Feeding a crowd can get expensive if you love entertaining and often have guests arrive hungry and ready to eat at your table. My tomato pasta sauce made alla romano, in the roman style, is versatile, budget friendly, simple and delicious.
I love inviting people into my home and then feeding them! I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than sharing a glass of wine, some honest food and wonderful conversation with friends. However, entertaining can get expensive so it helps to have some simple, delicious recipes that make feeding a crowd easy.
Of course, I turn to the Italians for inspiration as really, they are the gold medalists in this department!
I will often have a pot of rich, dark red tomato sauce bubbling away on the stove to be stirred through pasta or used as the base for polpette (Italian meatballs) or chicken alla romana (chicken braised in tomato sauce with red and orange capsicum). Leftovers make a mouth watering sauce for pizza or satisfying nest for baked eggs for which forks are not required but instead fingers of toasted sour dough scoop up the eggy goodness perfectly.
Feeding a crowd – Roman Style Tomato Sauce
This sauce is a wonderful master recipe that you can adapt or modify to suit your needs. Fresh or dried herbs, chilli, more garlic, different vegetables and diced pancetta all make wonderful additions. Sometimes I drag out the big pot and double this recipe.
1 stick of celery
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A few stems of parsley and basil
3 tins of good quality, Italian chopped tomatoes
1 cup of beef bone broth or stock (or vegetable stock or water)
Extra virgin olive oil
Good quality salt and freshly ground black pepper
What to do:
Chop the onion, carrot and celery as finely as possible, you could even do it in the food processor.
Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to a large sauce pan and place over moderate heat. Add the soffritto, the onion, carrot and celery and cook until soft, around ten minutes.
Add the garlic and herbs and cook for a further minute.
Add the tomatoes and the beef stock. Add a little water to the tomato cans, swish it around and add that to the pot too.
Bring to a bubble, then lower heat and simmer for around 40 minutes so the flavours get acquainted and the sauce reduces and becomes rich.
Remove the herbs and taste the sauce.
Season to your liking, don’t be scared to add a good hit of salt and pepper.
* I like the sauce as it is, but if you prefer a smoother sauce, you can puree it using a hand held blender but be prepared for the colour to transcend to a vibrant almost lucid orange.
Feeding a crowd – pasta al forno
Baked pasta dishes are a wonderful way of feeding a crowd as they can be prepared ahead of time, served hot or at room temperature and every body loves them!
This is how I make mine, which generally serves around eight people or more if I serve it alongside a large green salad and my herby roast potatoes or a crunchy loaf of ciabatta.
3/4 of the quantity of the above tomato sauce
2 fresh buffalo mozzarella balls, sliced (or of course, you can use any mozzarella)
1 cup of grated parmigiana reggiano (parmesan cheese)
500g of rigatoni or penne pasta – I usually use a gluten free pasta here.
Fresh basil leaves
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a large baking dish with olive oil.
Cook the pasta for 4 minutes less than the directions on the packet.
Drain the pasta well, return to the pot and stir through the tomato sauce.
Add half the tomato-y pasta to you baking dish. Top with half the mozzarella and half the parmesan cheese and a few torn basil leaves.
Top with the rest of the pasta and then finish with the remaining cheese and basil.
Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbling and your house smells like Nonna’s.
Place in the middle of the table for everyone to serve themselves along with a big, leafy green salad, some good sour dough bread and lots of vino rosso della casa.
And that’s first course taken care of 😉
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