Cooking Game: Instant Pasta Meal For Ten, Twenty, Thirty People

I just realized this morning when I woke up that I really should have gone into the “how to” of cooking pasta. It’s one of the easy things to make, but I also do have a particular technique I use to make the sauce that is both effortless and good. It’s brain dead easy “Man Cooking” as well.
You will need;
1 Box of Pasta       (I like Penne for this)
1 Jar of Pasta Sauce    (I love Vodka Sauce)
1 to 1.5 pounds of ground beef
Some salt.
Step One:
Boil the water, add in about 1 teaspoons of salt, basically a really big sprinkle. Add the pasta. Don’t do anything silly like adding oil to the water to “make the pasta not stick to each other”, it doesn’t work, the oil just floats on top of the water. The salt will make the entire dinner taste a little better. You cook the pasta for as long as the box says.
Step Two:
Once you start the pasta cooking, add the ground beef to a COLD fry pan and separate it all as best you can. Then just pour the jar of sauce all over the beef and stir it up good, THEN you turn the heat on and cook it at “a little bit higher than medium”. Most people will usually “brown” the beef first, by which they mean “overcook the beef into little chewy bits”, then pour the sauce on after that in a special “burn the sauce against the too hot fry pan” technique. I mean seriously people, how do you both end up with burnt sauce that is also still mostly cold? Then you have to keep cooking the beef even longer and eventually heat up the partially burnt sauce to proper temperature.
Step Three:
Stir the sauce once in a while. At first it will look pinkish with all the uncooked beef, but slowly over time you will see the sauce turn color into a deep rusty red color as the beef cooks. Once you start seeing puddles of liquid on the top of the sauce that’s the beef dropping it’s fat (the fat in the beef is hot enough to turn into a liquid) and the sauce is basically done. Give it just one minute more for it all to cook through.
Step Four:
If you timed it right the pasta is done just as the sauce is done. You can fiddle with the heat to make this happen. I just drain the pasta, return it to the pot and pour the sauce right over the pasta. Stir it up good in the pot and pour it all into a serving bowl and we’re all done. Should have only taken about 15-20 minutes tops from when you walked into the kitchen and started boiling the water.
So you get a pretty damn near instant meal that everyone likes and if you’re shopping sales for pasta and pasta sauce at the grocery store you can probably have done the meal for under $10 for up to ten people. If you want to do something other than ground beef in the sauce you can, leftover shredded chicken works, so does fresh mushrooms, leftover vegetable can work too.
If you’re in a rush to pull an entire meal together and running through a grocery store, get a loaf of some kind of fancy bread (I love Ciabatta with the little salt crusting) and a bag (or two) of the premade salads. The trick with these is to always look at the expiration dates on the bags and get the freshest ones possible. They do tend to suck if not completely fresh. Then BOOM! You whomp the salad into a big bowl, samurai the bread a bit, nuke the butter for a few seconds to soften it and slam the pasta into a big bowl. Dude you are the hero and heroes get laid.
It’s just cooking, you can do this.
PS. Cooking for lots more people? Double up on everything. Cooking for a shitload of people? Triple up on everything. You might need a another pot for all the pasta. Try this as a fun thing to do to mess with your wife a little, say “why don’t we just invite everyone over for lunch” as her eyes bug out at the thought of her trying to cook for 25 people and her mouth starts opening up to complain, say… “I’ll cook pasta” and watch her try and find a problem with that and fail. And once you’re at 20+ people, paper plates and a big disposable foil tray for serving the pasta is the way to go. Trust me on that.
PPS. “Everyone” is everyone that you usually can’t stand to see from your wife’s side of the family. This gets them all out of the way in one fell swoop. You’re in the kitchen so you don’t even have to spend much time talking to them.
PPPS. She doesn’t really like them that much either, she just can’t say that out loud.


  1. Bhetti says:

    It's okay to fob off children with simple pasta, but the social horror of serving that to adults is… horrific!

    However, I think you can get away with it if you use tortellini as opposed to other varities of pasta and add unusual ingredients, like mortadella (which isn't expensive really).

  2. SDaedalus says:

    Thank you Athol, that was *ahem* very useful as my culinary skills are limited.

  3. Athol Kay says:

    @ Bhetti – anything can be served for lunch to adults and be socially acceptable. Just do it casual, "we're just having pasta, it's going to be relaxed, you don't have to bring anything".

    @ SD – welcome. :-)

  4. haleyshalo says:

    Good tip about mixing the sauce with the meat. Thanks, Athol. :)

  5. Athol Kay says:

    You're welcome Haley. And to think I worry about people liking the cooking posts…

  6. lanabunz says:

    I love this idea! Definite "blog to leave open for hubby" :)

  7. Athol Kay says:

    LOL Lanabunz

  8. Wicked Shawn says:

    That was a useful post and pasta is perfectly acceptable to serve to guests if the male of the household is the one cooking. ;)

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