Cooking for a Crowd

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As you can see, I’m a bit rusty shopping for more than two people, I doubled everything!

I recently offered to make dinner for the eater of the house’s book club. Here’s the lowdown: up to nine people, it had to be dairy-free, and since I was making it the night before, it had to be something that would still taste delicious the next day. I was up to the challenge!

A baked pasta dish was mentioned, but I thought about it and took it one step further, baked ziti with lots of veggies. The perfect recipe, with the cheese served on the side! I took five minutes and thought about what I like to put in my lasagna and baked pasta dishes. I frequently make dishes vegetarian, but since this was a meat-eating crowd, I decided to tame them by  adding some spicy sausage.

From beginning to end this took about an hour to put everything together. I worried it would be dry the next day, but the wine and water (as well as the water-filled mushrooms and zucchini) were a good addition to keep it moist as was the remaining sauce; a nice, new layer of sauce was added before it was baked. I refilled the sauce jar and had almost a full jar. You can do that or warm it to top your serving.

The report back was “dinner was a hit” and some went back for seconds. Phew! And leftovers the following night were delicious!

Bove's is a Vermont spaghetti sauce and is the only jarred sauce I buy. Their roasted garlic is what I usually get, but decided to go with their basic marinara for this dish.

Bove’s is a Vermont spaghetti sauce and is the only jarred sauce I buy. Their roasted garlic is what I usually get, but decided to go with their basic marinara for this dish.

Baked Ziti
This made enough for nine people plus leftovers. And of course, for a vegetarian version, just leave out the sausage and up the veggies!

1 pound hot (or sweet) sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 green peppers, chopped
2 zucchini, diced
10 ounce mushrooms, thickly sliced (I used baby bella mushrooms)
1 6 oz can large black olives, halved
1 jar spaghetti sauce
¾ cup white wine, optional (if not using, substitute water)
1 cup water
1 pound box of ziti, penne, or mostaccioli

1. Cook pasta according to directions.

2. Warm a tiny bit of oil in a medium saucepan. Add the sausage and cook until it is done. With a slotted spoon, place on a plate lined with paper towels. Rinse the pan.

3. With the same skillet, warm about 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and green peppers and cook until just soft. Add the zucchini, stir, and then add the mushrooms. Cook until the veggies are soft but not mushy.

4. To the pan of veggies, add the jar of sauce, wine, and water. Stir and cook for about 10-15 minutes to incorporate the flavors. Add the black olive and remove pan from burner.

5. In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta, about three-fourths of the  sauce, and mix until incorporated. Add mixture to a large baking dish.

For baking the next day:
• Cover and place pan in fridge.
• Remove pan from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking.
• Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add the additional sauce (or warm it in a saucepan to serve on the side) and put foil over pan.
• Bake at 325 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until bubbly.
• Serve with the additional sauce and cheese.

For baking that night:
• Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until bubbly.
• Serve with the additional sauce and cheese.
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9 thoughts on “Cooking for a Crowd

  1. This dish was a big hit with our book group and I know a few of us went for thirds. I don’t think I have had a better pasta dish. It had just the right blend of veggies and spicy sausage. Thank you so much from the “eater of the house.”

  2. What I hear in your posts about cooking is “confidence”.

    This dish does look delicious and I think I’ll try it though only for a few…

    • Thank you, Carol! I’ll admit I wasn’t too confident having this go off to the group. I cross my fingers a lot when I cook for others! 🙂 And you can definitely cut the recipe in half! I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Spicy and Creamy Pasta | My Vermont Kitchen

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