Sunday, March 27, 2011

Planning a Meal for 85 People

I was at the meeting for my daughter's school auction and there wasn't anybody assigned to food. I wanted to do something for the auction and cooking seemed like a natural way for me to help so I offered to plan and prepare the auction dinner. After a lot of recipe reading and talking to friends, I decided on an Italian Menu.  I went on a lasagna exploratory adventure and settled on a cheese lasagna and a lasagna bolognese as the central point of the meal. 

I prepared and cooked all the lasagna the day before the auction. At one point I had two pots of lasagna noodles going, two pans of bechamel and two lasagnas in the oven. I worked from 6:30 PM until 1:30 in the morning making lasagna. I would have been done faster with more than 4 burners and more oven space but I had to work with what I had. The most difficult part was not the cooking but estimating the correct amount of food. The event was from 6:30 - 9:30, so prime dinner time, but we didn't charge for the event so there wasn't an assumption that dinner would be served.

Below are the recipes, links and descriptions of the meal. I didn't love the white bean dip from Bittman, I would probably sub out something else if I was going to do this again. I would also replace the cheeseboard with something else because there was cheese at every turn in this menu. I also ended up with too much dip, too much green salad and too many prepared meatballs so the recipes below outline the amount of food slightly above what was consumed instead of what I made, which was a little too much. Would I do this again? Yes I would! It was fun and so, so interesting. I am not, however interested in becoming a professional caterer and I have a new respect for people that do that job. But I loved it; making 85 people feel content and full of delicious food.


Cheese Lasagna
Lasagna Bolognese
Gluten Free Cheese Lasagna
Tortellini Salad
Cheeseboard (4 lbs. of assorted cheese set out next to the bruschetta bar)
Green Salad
Bruschetta Bar (Artichoke Dip, Tapenade, White Bean Dip, Whipped Ricotta with Fresh Herbs)
Pre-Made Meatballs from Trader Joe's

Tortellini Salad

7 9 - 10 ounce Boxes of pre-made tortellini (a mix of two different colors and flavors)
5 cans of black olives, drained
2 containers Cherry Tomatoes (the large ones from TJs), washed
10 ounce chunk of Salami
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup loosely packed Basil

Cook tortellini. Drain and gently toss with a very small amount of Olive Oil to prevent sticking. Mix in cherry tomatoes and black olives. Chop Salami into small 1/3 inch cubes. Place Salami into a separate bowl (if you want to offer a vegetarian version) or drop it in the big bowl (if you don't). In a blender puree the remaining ingredients and mix into the salad(s).


Three pans of this Cheese Lasagna.

One pan of the same Cheese Lasagna made with gluten free lasagna noodles.

Three pans of Lasagna Bolognese. I used this Bolognese recipe. For constructing the lasagna I followed this recipe subbing out my own Bolognese sauce. It is great for making the day before because it is on the wet side which you need if you are going to pre-bake and re-warm.

Green Salad

3 16 ounce containers of mixed greens, washed and spun dry
4 heads of iceberg lettuce, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces, washed and spun dry
6 English Cucumbers, washed and cut into bite sized pieces
3 Red Onions (you don't want strong ones, find sweet red onions, taste them!), sliced into thin rounds and separated
2.5 times Bouchon's Basic Dijon Vinaigrette, adding Salt and Pepper.

Toss everything together.

For the Bruschetta Bar:

Except for cooking the artichoke dip, everything can be prepared ahead of time.


7 Baguettes, sliced into 1/4" pieces
Olive Oil

Reheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush both sides of each piece with olive oil. Toast them for 10 minutes, turning over half way through until they start to turn golden. After cooling, place them in a ziploc bag and seal.

Bruschetta Toppings

Three jars of Olive Tapenade from Trader Joe's.
A double recipe of Paula Deen's Three Cheese Artichoke Dip.
One recipe of Mark Bittman's White Bean Spread. Not my favorite though.
Whipped ricotta wish fresh herbs: 1 Tub of high quality ricotta beaten. Mix in a small handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used basil), some lemon juice and/or lemon zest, salt and pepper.

Trader Joe's Frozen Meatballs

I don't think I would use these again if I had to repeat this event but about 4 bags of them were eaten.

1 comment:

  1. That's quite an undertaking! 85 people! Food looks good, Sonia!