time to cook. You can cook pasta dishes in large quantities, and cooking the pasta al dente allows you to finish off the meal by tossing in the warm sauce when everyone is ready to eat. In addition, cooking the pasta al dente enables you to prepare the pasta ahead of time, without overcooking the noodles. 

The key to cooking pasta al dente for a large crowd is to cool the pasta immediately to stop the cooking process. 

How to cook the pasta ahead of time

When preparing pasta for a crowd and cooking it al dente, timing is everything. Cooking the pasta al dente, stopping the cooking process, and then adding hot sauce to the noodles makes the pasta come out ideally. In addition, cooking the noodles ahead of time helps eliminate the stress of being in the kitchen preparing for company. 

Cooking pasta for a large crowd ahead of time helps reduce the struggles associated with cooking for many people at one time. By cooking ahead of time, you can cook smaller batches, eliminating the stress of finding a large enough pasta pot. In addition, you can cook pasta noodles as early as 48 hours before you plan to serve them. 

Other struggles with cooking pasta ahead of time include the noodles sticking together and not cooking enough noodles. Prevent noodles from sticking together by adding one to two tablespoons of olive oil to the cooked noodles before storing. 

When cooking the noodles, you want to ensure the pasta is al dente. Al dente is Italian for “to the tooth.” The pasta tastes and feels its best when cooked al dente because it is firm and holds its shape no matter what sauce you choose. To test if pasta is al dente, take a piece out of the boiling water, cool, and take a bite. It should taste a bit gritty, and when looking at where you bit, you should see a thin ring in the middle of the noodle. 

As mentioned above, timing is vital when cooking pasta for a crowd. The time it takes to cook pasta depends upon the type of pasta, how much pasta is, and the quality of flour used. For example, when wanting spaghetti al dente, you may want to cook the pasta for less time than the package states – approximately three to four minutes less. 

The best way to store cooked pasta is to place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When ready to serve it, soak the noodles in hot water for about 30 seconds to bring them to room temperature. Then, strain the noodles, smother in hot pasta sauce and serve. 

The best types of pastas to cook for large crowds include cellentai, rotini, spaghetti, ziti, fettuccine, farfalle, and manicotti. 

How to keep pasta warm for a crowd before serving

The biggest struggle with cooking pasta for a crowd ahead of time is keeping it warm before serving. Store pasta in the refrigerator in an airtight container with some olive oil. When ready to serve, warm up the pasta, and place it in chafing dishes or buffet servers to serve to your guests. 

To help keep the pasta al dente, avoid boiling or cooking the noodles again. Instead, warm up in hot water for about 30 seconds, then when adding the pasta to the chafing dish, cover it with hot sauce. The chafing dish helps keep the past warm without continuing to cook it. 

Chafing dish

ZENY Pack of 4 Chafing Dish 8 Quart Full Size Stainless Steel Complete Chafer Set with Water Pan and Chafing Fuel Holder
The ZENY Chafing Dish Set comes with a complete set of four eight-quart full-size stainless steel chafing dishes. In addition, each chafing dish comes complete with a water pan and fuel holder. This chafing dish is a must for every homeowner or party hostess. Your delicious pasta will remain warm when served to guests at large gatherings and parties. Place the prepared pasta in the chafing dishes, light the fuel underneath, and your pasta remains warm for guests to enjoy the entire party. With four chafing dishes in the set, you can make different pasta and sauces to ensure providing variety for your guests.

Last update on 2021-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Buffet server

Sale
Sturdy Foil Pans with Snap-On Lids
The Oster Buffet Server Warming Tray provides three buffet warming trays perfect for serving pre-cook pasta to a large crowd. The heating surface keeps the pasta warm for as long as you need it to without cooking the pasta. With the three different trays, you can serve different styles of pasta and sauces, offering guests variety. The design of this buffet server allows you to put together the pasta in the kitchen. Then you can easily carry it to the dining room using the stay-cool handles. When done, clean-up is a breeze as both the pans and lids are dishwasher safe.

Last update on 2021-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How to cook spaghetti for a crowd

When cooking pasta for a crowd, you must ensure you have enough pasta for your anticipated guest count. Details on how much pasta to cook are below. Before cooking, gather your supplies, such as a large pot, water, salt, and pasta. 

Add enough water to cover the pasta into the pot and bring water to a boil. When boiling, drop in pasta, add the desired amount of salt, and boil pasta for the recommended time listed on the box. For al dente pasta, cook about three to four minutes less than the recommended time. 

Cooking times vary, and it is essential to keep a close eye on your pasta and check by pulling a piece out and tasting it. 

When cooked to desired texture, pour into the strainer, removing all the hot water. To stop the cooking process, run pasta under cold water, which keeps it al dente. Then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container with one to two tablespoons of olive oil. 

How much pasta is needed for a crowd?

When cooking for a large crowd, you want to ensure you have enough pasta for everyone to enjoy. It is always best to cook more than you think you need and have leftovers rather than not have enough food. The amount of pasta you cook depends on your party size. For example, if you are expecting 30 guests, it is estimated you should cook 60 ounces of dry pasta and use 90 ounces of pasta sauce. 

Crowd SizeDry Pasta in OuncesSauce in Ounces
10 people20 ounces30 ounces
15 people30 ounces45 ounces
20 people40 ounces60 ounces
30 people60 ounces90 ounces
40 people80 ounces120 ounces
50 people100 ounces150 ounces

The above chart of pasta needed is just an estimate, as serving sizes differ, especially when feeding kids, teenagers, and adults. 

How do I make pasta dough ahead of time for a crowd?

I usually make pasta for a lot of people. Here is where my whole family made spinach pasta with porcini for a family gathering.

The recipe for 20-30 people (some adults, some kids :))

70 oz – 2kg flour
20 eggs
2 tbsp salt

Here is my video on how my family makes pasta for a family gathering:

Making pasta from scratch is a great experience but can take time, especially when cooking for a large crowd. There are many ways to make fresh pasta, including a basic pasta recipe using flour (one cup semolina and one-half cups of type 00) and three eggs. To get started with this recipe, mix flours, then create a deep well in the center to crack the eggs into. 

Next, mix the ingredients until it forms a gooey dough. Start kneading the dough, which becomes more elastic as you handle it. Knead the dough, repeatedly stretching it out with the palms of your hands and folding it back onto itself. Repeat the kneading process for about ten minutes, then cover the dough and store it in the refrigerator to set. 

After resting in the refrigerator:

  1. Split the dough into four equal parts.
  2. Roll pieces out until they are about one-quarter of an inch thick and feed through your pasta machine.
  3. Repeat the process, stretching out your dough until you have reached the desired thickness of the pasta.
  4. Cut noodles into desired lengths. 

When making pasta dough for a large crowd, you will need to make about 60 percent more than the number of dry noodles needed. Use the chart above for how many ounces of dry noodles you need for your crowd size, and then multiply by 1.6 to get the number of fresh noodles you need. 

Tools you may want in addition to a pasta machine include a large wooden cutting board, wooden rolling pin, kitchen scale, dough scraper, and pastry knife. 

To store your fresh pasta, dust the noodles with some flour and place them in an airtight container. Fresh pasta will only keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days before drying out. 

How to hold pasta for a buffet

Keeping the pasta in the pot can make it soggy, and cook the pasta way past al dente. Once cooked and ready to serve, the easiest way to hold pasta for a buffet is to leave it in a chafing dish or buffet server without the sauce. When guests arrive, or just before, pour the hot sauce over the noodles. 

Should the noodles start to dry out, add some ice cubes and a few drops of olive oil to freshen it up. 

Conclusion

Cooking pasta for a large crowd requires perfect timing and making the noodles al dente. Cooking the pasta al dente helps create the perfect pasta texture after adding the hot sauce before serving it to your guests.

Rok Jurca

I am a kind of person that would sneak a taste out of grandma’s pot when I was barely tall enough to reach it. I grew up in kitchens full of love and liveliness and have spent my whole live learning, experimenting and succeeding in the art of cooking. At Pro Family Chef, every day is an opportunity for a new meal and a brand new flavor. I created this website to connect people that love to cook, with the products designed to make their cooking easier, hassle-free and rewarding every time.

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