I had a pasta bar dinner party.
It only cost 5 dollars. It was delicious.
You too can create a gourmet dinner party on the cheap by preparing a pasta bar for your guests.
Your guests won't want to leave.
You won't want to stop eating pasta.
Nobody will blame anybody.
Penne with Lemony-Almond (or Walnut)-Basil-Pesto
1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta
1 cup almonds or walnuts
1 large bunch basil
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Heat a large saucepan filled halfway with water over high heat. Once water reaches boiling, add 1 tbs. salt and ½ tbs. oil. Add pasta. Cook according to package directions, approx. 5-6 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
While water boils, toast the nuts in a medium, dry skillet over medium heat. Flip (or stir) frequently. Toast until fragrant (be careful not to burn!), around 7 minutes.
While pasta cooks, prepare pesto. Coarsley chop washed basil leaves and add to food processor, along with the juice of the lemons (make sure no seeds fall in), parmesan cheese, and the toasted nuts. Season with salt and pepper, then turn on processor. Flow ¼ cup oil into the mixture as it processes. Add in reserved pasta water, a ¼ cup at a time, until pesto reaches a consistency that will coat the pasta thoroughly.
Combine pasta and pesto in a large bowl. Toss to coat.
Italian Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. mezzi rigatoni, or ditalini
½ lb. bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced small
1 yellow onion, diced
8 oz. smoked mozzarella
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Heat 1 tbs. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped bacon. Stir and cook, around 4 minutes, then add in diced onion. Cook 3-4 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add diced potatoes to the skillet. Stir to combine, season with ½ tbs. of salt, spread out in the pan, and cook around 5 minutes, until the tiny little potatoes are crispy on the exterior.
Pour in 4 cups of water, stir around in the pot and scrape the entire bottom of the pan so that you stir up all those crispy blackened pieces that are stuck to the bottom. Bring water to a boil and, stirring/scraping the bottom often, and cook for around 20 minutes, until the sauce reduces down to just barely cover the potatoes.
Bring water to boil in a large pot while the potatoes cook. Salt the boiling water, then add in the pasta. Stir and then allow to cook to al dente, around 5 minutes. Once pasta is cooked through, drain, then return to the pot it boiled in. Add in the contents of the skillet. Stir to combine, then add 2 tbs. olive oil to mixture. Stir and allow to simmer for about 3 minutes. It will thicken up even more.
Add in diced tomatoes, cook for a minutes, then taste. Add more salt, if needed. Remove from heat and add in the cubed mozzarella cheese. Stir until the cheese is melted and oozy, then sprinkle in parmesan. Stir to combine. Serve immediately, in bowls, topped with additional grated mozzarella.
Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup olive oil
1 tbs. each dried basil, oregano, parsley, salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
1 parmesan rind (optional)
Begin with sauce. Heat large pot over medium heat. Add oil. Once heated, add minced garlic and red pepper. Allow to soften and become fragrant, 3-4 minutes, then add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes. Stir in basil, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add the parmesan rind, if you are using it. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover.
Once your pot of water comes to a boil, salt it, then reduce heat to medium and add pasta. Allow to return to a boil. Boil pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes.
Drain pasta in colander, remove parmesan rind from sauce pot, then add pasta to pot of sauce. Toss to combine and serve in a large bowl.
P.S. I planned and hosted this dinner party for Foodbuzz's September 24x24 blogging event! Head over to Foodbuzz to check out the other entries. As part of my involvement with this blogging event, I'll be receiving travel expenses to the 3rd Annual Foodbuzz Festival (I'm so excited!) in November. I am still in need of a roommate for the Festival, so please let me know if you are going and if you still need a roommate too!