Monday, November 21, 2011

Hosting Idea: Havest Pasta Bar

Short on time? Host with a Pasta Bar!
I always try to be a good host, even when I'm at odds with time and energy.  So when I find easy ways to cater great events--so I spend less time in the kitchen and more time with my guests--I want to share those ideas with others.

I realize that not all of us are cut out for hosting.  There are even days when I doubt my own abilities, especially if my son had a sleepless night or my husband worked too many hours that week.  We've all been at those awkward parties where there wasn't enough food, or the hostess never made it into the shower, or worse of all: you show up at an event where you know only the hosts and no one introduces you to the unwelcoming circle of friends.  I vow to avoid all of the above to the best of my abilities.

So, a good place to start for a new host is an easy menu so you can focus on the other stuff.  This Halloween, I found a great way to host: with pasta!
I once heard from an Italian, "the longer the noodle, the better."  I believe she was talking about pasta.  In that case, these 8' noodles from World Market are perfect for a pasta party.

It was so easy, the night before, I made three sauces plus a side of turkey meatballs: Tomato/Basil, Pumpkin Sage Sausage, and Sweet Olive Tomato.  This gave me something fresh and homemade to serve, but without the chaos of the kitchen the next day.
The key to a good pasta party is lots of options.  I had three types of noodles, three sauces, a side of meatballs and lots of toppings so each person could create and discuss their pasta masterpiece.
On Halloween, I unwrapped my pre-made sauces, reheated them on the stove, threw the meatballs in the oven, and then boiled an assortment of pastas.  I had three kinds of fancy, colorful (yet inexpensive) pastas that I purchased from World Market.  I had a long, harvest-colored spaghetti noodles, leaf-shaped macaronis, and a whole wheat pasta for the health-conscience.  Then I took little dishes and put a selection of toppings in each one: fresh basil, shredded Parmesan, fresh tomatoes, ground pepper, and garlic.  Add a bowl full of meatballs, and there were hundreds of pasta/sauce/topping combinations that could be created from this simple little pasta bar!
These pumpkin and leaf-shaped pastas from World Market gave my party the harvest flair I was looking for.
Among all the creations, the Pumpkin Sage Sausage sauce with the harvest-shaped noodles was the most popular combination.  The recipe is below.

Pumpkin Sage Sauce
 Pumpkin Sage Sausage Sauce


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound sage-flavored sausage (Johnsonville)
4 TBSP fresh garlic
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup cream or milk
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound pasta
Fresh Romano/Parmigiano blend (Trader Joes)

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Remove sausage from pan (drain if desired). Add to pan the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

PS - The side of meatballs were a real hit!  I highly recommend making your meatballs from turkey, as they absorb the taste of the sauce better than red meat.  Plus, they are so much healthier and the leftovers freeze well.

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  1. Amber, you're always so creative! It doesn't matter if it's cooking, decorating, writing, marketing or have the best advice. I love your blog. And I miss these amazing dinners at your beautiful house with your modern family :-(

  2. Jess - You are so sweet! We miss you and our events just don't feel the same without you but we feel like we are there when we read your wonderful blog! Take care.