DIY Pasta Bar
Your guests will have a blast with this casual pasta bar set up. Choose three different types of pasta with different shapes or textures, such as cheese-filled tortellini, fettuccine, and wavy egg noodles.
Cook the pasta ahead of time. After draining the pasta, place it in a serving dish and toss it with a bit of olive oil to make sure it doesn’t stick. Keep it warm in the oven on low in a covered baking dish or in an electric buffet server.
Three different sauce offerings will go nicely in your pasta bar. Think of the colors of the Italian flag – red, green, and white. A mushroom marinara or savory meat sauce will be your red sauce; the white sauce will be a creamy garlic alfredo; and the green one will be basil and pine nut pesto, fresh or store-bought.
Consider pairing teas with your pasta dishes. For a heavier, richer meat sauce, I’d recommend the Smooth Sailing mango black tea. Simple and classic, the nuanced flavors in this delicious mango Ceylon tea blend are inspiring.
For a creamy white sauce pasta dish, try a green tea such as the Garden Grove Green Tea. Tart cherries, calming jasmine, and the sweet smell of vanilla all gently blend with a Chinese green tea full of delicious flavor.
And, for your pesto-based pasta creations, try the Kitchen Table Blend. This signature lemon-lime tea is a combination of both black tea and green tea. It’s flavored with a unique mix of citrus flavors, including lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit – a simple-yet-subtly-complex blend that is fun, fresh, and wonderfully enjoyable!
Pasta Topping Ideas
You can select so many delicious toppings for your pasta bar. Start with some healthy veggies, such as broccoli and green beans. Wash and trim the vegetables and then parboil them. This is a simple process of placing them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, until bright green. Strain the veggies in a colander – use caution when pouring off the boiling water – then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.
Kalamata olives make a great add-in for pasta. Sun-dried tomatoes in oil are tasty tossed with some fettuccini and a sprinkle of chili flakes.
Chopped spinach wilts nicely into warm pasta. Prepare some fresh basil to garnish your pasta bowls.
Infuse your olive oil with garlic, lemon, or rosemary for a gourmet twist. This is an easy way to make your olive oil fancy.
Lemon Peel Infused Olive Oil
- 1 cup olive oil (amount may vary depending on the size of your storage container)
- Peel of one lemon
Combine oil and lemon peel in a small saucepan and heat on low for about 20 minutes. You want to just warm the oil, not have it spatter or spit.
Remove from heat and strain the oil into a glass container.
Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
How to Set Up a Pasta Bar
Arrange your bowls of plain pasta alongside the toppings. Provide guests with serving bowls and plates, and let them get creative by mixing their own palette of sauce, pasta, and toppings. Your side dishes can be placed alongside your main entree pastas, or at the end of the buffet line.
If you’re using an electric chafing dish, place your cooked pasta in the dishes and add just a splash of water or oil to prevent the pasta from sticking to itself or the dish. Stir occasionally to prevent drying out.
Don’t forget your side dishes! Garlic bread warmed up in the oven and sliced before serving will be a great option for your pasta bar. Toss a spinach salad with some toasted walnuts and sliced beets, and top it with some shaved parmesan.
Roasted vegetables lend a Tuscan countryside feel to your pasta bar and are easy to prepare.
Easy Roasted Asparagus & Red Peppers
- One bunch asparagus (washed and trimmed)
- One red pepper (washed, trimmed, de-seeded, and sliced)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
Arrange prepared veggies on the foil and drizzle with olive oil. Massage the oil over the veggies until well-covered. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until brightly colored.
Remove and serve warm.
Serve iced tea at a station near your pasta bar. Fill a pitcher with the Happy Hour herbal tea, a tart and refreshing hibiscus blend elevated by the addition of grounding honeybush tea, a pinch of lemon verbena, and a splash of lime extract. Place a bucket filled with ice and some pint glasses next to the pitcher, and add a straw holder filled with compostable or bamboo drinking straws.
How about a sweet finish? I found a delicious treat called Vanilla Creme Horns at my local market. It's reminiscent of Italian cannoli, with sweet cream filling enveloped in flaky pastry dusted with sugar. Pair a pastry dessert like this with Vanilla Creme herbal tea for a light dessert, perfect for your post-pasta meal.
Or try this twist on a classic tiramisu, the Strawberry Earl Grey Tea Tiramisu. How could you go wrong with tea-soaked ladyfingers pillowed by layers of luscious mascarpone blended with a strawberry liqueur?
How to Keep Pasta Warm in Oven
Make sure the pasta is moist before you put it in the oven. Toss it with a splash of water or oil, then place in an oven-safe pan or bowl. Cover it with foil and set the oven to the lowest temperature. Remember to stir it occasionally to prevent the top from drying out.
An inexpensive buffet chafing dish is a must-have kitchen tool to help you serve warm food when hosting a party. I found my electric chafing dish at a great price at my local hardware store – score! Keep your eye out for a great deal on one at a yard sale or thrift store.
You can keep your pasta warm in your crock pot, but be mindful that the pasta doesn’t dry out. I recommend setting your crock pot to warm and then put the pasta in with a splash or two of water or oil. Don’t overfill the crock; there should be plenty of room around the pasta for a good stir.
Make-Ahead Pasta Dishes
Jooj up your DIY pasta bar with a couple of mouth-watering pre-made pasta entrees. This Arugula & Walnut Pasta Salad uses bite-sized pasta as the base. Peppery arugula is balanced by the bright and crisp red pepper, and the dish is rounded out by tangy mozzarella balls.
Easy Sausage Delight is a one-pot meal that your guests will adore. After browning the sausage, pour everything right into a pan and let it cook together. Prep time is just under 30 minutes.
Pasta Bar for Runners
For our runner friends, this pasta bar would be an awesome way to throw a pre-race carb load pasta party the night before your next big race. For long-distance runners, increasing carbohydrate intake two to three days before a race (known as “carb loading”) allows the body to store extra energy required for endurance exercise. Gather your racer friends and make this pasta party the big send-off for your next marathon!
With some easy prep and setup, you can host a fun and creative pasta bar for your friends that will satisfy even the pickiest pasta patron!