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How to serve pasta in a buffet?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hey guys and gals my restaraunt is throwing it's second annual Halloween party and were doing a Halloween themed buffet this year and I want to serve spaghetti and stuffed meatballs.  My only question is how do I hold the Spaghetti noodles without a) overcooking them b)losing their starch and c) not getting cold or dried out?

 

I have a few ideas in mind, but want to see what some other professional opinions are.  Thanks again

post #2 of 13
Thread Starter 

keep in mind there will be over 100 people in attendance, so there will be A LOT of pasta

post #3 of 13

some thoughts;

change the spaghetti to another type of pasta i.e. penne or gemelli, or rigatoni or combo with tri color tortellini and serve it in a meat sauce or even a marinara, or as a primavera with either a creamy basil or a sun dried tomato pesto sauce...shorter thicker pasta will hold up better than spaghetti noodles.....meatballs on the side, sausage and peppers on the side...i know this is an added expense over just spaghetti and meatballs but i think you will end up with a better tasting meal. if someone will be in the kitchen overseeing this, you can precook all the pastas and keep them warm in the minutest amount of water you can get away with stovetop then as needed put the warm pastas and the warm sauce in hotel pans... unless your pasta is dead cold the warm sauce will keep the pasta just fine. if you have a flat top it will keep them toasty, but someone has to be there to do the juggling. you could also put the sauced hotel pans in a cambro for awhile....make sure your pasta is well sauced(not drowning) as the chafer heat will destroy it, don't have your chafers on rock n roll hot, and don't try and tray all of it at once. when i serve pasta on a buffet, it is always an ongoing parade of new pans...

and make sure your kitchen help doesn't start drinking til after all the food is out!

 

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by durangojo View Post

some thoughts;

change the spaghetti to another type of pasta i.e. penne or gemelli, or rigatoni or combo with tri color tortellini and serve it in a meat sauce or even a marinara, or as a primavera with either a creamy basil or a sun dried tomato pesto sauce...shorter thicker pasta will hold up better than spaghetti noodles.....meatballs on the side, sausage and peppers on the side...i know this is an added expense over just spaghetti and meatballs but i think you will end up with a better tasting meal. if someone will be in the kitchen overseeing this, you can precook all the pastas and keep them warm in the minutest amount of water you can get away with stovetop then as needed put the warm pastas and the warm sauce in hotel pans... unless your pasta is dead cold the warm sauce will keep the pasta just fine. if you have a flat top it will keep them toasty, but someone has to be there to do the juggling. you could also put the sauced hotel pans in a cambro for awhile....make sure your pasta is well sauced(not drowning) as the chafer heat will destroy it, don't have your chafers on rock n roll hot, and don't try and tray all of it at once. when i serve pasta on a buffet, it is always an ongoing parade of new pans...

and make sure your kitchen help doesn't start drinking til after all the food is out!

 

joey


Im not sure if I follow...

 

The way I'm envisioning it is to have all the pasta pre cooked, in it's own hotel pan (maybe 3 or 4 of them), have one hotel pan full of sauce and meatballs.  Im planning on dishing up some noodles, topping them with one or two meatballs and then adding a bit more sauce on top. 

 

Are you suggesting that in my pans with noodles to have them rest in a small amount of water?  keep them on the heat or off?

post #5 of 13

What is the time frame for the buffet?

 

Will it be at your restaurant? If so, is it possible to batch the spaghetti cooking, say 20 servings per batch? After all, it only takes what, 10 minutes to cook if you have the water hot.
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

What is the time frame for the buffet?

Will it be at your restaurant? If so, is it possible to batch the spaghetti cooking, say 20 servings per batch? After all, it only takes what, 10 minutes to cook if you have the water hot.

 

The buffet will be open all night, but usually everyone eats early so they can drink more. I'd say 2 hours maybe...

Yes it's at the restaurant so cooking in batches will probably be in order
post #7 of 13

Is it a "serve yourself" buffet or is it the type of buffet that there is an attendant who is actually dishing up the plates?  If patrons are serving themselves there is little choice, but to have a chafing dish full of noodles and sauce.  It won't be as good as freshly made but it will keep warm for a while and possible start to get gummy.

 

If there is an attendant you may want to have him/her heat up each portion in a live pan.  It probably takes only 15 seconds to throw some cooked noodles in a pan, ladle in some sauce and toss it.  Plate it and have another attendant add the meatballs.  Hot, fresh, more impressive and better portion control.  You can even have a special "cheese waiter" who walks around the guests grating fresh parmesan.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #8 of 13

mrmexico,

i apologize for any confusion caused by not being clear. will try to remedy that.

after you cook your pasta(al dente) put it back into the pot, add oil and some sauce to keep it from sticking.(never mind about the water from my previous post). obviously someone needs to be in the kitchen to oversee all this, lightly stirring from time to time and adding more sauce as needed to keep them warm, wet and non sticking. for 100 guests you'll need several large stock pots if you cook the pasta ahead, depending on what else is on the buffet.   as pete suggests you can also cook the pasta in batches..just before serving time pull the pasta from the pot,sauce the bottom of the hotel pan, put pasta into hotel pans and top with more sauce...we're not talking about TONS of sauce, but enough...you can foil these and keep them warm in a low oven or on top of a warm flat top.....the bottom line is you need to keep your pasta wet...personally i would not put unsauced noodles in a hotel pan to go out on a buffet....they look just awful...you could add butter and parsley but they will still dry out and the edges will harden and turn yellow/brown. . were it i, i would have a pan of sauced pasta and then another pan with sauce and meatballs.  having only 2 chafers will make the buffet line go faster, or having someone serve the hot portion of the meal will make it go even faster and smoother. what is your reasoning behind having 3 separate chafers? for the vegetarians? they can have the sauced noodles.... is this a sit down? stand up? served? self serve? what else is on your menu? i would still suggest a shorter heavier noodle over spaghetti. a shorter pasta is easier to serve, easier to eat(especially if standing), and men won't end up with spaghetti and sauce in their beard or women on their dresses...costumes i guess in this case. it's just classier imo. it's also easier to handle in the kitchen.....penne or rigatoni would be a good stand in.....similar price as well.

hope this is clearer....hope it helps

just curious, you mentioned you are serving 'stuffed' meatballs...stuffed with what? how large are they?

 

joey


Edited by durangojo - 10/19/12 at 8:50am

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Koukouvagia View Post

Is it a "serve yourself" buffet or is it the type of buffet that there is an attendant who is actually dishing up the plates?  If patrons are serving themselves there is little choice, but to have a chafing dish full of noodles and sauce.  It won't be as good as freshly made but it will keep warm for a while and possible start to get gummy.

 

If there is an attendant you may want to have him/her heat up each portion in a live pan.  It probably takes only 15 seconds to throw some cooked noodles in a pan, ladle in some sauce and toss it.  Plate it and have another attendant add the meatballs.  Hot, fresh, more impressive and better portion control.  You can even have a special "cheese waiter" who walks around the guests grating fresh parmesan.

the dishes will be served up by myself and employees.  I do agree that having a fresh pasta station would be more impressive, I just don't know how it'll effect the flow of the line.  I dont want people waiting a terribly long time...Especially if there's a reasonable way of accomplishing keeping the noodles warm without ruining them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by durangojo View Post

mrmexico,

i apologize for any confusion caused by not being clear. will try to remedy that.

after you cook your pasta(al dente) put it back into the pot, add oil and some sauce to keep it from sticking.(never mind about the water from my previous post). obviously someone needs to be in the kitchen to oversee all this, lightly stirring from time to time and adding more sauce as needed to keep them warm, wet and non sticking. for 100 guests you'll need several large stock pots if you cook the pasta ahead, depending on what else is on the buffet.   as pete suggests you can also cook the pasta in batches..just before serving time pull the pasta from the pot,sauce the bottom of the hotel pan, put pasta into hotel pans and top with more sauce...we're not talking about TONS of sauce, but enough...you can foil these and keep them warm in a low oven or on top of a warm flat top.....the bottom line is you need to keep your pasta wet...personally i would not put unsauced noodles in a hotel pan to go out on a buffet....they look just awful...you could add butter and parsley but they will still dry out and the edges will harden and turn yellow/brown. . were it i, i would have a pan of sauced pasta and then another pan with sauce and meatballs.  having only 2 chafers will make the buffet line go faster, or having someone serve the hot portion of the meal will make it go even faster and smoother. what is your reasoning behind having 3 separate chafers? for the vegetarians? they can have the sauced noodles.... is this a sit down? stand up? served? self serve? what else is on your menu? i would still suggest a shorter heavier noodle over spaghetti. a shorter pasta is easier to serve, easier to eat(especially if standing), and men won't end up with spaghetti and sauce in their beard or women on their dresses...costumes i guess in this case. it's just classier imo. it's also easier to handle in the kitchen.....penne or rigatoni would be a good stand in.....similar price as well.

hope this is clearer....hope it helps

just curious, you mentioned you are serving 'stuffed' meatballs...stuffed with what? how large are they?

 

joey

I like the idea of a shorter noodle but I don't know how well that will work with the meatballs.... After all, no one calls them penne and meatballs... I dunno.  I'm also trying to keep the Halloween theme alive.  Here's the description of the menu:

 

-Squirmy Spaghetti and Stuffed Monster Meatballs (stuffed with diced pepperoni and mozzerella)

-Vampire garlic toast

-Sleepy Hollow Butternut Squash Soup with sour cream, bacon bits and toasted pumpkin seeds

-Spooky Shepherd Pie with ghostly gravy (Im going to pipe the mashed potatoes on top and put two little peas in for the eye balls.)

-Spinach, raisins, almonds, and sunflower seed bug salad 

Caramel apples and Chocolate covered bacon for dessert sold for extra. 

 

It's a pretty ambitious menu especially for the size of our restaurant, but I've accomplished certain variations of this menu and am experienced. 

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

by "monster meatball" I mean they're quite large.  4oz each before being stuffed. 

post #11 of 13

May be i'm saying something stupid, but can't you use dried noodels? They cook in a minute.

Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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Gebe Gott uns allen, uns Trinkern, einen so leichten und so schönen Tod! Joseph Roth.
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post #12 of 13

I don't see any reason you cant use your intended spaghetti.

I've served many events at 100 to 250 people, spaghetti noodles, marinara, meat sauce and alfredo

on an attendant-served buffet line, in 6" hotel pans.

That's a FOUR-pan station,  with no measurable slow down in service. Sure it helps to have 2 at the station,

one to handle noodles and most popular, (usually marinara) and the other ladling the other 2 sauces,

but I have many times handled all 4 pans myself.

I precooked the spaghetti off site, transport in Cambros, the noodles sitting at holding temp in water. 

Retrieve pan, drain most of the water and drop into preheated chaffer setup.

Stir the pasta occasionally. (not necessary when the serving starts--cuz by then youre constantly

messsing with it) At serve, tong it up, let it drain a second or two, drop on the drooling

guest's plate, add sauce of choice with a ladle. Easy and fast moving.

 

As to the long noodle problem Joey mentioned above, (valid!) when I cook spaghetti,

I always break the standard length in half before dropping it in the water. It's amazing

how effective this is...yet, its still spaghetti. Just much easier to handle on one's plate and fork.

It also tongs up easier--you often have to hold long noodles way up high in the air with tongs to drain.

And when you have a 200 person buffet line stretching out 90 ft behind the serving station,

its ALL about efficiency.


Edited by Meezenplaz - 10/19/12 at 5:44pm
post #13 of 13

I cook all of the spaghetti up ahead of time.  For example, if I am serving in the evening, I cook the spaghetti in the afternoon.  I always use angel hair, so it needs to be very al dente.  After cooking, I stop the cooking process by putting it in a large colander and run cold water over it until is no longer holding heat.  If I have several pots of water on the stove for the amount of spaghetti that I need, I try to time it so one pot starts cooking as I am taking another pot off the stove to drain.  You need two people to do this efficiently.

 

Once the spaghetti is cooled and drained, I transfer it to a perforated hotel pan and let it continue to drain on a drainboard that runs into the sink.  If you don't have that kind of a set up, just put the perforated pan into a non-perforated pan and let it drain into the non-perforated pan.  This will keep the spaghetti  this way for several hours and it will still be like fresh pasta.  Cover with plastic wrap if you are holding it for a while.

 

Just before taking the spaghetti to the chafers, rinse the noodles in very hot water to heat up slightly.  You can then transport the angel hair to the chafers with the perforated pans in the non-perforated pans, but when you put the noodles into the chafer you will need to take it our of the non-perforated pan and only put the perforated pan into the chafer.

 

I keep a pitcher of hot water next to the chafer and pour water over the noodles periodically and mix the noodles around while serving to keep them from sticking.  I do not put water in the bottom of the chafer because I need space for the water that I pour over the noodles to drain into.

 

A side note...I fill and heat a 100 cup coffee pot with water so that I have hot water for my noodles at all times.  This system seems complicated as I try to write it down and explain it, but it definitely works.  The noodles if not over cooked to begin with are al dente and just like fresh cooked.  And the best part is that all of the work is done well ahead of time and takes the worry out of the picture.

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