It’s universally accepted that parties with a theme are the best parties. Look at costume parties, for example. Or luaus. Maybe even Tupperware parties. My 4-year-old suggested we throw a Skittles party. She already knows what’s up.
Then, there’s the pasta party. Since there are seemingly endless ways to cook and serve pasta, this cuisine almost begs for its own theme night. From a make-your-own pasta bar to lasagna as place cards and tomato cans as breadstick holders, we’ve got you covered to make this a buono night.
Start with Pasta-riffic Invitations
The easiest (ahem, cheapest) way to go for invites is to use a free service, like evite. Their penne-themed dinner party evite would be pasta-perfect.
Prefer paper? These custom illustrated pasta party invites from EdenCreativeStudio on Etsy are only $20 and you can print them at home.
Create a Tablescape
Centerpieces can be as simple as a few mismatched clear vases you already have lying around filled with a variety of colorful pastas. Consider long spaghetti strands as the baby’s breath of a pasta bouquet.
Scour the dollar store for fun décor items, like red and white checkered tablecloths, reminiscent of your favorite Italian restaurant, colorful plastic colanders to hold the pasta and mini Italian flags to decorate the table. Save your large tomato cans (like these pretty Sclafani ones) after use and wash them out—they’re perfect for holding utensils, napkins, Parmesan cheese, breadsticks or fresh herbs to sprinkle over your dish.
Set up an Appetizer Station
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Start the fun with an antipasto tray, the traditional first course of an Italian meal. Here are our favorite tricks for designing a knockout antipasto platter. Or do the assembly first. These antipasto kebabs would be spot-on, especially standing up in a pretty mason jar or laying on top of a bed of dried pasta on a tray. These antipasto cups are also adorable and easy for guests to grab as they mingle.
Really, any of these Italian-inspired apps would fit the bill:
Belly up to the Pasta Bar
Did you know there are some 350 different shapes of pasta in existence? To throw a real pasta party, assemble all 350 shapes. Do not have this party until you have found all of them.
Of course we’re not serious. Scale it down a bit and assemble three to four different pastas—different shapes and colors will keep the table visually interesting. You can go with spaghetti, bowties, penne, and maybe a slightly wackier one, like pirates or wagon wheels.
Before anyone arrives, cook the pasta al dente. To keep it from sticking together, toss with a tiny bit of olive oil after draining (too much oil and the sauce won’t stick later). Even though the pasta will be cool, serving it with warm sauce will heat it right up.
If beige pasta gets a little ho-hum, consider dying some of your pasta. Simply toss cooked noodles in the food coloring of your choice.
Simplify Your Sauces
Taste of Home/Shutterstock:Kiian Oksana
To go with the different pasta shapes, offer guests their choice of two to three pasta sauces. Think Alfredo, marinara, arrabbiata and bolognese. You can keep them warm on the serving table using slow cookers.
Homemade is always better, like this fresh-made basil pesto, but you can also go the jarred route for the other options. Try these Field Editors’ tricks for making a jar of pasta sauce taste like you simmered it all day.
Get inspired by these sauces that would make any nonna (aka Italian grandma) proud:
Make a Playlist
Not just any music is good enough for a pasta party. You need a mix of kitschy Italian songs that transport you to that gondola ride you never took, and upbeat songs that keep the dinner party vibe going, even if a pasta coma should set in. Get started with these tunes.
Who doesn’t love a little trivia mixed in with their meal? Throw out a few quizzable questions as people munch on their fusilli, like “How many pounds of pasta does the average American eat annually?” (The answer is 20, according to the National Pasta Association.)
And, of course, win or lose, everybody gets dessert.
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