My ladies church group has been asked to cater a wedding dinner. It is a pasta bar for 250 people- 3 kinds of pasta, 3 sauces, 3 toppings (broccoli, chicken, cheese), salad and bread. My question is how much pasta to prepare of each kind? I think it is spaghetti, penne, and macaroni. Sauces are red sauce, alfredo sauce, and cheese sauce. Also, would it be best to cook the pasta the day before, shock it in ice water, put it in gallon bags with oil, and then reheat the next day? We've done mostaccioli before with the sauce mixed in, but never plain pasta where the guest adds the sauce.


1 Answer 1


You would end up going through a lot of gallon bags, so I wouldn’t recommend that. If you were going to take that approach, I would suggest instead using deep hotel pans, undercook the pasta slightly, shock in cold water, drain, toss in a bit of oil, and then place in the pans.

The penne and macaroni will be the easiest to deal with, as strand pasta might be more difficult to extract from the pan to refresh in boiling water before serving. (You can also steam it to reheat if that would be easier, although it takes longer). If you’re adding hot sauce to the pasta, it only needs to be brought back to room temperature.

As for quantity, it really depends on how hearty the sauce and toppings are, how warm it is outside (people eat more when it’s cold), and what sort of people you’re cooking for (college football players are going to eat more than small children).

I’ve seen recommendations for anywhere from 2oz to 4oz (57 to 114g) of dried pasta per person depending if it’s intended as a side dish or a main course. And those numbers were assuming you’re serving them, not self-service.

As for the proportions of each pasta, it’s likely that demographics might have a factor there, too. I suspect that children would be more likely to go for macaroni, while people in fancy clothes might go for penne (as strands like spaghetti can be messier to eat). Most people would be accepting of other pasta if their first choice is no longer available, so that one might not be as critical of an issue.

I would recommend doing a smaller test dinner for maybe 12-25 people, so you can test out your prep, cooking and reheating methods, and get a clearer estimate of how much you should cook for the group. It will also let you know how fast each batch takes to cook so how much time you need to plan for.

  • 5
    If the main course is just pasta with sauce I think 114g is a little on the short side for a grown up. If the pasta is the main source of calories I would go up to 6 oz/ 171g depending on age and gender distribution.
    – quarague
    Feb 23 at 14:48
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    If food catering isn't something you're familiar with (especially with this many people), @Joe's suggestion about doing a test dinner is spot on. My wife and I serve a kids meal on a regular basis, and with just about any new meal we try, we always do a test of not only the food, but the prep time, plating procedures, etc. That way there are fewer surprises during the meal itself, especially if there are specific times that your wedding is expecting food to be ready.
    – Milwrdfan
    Feb 23 at 15:36
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    @Milwrdfan : I assumed they had, from their comment about serving other food before, but if someone finds this who hasn’t, I would also recommend cooking.stackexchange.com/q/12068/67
    – Joe
    Feb 23 at 17:02
  • 3
    Don't forget to make allowances for seconds, changes, and waste, especially if guests serve themselves. Feb 23 at 22:02

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