How to Host Your Own Pasta Bar

If you are a foodie, you may have toyed with the idea of opening your own restaurant at some point in your life; I have. Himself is a Life Planner and his question to his clients who are thinking about opening a restaurant would be, “What is it about the idea of opening a restaurant that drives you?” My answer would be- making my customers happy with my delicious food, seeing the regulars come back for more, and creating this extended family through good food, that feeling of being needed to satisfy others, the feeling of being creative and noticed for it, and the feeling “it’s mine, all mine.” Anyone who has thought about opening a restaurant, would you agree? What else would you add?

Well I have romanced the idea and have come up with a resounding, “no thank you.” I have accomplished all those above thoughts and feelings about opening a restaurant by playing “pretend” restaurant by creating fun and clever menus for my guests AND I get to have my nights, weekends and holidays off. Besides, my life dream is to be a world traveler tasting everyone elses food.

Here is what I did the other night for my guests…

A BIG FAT PASTA BAR


Items on my Pasta Bar
Bowtie Pasta- al dente and tossed with olive oil to prevent sticking
Fettuccine- al dente and tossed with olive oil to prevent sticking
Alfredo Sauce- on hot plate, you can use jarred but I made my own.
Marinara Sauce- on hot plate
Rotisserie Chicken- meat picked off bones
Shrimp- raw to be boiled with pasta
Sweet Italian Sausage- Cut up and cooked through
Meatballs- homemade or purchased
Pitted Black Olives- from olive bar at grocers
Marinated Artichoke Hearts- from olive bar at grocers, drained
Peas- from freezer section
Mini Pepperonis
Sauteed Peppers and Onions- I did this
Cannellini Beans- drained and rinsed from a can
Sun-dried Tomatoes
Shaved Parmesan Cheese
Shredded Italian Blend Cheese
Bowl of Romaine with Croutons
Italian Salad Dressing
Sliced French Baguette
Butter
Fresh Basil- for pretty centerpiece and pasta topping


How We Did It
1. I had two pots of boiling water on the stove. Although I had kept the pasta warm in the oven, I knew it would get cold quickly.
2. Each person filled a strainer with their choice of pasta, then the toppings over the pasta, and dropped their strainer in the boiling water for about 2 minutes or 3 if they chose the small raw shrimp.
3. Then they drained their pasta, plated it, and topped it with their choice of sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.

Note- We did not boil the pepper and onions as they would flavor the water for the next person. We heated only the things that would not change the flavor of the water. The sauces were very hot and when added to the pepper-onion mix, it warmed quickly. If you have a large number of guests then you will need more pots of boiling water.


My combination was fettuccine, artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, chicken, black olives, Parmesan cheese and alfredo sauce. What combo would you like?


I kept the salad simple by only using romaine lettuce and croutons so that my guests could fancy up their salads with the offerings from the Pasta Bar.

After Action Report
1. This was very fun to do, almost like a fondue party.
2. Be sure to cook your pasta al dente.
3. I wish I had made a smaller first portion so that I could have tried other combinations.
4. Nothing tasted boiled but nice and fresh and hot.
5. The fresh basil made a beautiful and delicious finishing touch to our pasta.
6. Next time I may add sauteed asparagus, bacon, fresh lemons, and capers to my pasta bar.
7. The prep went quickly since most things were premade or canned. About 60 minutes.
8. Our guests had an idea that this would be fun to do in the summer but as a “Make Your Own Pasta Salad Bar.” Provide cold pastas, mix-ins, and dressing choices like- Green Goddess, Ranch, Poppy Seed, or Italian.

Try this out yourself. It proved to be a fun and creative night. Great for kids.

PS- I know someone thinking about opening his own restaurant and I think he would be great at it! Maybe he would hire me to make cupcakes or wash dishes.


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46 Comments

  1. avatar Alison
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 7:22 AM | Permalink

    This sounds like so much fun! We'll have to try it the next time we have guests:-)

  2. avatar oneordinaryday
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

    What an amazing spread! My very Italian, pasta-loving father-in-law would never have left your house. You come up with the most creative ideas, Robin.

  3. avatar EAT!
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

    Oh Robin – you have done it again!

  4. avatar redkathy
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 8:37 AM | Permalink

    Beautiful Italian presentation. Perfect party for a Florida patio. The boiling water, what a great idea!

  5. avatar Grumpy & HoneyB
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 9:19 AM | Permalink

    I love this and I'm going to steal it for a family gathering next month! :D

    I actually am taking my first step and meeting someone today about opening a bakery! My reason, it is my absolute passion to bake and feed others and to see them enjoy it and come back for more. It was born in me and it won't go away. (at least I hope not – especially after I take the step to start this endeavor!) :)

  6. avatar Robin Sue
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 9:47 AM | Permalink

    Grumpy-Shelby I see your passion everyday from your blog and newsletter- I think you would be great at owning a bakery. I can't wait to hear more about it in the future. Yeah, I like being the customer more so than the owner. But you know having a small gig like baking cupcakes for a business, that would be up my alley and fun.

    • avatar Nikos1121
      Posted 10/15/2013 at 12:03 PM | Permalink

      Really enjoyed the pasta bar idea. I’m going to put this on next month. A couple questions.

      1. Where did you get the beautiful serving tray?
      2. Warming tray used to keep the sauces warm right?
      3. What beverages did you have on hand?

    • avatar Robin Sue
      Posted 10/15/2013 at 3:28 PM | Permalink

      The serving bowl comes from Costco, I got it many years ago, but any divided dishes can work. Yes a warming tray is a great tool for entertaining. If not then a chafing dish works well. I like to have a water pitcher with lemons or other fruit in it like strawberries (pretty and affordable) or homemade lemonade or iced tea. I rarely serve soda, but then again ginger ale is a favorite of mine with pasta. You can have wine on hand too if you like. Enjoy, I hope you have a fun and delicious time!

  7. avatar June
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

    What a fabulous idea for entertaining a crowd. I'll be stealing this from you for our next "student party". They'll love it!

  8. avatar Diane
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    We've done something similar to this but with baked potatoes. Everyone puts their toppings on, then the (already baked) potatoes go back in the oven for about 10 minutes (only the ones with cheese needed to go back in, to melt the cheese, everything else was already hot enough)We did sweet potatoes for desert with toppings like marshmallows, cinnamon sugar, honey, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

  9. avatar Diane
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 12:18 PM | Permalink

    We've done something similar to this, but with baked potatoes instead of pasta. We had sweet potato bar for desert with toppings like marshmallows, honey, fresh pineapple, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

  10. avatar Diane
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    This also works well using baked potatoes with a variety of toppings, we did this and had a sweet potato bar for desert, with toppings like marshmallows, fresh fruit, honey, nuts, etc. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

  11. avatar Karen
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 1:27 PM | Permalink

    I love the idea of a pasta bar. Everybody gets their favorite and it sounds like so much fun. As far as opening a restaurant goes: I can't think of anything that would ruin my love of cooking faster than opening a restaurant! LOL

  12. avatar Sabrina
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 3:45 PM | Permalink

    I LOVE this idea. I even have that set to serve it. Now, I mat ditch the Cico de Mayo theme I had planned for a get together in a couple of weeks. Thanks for an awesome idea.

  13. avatar grace
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 3:58 PM | Permalink

    this is a really clever entertaining plan, robin sue! i love the colors and i love your sectioned dish!

  14. avatar Penny
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 5:04 PM | Permalink

    You have done it again. You are so creative Robin Sue. Do you stay awake at night thinking up all of these lovely ideas? It is always a treat to come here and see what you have created.

  15. avatar Laura
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    I like the idea of the cold pasta salad bar too.

  16. avatar Mary Catello • Teri Salomoni
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 5:41 PM | Permalink

    That's a nice array. I've done something similar with pizza parties. I agree with you…it's much more fun when you do things like this at home and when you feel like it. The restaurant business is a tough way to make a living.

  17. avatar noble pig
    Posted 04/14/2010 at 8:00 PM | Permalink

    You just amaze me, seriously. I love this idea and I bet your guests did as well!!

  18. avatar Sophie
    Posted 04/15/2010 at 8:48 AM | Permalink

    You always seem to amaze me by your culinary adventures & lovely suggestions!!

    Incredibly tasty food!

    Thanks, Robin Sue!

    Many sunny greets from Brussels, Belgium!

  19. avatar Ingrid
    Posted 04/15/2010 at 12:45 PM | Permalink

    I think you should be a party planner! You'd rock! Once again I wish I lived closer…FYI, I'm a great "cleaner"! You know the you cook. I clean. :)
    ~ingrid

  20. avatar Jenn@slim-shoppin
    Posted 04/15/2010 at 2:04 PM | Permalink

    What a great idea!!!

    The architecture firm I work for designs and builds restaurants and I have a HUGE appreciation for what it takes to do that since I see first hand what goes into it, and you are right, you get to cook great food every day!!

  21. avatar se7en
    Posted 04/15/2010 at 2:45 PM | Permalink

    This looks so fun!!! We do it with wraps all the time but I have never thought of doing it with pasta! – Love it!!!

  22. avatar Julie
    Posted 04/16/2010 at 12:37 AM | Permalink

    The pasta bar looks like lots of fun! I've daydreamed about a restaurant too. I know it would be more work than I could ever dream!

  23. avatar Ingrid
    Posted 04/16/2010 at 4:41 PM | Permalink

    Robin Sue! You're on Babble as one of the 50 best mama food bloggers! Did you know? Congrats & good luck!!!
    ~ingrid

  24. avatar Mary at Deep South Dish
    Posted 04/16/2010 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

    Cool idea and great pasta bar! I have heard that opening and running a restaurant is extremely hard work. I can't imagine it wouldn't be since authoring a food blog is pretty hard work. Great post!!

  25. avatar Jensamom23
    Posted 04/18/2010 at 10:46 AM | Permalink

    What a smart idea!

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