How do I keep 40 pans of lasagna warm for a wedding reception?

by Amy
(Glendale)

I have a ton of friends that have agreed to make the family recipe for lasagna. How do I keep them warm?

I've thought of a couple of ideas:

1. Have people bring the lasagnas hot, squeeze all forty into the four ovens that I have in my church, and keep warm on 200 for the 2 hours that it would probably be before eating them.

2. Have people bring cooked lasagnas, stick them in the refrigerators, and warm them up right before serving (on what temp? for how long?).

What would you recommend?

Answer:

Hi Amy, wow, that's a serious undertaking!

I've thought about this a lot. I've also spoken with a lovely German friend who used to run a restaurant (so she knows her stuff) and in a another life also prepared hundreds of portions of lasagna.

The answer? The ideal thing to do is to have people bring their 'lasagne' un-cooked (i.e. sauce made, layers built in the dish, just not yet baked).

Why? Freshly cooked lasagna tastes the best. Trying to keep lasagne warm for 2 hours will likely just dry them out - not good. While the fridge option would - if done right - add time, as really you should let these sit to come back up to room temperature before cooking.

Is this fresh baking approach possible? Hope so!

One final tip: if you can, get all your friends to try and use exactly the same type of lasagna sheets (e.g. sheets of Barilla's spinach pasta, uncooked). This approach will help you to cook your numerous lasagne without burning any, as different pasta brands tend to cook at different speeds!

Best of luck,

Matt.

PS: Since you love lasagna, you find find my pasta cookbook of interest. It has a whole section of easy-to-print lasagna recipes inside and comes supplied with a free exclusive Lasagna 101 guide. Ciao!

Comments for How do I keep 40 pans of lasagna warm for a wedding reception?

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Wouldn't that take too long?
by: Amy

If it takes an hour to bake a lasagna (perhaps 2 hours for four if in the same oven), then some people would have to wait hours before they would get served. Right?

If I can make 16 at a time in four ovens (which is probably an overestimate), then some people would have to wait four hours before getting their food, if the first batch comes out of the ovens right as the reception begins.

What if the lasagnas were placed in coolers (but obviously without ice)? My camping friends have kept things warm in a cooler before because it's insulated. Do you think that this would work? How long do you think the lasagnas would stay warm?

Hmmm... an alternative plan
by: Matt - Pasta Recipes Made Easy

Hi again Amy,

You're right, way too much cooking time. And I'm not sure I'm sold on the cooler idea either. I'm not sure how long they'd keep the lasagne warm for, plus you'd need a ton of these.

Is the reason for the whole 'guests cook/bring something' approach a budgetary reason? Or simply something different?

And am I right in assuming you don't really have anyone to be cooking/organising food full-time on the day itself?

If this is the case, then I would diplomatic suggest you move your focus off lasagna (bizarre thing to say for a pasta site owner but still...). There just doesn't seem to be an adequate solution based on what facilities and manpower/time you have available.

Instead... I would do what my language school did last Christmas for their big party: simply ask each guest to bring something... a bowl of salad, a pie, baked dish, cake, whatever. (Hint: you might want to divide up your guests into dessert and non-dessert bringers, so you don't end up with 200 gateaux!).

This approach works great... you get all kinds of interesting things to eat, so there's bound to be something everyone will like the look/taste of, and everyone feels involved in having made the day that bit more special.

Gets my vote :-)

Matt.

One last try?
by: Amy

I've thought of that option. Budget is certainly one benefit of doing a potluck style wedding. The benefit to the lasagna is that it expresses my Italian roots. One other question. Let's just say that I have a kitchen of volunteers for the day (which I do have). Are there any other options to be tried?

Thanks for your comments thus far! They have been helpful!

Thinking out loud...
by: Matt - Pasta Recipes Made Easy

Hi Amy,

Hmmm... a small army of volunteers eh? Well I think for me the lasagna idea went 'off the boil' because of oven space, so maybe we could get them making something else that's not so oven-specific and doesn't take so long to cook?

It's a shame you can't teach your volunteers how to make fresh pasta before the day itself (or can you? I have a great recipe if you need one! erm...). That would be one plan.

For example, you'd just need one huge pan or two (or three) of the sauce of your choosing, and a ton of fresh pasta shapes. So in effect you would have 2-3 hob rings taken up by the sauce, then the rest (of the 16 I guess) for cooking the fresh pasta, which don't forget takes just 2 minutes or so.

Or even, now I think more, what about just the same pasta n' sauce idea but with packet pasta. That would take out the need for fresh pasta making (just giving a little on succulence of course, but that's the compromise). So buy shapes/a brand that are ready in 8 minutes rather than 14 and you'd be able to turn it all around pretty quick I reckon. The question then just becomes a question of how many pans you can get your hands on!

What is the pasta sauce you love to make yourself? Do you have a favorite you'd love everyone to try? Ragu? Pasta alla norma? The choice is endless. Maybe work in a vegetarian option too, if you'll have meat-avoiding guests there.

More than happy to make some easy sauce suggestions if you need them. Hmmm, now you've got me thinking and salivating... ;-)

Matt.

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