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Holding pasta dishes in a school kitchen

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
I have no idea if this is the right forum for me. I am the food services supervisor for a small school district in Kansas, overseeing 6 schools. I began the job in August and prior to that, I was a cook at one if our district's middle schools. After getting student feedback, I realized we have a real problem with our pasta meals. The pasta is gummy and mushy, and they are by far the least liked meals. The production kitchen had been putting the uncooked pasta into the sauce and then holding it in hot carts until service, usually 3-4 hours later. I am having them flash boil the pasta and bake in the oven next time, but do you have any other suggestions? We are using whole grain penne or rotini pastas.
post #2 of 5
I think i can help a bit but a question, 1 central kitchen or cooking at each school? I have A company that does food for 900 a day, grades 4 thru 9. Half on site and the other have sent to the 2nd location. If it is a pasta served in the sause we cook the pasta al dente, lite coat of oil and blast in the chiller, mix with the sause cold, ie a meat sause, pack into a standard hotel pan and tightly wrap with plastic the foil. It is ready to serve by placing it in the oven, fully covered, on full steam 120C. Until it is back at serving temp. It is now ready to go into the transport box that has been pre heated. We ship the food at 10 am for service from 1050 to 100.

If the pasta is served plain we cook it al dente at the last posibble moment, drain well, light coat of oil, place into deep hotel pans and seal with the silcicone lids for transport with the hot sause seperate. This works with spaghetti as well as short pasta. We had pasta with meat sause this past wednesday, the kids loved it.

Im honestly baffed why they would put dry pasta in sause and and hold it for that long and think it was cooked.

I hope i helped, just ask if i need to clairfy, its late and im tired.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
At the school where we are having the issue, it is one main production kitchen preparing the hot foods for about 700, and sending the majority in hot carts to 2 other schools. The problem is a new one. We have a new entree cook who makes her baked pasta dishes at home this way and wanted to try it at the school. I did not hire this person and did not give her permission to use this method. It was the previous supervisor who thought it might help make things faster and allow the entree person to assist in fresh produce prep, as we are struggling to keep up in that area, following the new guidelines and not being as experienced in providing that for the entire school.

That would be where I come in. I was the salad bar cook for the schools in question, so produce is my area of expertise. But, I have never been an entree cook. Cooking for my family of 7 is very different from cooking for 700. smile.gif
post #4 of 5

How many cooks do you have to prepare your hot food? How much of it is scratch cooking/ cans, frozen thaw? They don't have time to cook pasta?

 

I would NEVER put dry pasta in a sauce to bake. This is an old house wife method. I have heard of and seen it done several times and cringe every time, think of what happens to all the starch that cooks out of the pasta, it goes right into your sauce. No wonder the kids are complaining.

 

There are pre cooked products available to foodservice, here is one example.

I have never used these products, so I can't tell you what the end result would be.

 

A baked pasta should be able to be held for several hours. Something else to consider is the whole grain pasta taste might be something that the kids don't care for too, I don't care for it myself.

post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 
I was appalled when I discovered they were using that method, as well. I would never do that at home, let alone in a large scale setting. I explained to them about the starch, and they agreed to try the other method. At the school in question, we have 7 cooks, 5 of whom are each responsible for a specific meal component, one floater, and the kitchen manager. As far as using a pasta that's not whole grain, it's not really an option. We need that to help us meet our whole grain requirements for the HHFKA.
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