Special of the Day~ Small Plate Pasta Party

Penne with Italian Sausage and Fennel

15 Dec Special of the Day~ Small Plate Pasta Party

Sydne George Special of the Day‘Tis the season for entertaining, and throwing a party is all the more enjoyable when you have a plan in place to prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

This week’s Special of the Day~ Small Plate Pasta Party provides a smart solution with a lineup of two terrific pasta recipes you can easily prep prior to the party and serve fresh and fabulous to your guests as they settle in and get socializing.

Cook the pasta and make the sauces ahead of time. Then just before you’re ready to serve, all that’s left to do is warm up the pasta and sauce and plate it on small plates to pass on trays at your party. Grab an elf or two (pasta, sauce, garnish) and set up an assembly line serve-out set up to make the process more efficient.

Plating the pasta and sauce hot from the pan makes for a better option than placing pasta on a buffet where food sits and loses its luster in a hurry.

That said, these recipes are versatile enough to work perfectly for a dinner party, cocktail party or holiday open house, adjusting the portion sizes and serving strategy accordingly to fit your guest list.

Keep it simple this season by serving guests a few bites of something special served on small plates, enabling you to mingle and enjoy the celebration yourself.

Get the holiday party planning started with this week’s Special of the Day~ Small Plate Pasta Party and recipes for White Cheddar Shells with Crab and Tarragon and Penne with Italian Sausage and Fennel. Happy entertaining!

White Cheddar Shells with Crab and Tarragon

White Cheddar Shells with Crab and Tarragon

White Cheddar Shells with Crab and Tarragon

Recipe by Sydne George

(makes about 24 small plate servings)
16 ounce package large shells

2 tbsp. butter

½ tsp. Kosher salt

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2 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. flour

¼ cup heavy cream

2 cups milk

½ tsp. Kosher salt

1 ½ cups white cheddar cheese, grated

1 tsp. fresh tarragon, leaves only, minced
2 cups fresh crab meat

2 tbsp. butter

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Additional tarragon leaves, for garnish

Cook shell pasta in large pot of salted, simmering water for about 9 minutes, until al dente.

Drain pasta in colander in the sink.

Return cooked pasta to cooking pot and toss with butter and salt.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.

Add 2 tbsp. butter and allow to melt.

Whisk in flour until smooth.

Continue whisking, adding cream gradually.

Whisk in milk, salt, cheese and tarragon.

Cook, whisking constantly until slightly thickened.

Remove from heat.

Heat a separate sauté pan over medium heat.

Add 2 tbsp. butter to hot pan and sauté crab briefly.

Spoon portions of buttered shell pasta onto small plates.

Top with White Cheddar Sauce and sautéed crab.

Garnish with tarragon leaves.

Enjoy!

Penne with Italian Sausage and Fennel

Penne with Italian Sausage and Fennel

Penne with Italian Sausage and Fennel

Recipe by Sydne George

(makes about 24 small plate servings)

1 pound package penne pasta

2 tbsp. butter

½ tsp. Kosher salt

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2 tbsp. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup fennel root, minced

½ cup sweet onion, minced

1.5 pound package mild Italian sausage

14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes

1 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1 tsp. fennel seed

½ cup freshly grated parmesan, for garnish

Fennel fronds, for garnish

Cook penne pasta in large pot of salted, simmering water for about 9 minutes, until al dente.

Drain pasta in colander in the sink.

Return cooked pasta to cooking pot and toss with butter and salt.

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.

Add garlic, fennel and onion and sauté until softened, stirring occasionally.

Add sausage and cook until no longer pink.

Add tomatoes (with juice in can) and cream and stir until incorporated.

Add salt and fennel seed.

Simmer briefly until slightly thickened.

Spoon portions of buttered penne onto small plates.

Top with Italian Sausage and Fennel sauce.

Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fennel.

Enjoy!

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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