Whether you are on vacation or hosting a holiday gathering, finding a dish that feeds a crowd can save you from spending hours in the kitchen. Begin by deciding whether you want a casual, family-friendly meal, or if more formal fare is best for the occasion. Use these tips to narrow down your options for fast, easy meals that fit the occasion.
Versatile Pasta Dishes
Pasta is a one-size-fits all food that you can easily dress up for a more formal meal. Try spinach pasta with pesto topped with shredded Asiago cheese for semi-formal, vegetarian-friendly meal, or toss spaghetti with a rich garlic butter and tomato combination for a fast family dinner.
For a feast that suits both family dinners and formal occasions, opt for shrimp scampi on a bed of angel hair pasta. Cook the pasta immediately before serving to preserve the preferred al dente texture, and toss with cooked shrimp lemon juice, white wine, garlic and salt and pepper to taste to top the pasta with a simple-but-tasty sauce. Garnish the dish with freshly chopped parsley for a fresh, herb-flavored finish.
Feeding a crowd is simpler when you opt for a one-pot dish, but save the soup for family dinners. Rich stews made with beef and root vegetables like potatoes and carrots is hearty enough for cold weather, while a pork tenderloin seasoned with sage and apples cooks beautifully in your Dutch oven. Usually, you just need about a quarter-pound of meat,or less, per person, so choose a tenderloin based on the poundage and cook slightly more than you think you need to serve larger groups.
For a summery dish with bright flavors, try quinoa with lemon and avocado. The lemon gives the quinoa bright flavor that balances the rich, buttery avocado nicely. This versatile dish works as a base for fresh vegetables. Opt for fresh flavors like cucumber and dill to enhance the freshness, or add dates, almonds and figs to give quinoa a rich warmth that is perfect for winter.
Last Minute Meals
Last minute meals can be a challenge, even for the most experienced chefs. Try cutting a loaf of Italian bread in half lengthwise, and layer cold cuts and cheese on each side. Put veggies like tomato, lettuce, cucumber slices and pickles in the center to make fast sandwiches for a group, or try using a delivery service like Sydney Caterers for a sit-down meal that takes no prep time.
If you have a little more time, try a fruit, vegetable and sandwich platter to serve a large group with less prep time. Opt for fruits that are easy to use, like sliced apples, and choose a few different spreads to provide a variety of sandwich flavors. Carrot sticks, celery sticks and broccoli florets are classic choices for platters. Add a dip to the vegetable platter for a more flavorful dinner that can feed a group.