It’s the holiday season, when banquet and catering business kicks into its highest gear in every segment of foodservice, from restaurants to hotels and non-commercial venues of all stripes. And that’s a good thing, as catering sales are often where the profits are in this $54B business…especially when margin-friendly ingredients like pasta are in play!
At the Catersource conference earlier this year, we shared some of our pasta expertise specific to catering: how to prepare, hold and serve pasta at its best in the demanding and dynamic environments that caterers face every day. Pasta is a staple for catering of all kinds, and yet is often overlooked – and overcooked – in terms of the simple steps to take to eliminate waste, save labor and deliver the best possible dish to the guest. There was a LOT of interest in the session, and many follow-up questions throughout the show. Here are the 4 keys to remember:
- Don’t overcook!
- This is by far the most common mistake we see in kitchens of all shapes and sizes, and the most easily avoidable. Overcooked pasta creates waste, and an unhappy client.
- The 5-minute rule
- For virtually any cut or shape, 5 minutes of pre-cooking will do the job. To simplify steps for your staff, teach them this rule!
- Water is the enemy of the pasta!
- Anytime pasta and hot liquid are together, the pasta is cooking.
- This includes time while draining, especially from large batch steam kettles or braisers.
- And it includes time sitting in a steam table or hot box.
- Finish your pasta in the heated sauce
- This not only helps “marry” the pasta to the sauce, it saves time and water. There’s no need to reheat pre-cooked pasta in water if you’re serving it in a sauce.
Catered Pasta Greatest Hits
Here are some of the most successful pasta dishes we’ve served at catered events:
Ricotta-Spinach Lasagna Bites – this is how you make a universally loved comfort food into a bite-sized passed appetizer. The filling possibilities are endless, and the prep is similar to rolling sushi.
Chef Yury’s Pasta Parfaits – a versatile platform for fresh, seasonal fare with a good food cost and high guest appeal. Ricotta and Greek yogurt lend creamy richness, and fresh veggies and herbs add colorful pop.
Build-Your-Own Mac & Cheese Bar – mac & cheese is far and away the most popular pasta dish in America. The only thing better is when you get to build your own dish with an array of toppings, from indulgent bacon or lobster to heaps of roasted veggies. The key is keeping the mac & cheese base rotating, so it doesn’t clump up. We love Chef Thomas Horner’s orzo version for its holding power.
To get all your catering questions answered, ask the experts! Email us at [email protected]