Killer Crowd-Pleaser Pasta

Lots of wine, lots of friends, lots of food… what can be better than a big dinner party? Being the convivial hostess that I am, I’m constantly gathering friends together for festive meals. I love experimenting with new dishes and ingredients, but sometimes I’m looking for a reliable go-to recipe — especially when I’ve gotten a bit ambitious with my guest count. In scenarios like this, I have an easy pasta recipe I’ve perfected over the years that guarantees dinner party success. Every time I make this I receive nothing but rave reviews. Not trying to brag, y’all, I’m just being honest.

If you’re having a load of guests over for the holiday season, give yourself a break and make a gigantic pot of this rigatoni with gorgonzola and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s simple and quick to put together, but the flavor is richly layered, and the vibrant colors of the tomatoes and basil lend a lively aesthetic to the dish.

My original recipe calls for meat, but I’ve also made a veg-friendly version. My friend Joe threw a dinner party to celebrate his birthday awhile back, and my gift to him was my exquisite cooking (of course!) One issue: pesky Joe is a vegetarian, so I had to modify my ingredients. Luckily, it was easy enough to substitute mushrooms, making the pasta just as satisfying as the original version.

The following recipe can be followed pretty loosely — be liberal with the sauce ingredients according to taste. Make the original meaty recipe or follow the substitutions in italics for the vegetarian version. For those feeling extra indulgent, feel free to add ingredients from both. Nothing wrong with that.

Sun-Dried Tomato & Gorgonzola Pasta
Makes 4 servings. I often double this.

1/2c oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
4tbsp oil from sun-dried tomatoes
2 skinless chicken breasts (veg: portobello mushrooms), cut into chunks
1lb rigatoni pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2c chicken broth (veg: vegetable broth, obviously)
1/2c prosciutto, chopped (veg: omit, sadly)
1/2c dry white wine
1/2c cream
1-2c gorgonzola cheese (depending on how much you love cheese! So for me, 2 cups.)
1/4c pine nuts, toasted
1/2c fresh basil, julienned

Heat about 2tbs of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a large skillet. Add chicken and saute until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cool.

In the meantime, boil a big pot of heavily salted water. Throw your pasta in and cook until al dente, then drain and set aside.

And in the meantime while doing THAT, heat the remaining sun-dried tomato oil in your skillet on medium high. Add garlic and shallot and sautee for about a minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes, chicken, prosciutto, broth, wine, and cream. Bring to a boil. Stir in your cheese until it melts into the sauce. Everything should be looking and smelling insanely good by this point.

Throw your pasta in a large bowl. Dump your amazing sauce all over and toss together. Top with pine nuts and basil (and more cheese, if you’re feeling daring!) Serve immediately to the hungry masses.

What’s your go-to dinner party recipe?

(Photo: Kochtopf)

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