Fettuccine Alfredo is a common menu item at weddings, buffets and other events where a hungry crowd gathers -- and for good reason. It is fairly simple to prepare and serve, doesn't involve costly ingredients and is likely to please most palates. If you're the designated cook for your next family get-together or community event, follow the pros' lead and consider serving fettuccine Alfredo.
For a main dish, 2 ounces of dry pasta per person is a good rule of thumb. You'll also need between 3 1/2 to 4 ounces of sauce per serving.
Alfredo sauce is best when prepared immediately before serving, but that isn't always feasible when serving a crowd. Consider these sauce options:
- Classic Alfredo sauce is built on three core ingredients: butter, cream and Parmesan cheese. This version is best made just before serving, but it only takes a moment to pull it together. Combine softened butter with hot cream. Whisk in Parmesan and simmer until the sauce just begins to thicken.
- Flour-based Alfredo sauce is more forgiving and can be lighter than the original. Melt butter in a saucepan, then whisk in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour in cold milk while continuing to whisk the sauce. Cook over medium-low heat until it thickens and begins to boil. Add Parmesan to taste.
- Bottled Alfredo sauces have stabilizers that make them easy to reheat in large quantities.
Flour-based Alfredo sauces can be prepared in advance. Prepare the sauce as directed in your recipe, and then pour the sauce into a heat-proof container to cool. When it reaches room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Reheat just before serving, whisking in extra milk if needed to thin the sauce to the correct consistency.
Cooking fettuccine for a crowd presents some logistical difficulties you don't have to worry about if you're only feeding a family of four:
- Depending on how many people you need to serve, you may need larger pots than you own. 1 pound of dry pasta will serve six to eight people, and requires between 5 and 6 quarts of water to boil. If you're serving 60 people, you'll need a pot that can hold up to 60 quarts, or 15 gallons. If you don't have one that large available, work in batches.
- Boiling 15 gallons of water takes more time than you expect.
- Pasta has a limited window of time between cooking and serving. If it sits for more than a few minutes, it starts to get gummy.
Two simple strategies will help you overcome these complications: first, get the water boiling as early as possible. It is easier to keep water at a boil than to heat it to that stage. Second, do what the culinary pros do when they need to serve pasta to hundreds of people in restaurants and catered events: parboil it.
Drop dry fettuccine into salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes less than the package directs. Drain, then rinse the pasta in cold water. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Just before serving, return the parboiled pasta to boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes to finish cooking. Drain and toss with sauce.
You can prepare parboiled pasta the day before. Let it cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.
No matter how carefully you plan, chances are there will be leftovers after your gathering. Divide the pasta into single-meal portions and let it cool to room temperature. Wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three to four days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove over low heat.