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My wedding is coming, and our main course is angel hair pasta with red sauce or white sauce, and add-ins which are cubed grilled chicken and broccoli florets. We are feeding 250 from age 2 up to age 90. I know that portion sizes differ from person to person, and I have done the math. I will need 46-50 pounds of pasta (from a 3-4 oz. serving standpoint). My question becomes...how will I make, store, reheat, and serve this much? Our kitchen has one refrigerator, one stove/oven, one deep freezer, one sink, and one counter area. Roasters to hold the pasta warm? Will that work to reheat it during the ceremony in time for the reception (especially if we start it a little before the ceremony)? Help!

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There are a few questions about this topic already, but angel hair is very tricky as it's very easy to overcook ... but it also cooks quickly, so it might work.

One of the big questions is going to be what other items you're going to be reheating, and so if all of the equipment that you mentioned are actually going to be available. You're going to be holding/warming chicken, brocolli, and two sauces. That's likely going to tie up the oven and possibly two of the burners on the stove.

Capellinini/Angel Hair typically cooks in 4-5 minutes. At 3 to 4oz / person, you're looking at 47 to 63 lbs of pasta. Even if you can cook 5 lbs of pasta at a time, if we assume 1 minute to pull the pasta & refill, it's still an hour.

So, a few important things to consider -- don't pour out hot water as you're cooking. Find a way to quickly remove the pasta so that you then have hot water to cook the next batch. There are companies that make pots with 'pasta inserts' that they claim are for this, but they're really for steaming, (they don't touch the bottom, and have excessively large holes) so there's a good chance that you'll lose a lot of pasta in the process.

There are 'pasta cooking baskets' like for restaurants, but they're typically smaller and intended for single servings. If I were doing this, I'd either find a stainless steel fine holed or mesh colander than just barely fit into my largest pot, remove any side handles and rig up a way to remove it, so I could safely cook 4 or 5 lbs at a time. If I couldn't find that, I'd buy stainless steel insect screen, and make my own basket. But I have the tools (seamer and safety wire if that's not secure enough) and experience to do that sort of thing. You would also want to keep a kettle of hot water available, as you'll need to replace the water that was absorbed by the pasta.

Your next option is to parcook the pasta, as is mentioned in other questions, removing it about 2 minutes before it's done (although I'd run some tests to verify timing). The problem is that you have to toss it in oil to prevent it from sticking (which would be a lot for angel hair due to surface area) and cool it down quickly so it's not continuing to cook (shock in cold water, then wire racks over a sheet pan (in the fridge?) to let it drain). I'd make nests of pasta, just to it's easier to repackage and/or portion for reheating. So you'd need a lot of refrigerated storage on top of everything else.

You then have to reheat it. You could either toss it back into boiling water for a minute (don't forget to subtract for carry over cooking) to finish cooking. You could also steam it to reheat. In that case, you'd want to pull it when it's super al-dente; steaming takes longer, but it gives a longer window to avoid overcooked pasta. It's also possible to reheat pasta in hot (not boiling) water so you have a better window, but I'd be reluctant to do it with angel hair. Or reheat it in hot sauce (thinned some to consider how much will be absorbed by the pasta). (although for angel hair, I'd want to do it just before serving, and having a chef manning a 'pasta bar' for 250 people might be a problem unless he has 3-4 burners to work with).

If you don't have a steam table or similar to reheat, you can use a chafing dish and use an appropriately sized foil pan (leaving an inch or two of space underneath for boiling water, and fills the dish so there isn't lots of steam going out the sides) that you've poked lots of holes in.

So, the options are:

  1. Find a way to cook large batches with limited reset time before the next batch.
  2. Par cook, cool and then finish boiling (again with a way to quickly reset)
  3. Cook to super-al dente, then finish by steaming, hot (not boiling) water, or in hot sauce.

Personally, I'd switch to a thicker pasta, as (1) I hate dealing with angel hair (too easy to ruin), and (2) I find that it's best for oil based sauces, I don't think it holds up well to thicker sauces like tomato or cream sauces. I'd probably use a linguini fini. The larger surface area vs. a fully round pasta will hold sauce better, and the larger size is more forgiving ... without significantly changing the dish if you went for fettuccine or a shaped pasta. (note that penne rigatte seems to be the norm when I see 'pasta bars' at buffets)

  • Interesting observations. I wonder, based on the "pasta cooking baskets", if it wouldn't be an option to simply cook the pasta in large tea eggs, submerging multiple per pot at the same time. Could be logistically difficult to find the eggs though. – rumtscho Dec 13 '17 at 16:28
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    Easier than mocking up makeshift pasta cooking baskets, I think, would be to have or get two pots that will hold ~about the same amt of hot water. You should be able to nest a colander atop one pot, drain the pasta through it, and put the now-full-of-hot-water second pot on the stove for your next batch. – Megha Dec 16 '17 at 5:07
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Honestly, why did you choose angel hair? It's the WORST for what you need....

I would change to fettuccine. That, is heavier, goes farther, & won't become mush upon reheat. It also goes well with cubed add-ins. A small change of plans in order to save the day, I think. Don't forget to wash the fettuccine, after cooking, to prevent the starch from letting it stick together.

Btw-- Congrats!

  • Hi Tracy and welcome. Just a friendly suggestion - your post would be better as a comment. While you are suggesting an alternative, that is not what the OP is asking for. – Cindy Dec 13 '17 at 12:53
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    I think it is a great answer to actual problem. Angel cooks so fast that it does not pre cook easily. Try fettuccine or regular spaghetti and practice. – paparazzo Dec 13 '17 at 14:07

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