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A potluck dinner is a gathering of people where each person in the group contributes a dish of prepared food to be shared among everyone in the group. Presentation is key, so think about how you’re going to serve it. Don’t cook anything that spoils when made in advance or where cooking times are vital.

The main thing to consider about a potluck dish is that the food is:

  • Easy to transport.
  • Easy to make.
  • Ok to eat warm or at room temperature, unless there are hot plates or refrigeration available.
  • Group-friendly; no super spicy dishes or  ingredients that have a high allergy risk.
  • Good even if not fresh. For example, a dressed Caesar salad will end up soggy and limp after a half hour.

I belong to a community group and we meet every month for a potluck dinner. Pasta dishes are popular with our group and here are some of the favorites.

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Pasta Roll-Ups

16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs ground  turkey or beef
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Two 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 16-20 dried lasagna noodles
  • Two 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • Two 15-oz container ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.

Turn heat to medium-high and add ground meat, breaking it up with a spatula until the meat shows no sign of pink. Stir in the Italian seasoning, then add tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and allow to cool in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Squeeze all remaining moisture from thawed spinach and place in large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, eggs and a 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese to the bowl. Stir until combined

Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish. Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Spread a tablespoon of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up. Place the rolled pasta seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining noodles. Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

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Orzo Salad

16 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • 1 lb feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh oregano
  • Salt and ground black pepper

Directions

In a jar with a screw-top lid, place olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano. Shake vigorously to combine.

Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Pour dressing over pasta and mix well. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

Add feta, tomatoes, olives, basil, and parsley to the chilled pasta; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. Cover; chill in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

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Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 pound lean Italian sausage, a combination of hot and sweet according to your taste, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pounds orecchiette
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe
  • 1 ½ cups pasta water
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Wash broccoli rabe in several changes of cold water. Cut off the bottom tips on the stalks and cut each stalk into one inch lengths.

Heat oil and stir in garlic in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute until meat is brown.

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and pasta. Add the broccoli rabe during the last two minutes of the pasta cooking time. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta water  to the cooked sausage and raise heat and cook until the sauce is hot.

Drain orecchiette and broccoli rabe and add to the sausage sauce in the skillet.

Using a wooden spoon, toss together for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and pour into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

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Tortellini and Vegetable Bake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 9-ounce packages refrigerated tortellini
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups sugar snap peas, halved crosswise or green beans
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon each salt and  pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • One 8 ounce package cream cheese or light cream cheese (Neufchatel), cubed and softened
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small red or green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water according to package directions, adding the carrot during the last 5 minutes of cooking and the sugar snap peas or green beans during the last 1 minute of cooking; drain.

Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet. Add chicken, garlic and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. Remove from the skillet.

Whisk together chicken broth, oregano, flour, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Add to the skillet  with the milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly; add cream cheese.

Cook and stir until cream cheese is smooth. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice. Add pasta mixture, chicken mixture, tomatoes and sweet pepper. Toss to coat.

Turn into an ungreased 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish or shallow 3-quart casserole.

Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until heated through. Stir mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds rigatoni pasta
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 7 cups milk, divided
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large sweet onions, diced
  • 6 ounces sourdough bread
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted plus 1 tablespoon
  • Fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lightly butter a large baking pan; set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; transfer to a large bowl.

In a large saucepan combine the squash and 6 cups of the milk over medium-high heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, 18 to 20 minutes.

Stir together remaining 1 cup milk and flour; stir into squash mixture. Bring to boiling; cook until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the Fontina cheese until melted; keep warm.

In a very large skillet or Dutch Oven heat the 1 tablespoon of butter. Add onions to the skillet; cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and increase heat to high. Cook 4 to 6 minutes more, stirring, until onions are golden. Add to the pasta in the bowl along with the squash-cheese mixture. Toss well to combine, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Place bread in a food processor and pulse with two or three on/off turns to form large coarse crumbs. Transfer to a small bowl; mix with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Sprinkle remaining cheese and the bread crumbs over the pasta mixture.

Bake until the top is browned, about 14 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover with heavy-duty foil and transport in an insulated carrier.

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