This past week, my childhood best friend was visiting from Washington DC and I decided to throw a party in her honor. I wanted her to meet some of my friends and neighbors, and of course, their children. I scheduled the party and began my search for a great dinner party recipe. I needed a recipe that fit my standard party criteria: not too complicated, can be made ahead of time (or most of it could be), be adult and kid friendly, and most importantly, taste great! I have spent too many parties making complex recipes and end up spending all of my time in the kitchen and no time with my guests. I’ve realized the importance of preparing most (or all) of the recipe before the party starts and assembling it when you are ready to serve it. I can actually talk to my guests and enjoy the party without feeling stressed about the food preparation.
The recipe I decided to use was Mediterranean Pasta. It didn’t involve too much prep time, looked non-complex, and the ingredients sounded like they would be great together. My kids love "Mediterranean ingredients" - olives, basil, and sun dried tomatoes - so I thought the recipe would be a hit with the kids (and the adults).
I changed a few steps from the original recipe in order to make it ahead of time for my party. I will highlight where I went "off course" so you will know how to make it on a weeknight for your family, as well as for a party. If you are making it for a party (or feeding more than four people), I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe. If you are going to do this, print out the recipe and write the new measurements next to each ingredient. For example, if the recipe calls for ¼ cup basil and you are doubling it, write ½ cup next to the basil. I know it seems redundant, but it will save you from BIG mistakes. Trust me, I’ve done them!
The beginning of this recipe says to cook the pasta according to package directions. Since I was cooking this pasta for a party later in the evening, I waited and cooked it right before I served it. You can choose whether to cook it first or wait until you are going to serve it, it’s a personal preference. I like to eat pasta right after it’s cooked.
For the next step, melt the Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt in a large frying pan.
When it’s melted, add your chicken breasts. **(If you are multiplying the recipe, you may have to do the chicken in batches, depending on the size of your pan. Each piece of chicken should have space around it. If the chicken is too crowded, it won’t brown properly and won’t taste as good. Put the extra cooked chicken aside and continue to the next step (at this point, you should have one recipe worth of chicken in the pan).
Turn the chicken breasts at least once and continue cooking until the breasts are no longer pink in the middle (usually 15-20 minutes). When the chicken is almost done, add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
Watch the heat to make sure the Butter with Olive Oil & Sea Salt and garlic don’t burn. I kept my burner at medium heat and even turned it down a bit when I added the garlic.
Add the whipping cream and basil to the pan and stir around and over the chicken.
Take the chicken out of the pan, place it on a cutting board and slice it into strips. (At this point, I put the sliced chicken breasts into the refrigerator to cool down. If you have increased the recipe and cooked more chicken, cut it into strips and put all the chicken together. You will need to use the chicken breasts later, when you are ready to assemble the recipe).
For the next step, add the sun-dried tomatoes and olives to the pan. Cook until the mixture is slightly thickened (usually 1 to 2 minutes)
At this point, I shut off the heat and put the entire pan into the refrigerator. I left it there until I was ready to cook for my guests.
When you are ready to cook the recipe for your guests, cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, place your pan (with the cream, olives, basil, sun-dried tomatoes) on the stove on medium low heat. Drain the pasta and set aside.
When the cream mixture is heated up, add the sliced chicken back into the pan. Heat for a few more minutes, until the chicken is hot (or as warm as you would like).
To serve, place a mound of pasta onto a plate or pasta bowl and spoon some chicken and sauce mixture over it. Sprinkle a little crumbled feta cheese onto the top and your pasta is ready to go.
I served the first bowls of finished pasta to the kids and a few of them came running back to the kitchen for second helpings - BEFORE I had time to serve the adults (asking for second helpings is one of the biggest complements you can give me on my cooking). I quickly spooned the adult portions into pasta bowls and we were ready to eat dinner. Everyone LOVED the pasta and I loved how easy it was to assemble and serve right before we ate. I also was happy to spend most of the party talking to my guests and making sure my friend was having a good time.
Overall, the party was a success; the food was great and everyone, including me, had a fun time. My friend has since gone home and I hope when she visits again, I can host another fun party with a new delicious recipe! Try Mediterranean Pasta for your next party, and please come back and rate and review the recipe if you do.
Come back in a few days when Alex will share a recipe that makes for a perfect activity for kids.
Bridget is paid to write for the Land O’Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.