Thinking ahead makes a potluck party easy on everyone - East Valley Tribune: At Home

Thinking ahead makes a potluck party easy on everyone

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Posted: Friday, August 10, 2007 3:32 pm | Updated: 6:27 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

A good old-fashioned potluck can eliminate a lot of stress, but even a bring-your-favorite-dish get-together takes a little foresight to pull off, says Judy Toth, a cooking instructor in Mesa who’s a fan of potlucks.

Hosting a party is a lot of fun, but it can also be expensive and time-consuming.

Planning a menu, shopping and cooking can take days.

A good old-fashioned potluck can eliminate a lot of stress, but even a bring-your-favorite-dish get-together takes a little foresight to pull off, says Judy Toth, a cooking instructor in Mesa who’s a fan of potlucks.

“I ask people to let me know what type of food they are going to bring,” she says. “That will assure that I don’t get all desserts or all salads.”

Find out from your guests if you will need to provide a way to keep food warm, refrigerated or frozen.

“Often I pull out every crockpot I can find to help keep food warm,” she says. “And nothing is worse than someone bringing a frozen dessert to a potluck where there’s not room in the freezer to store it till dinner.”

Another tip: Plan potluck dishes that are easy to eat.

“You know, the ones that do not require a third hand,” she says.

Toth made one of her favorite potluck recipes for At Home, an Inside Out Ravioli Casserole.

“I like to use this casserole for a potluck because both kids and adults like it,” she says. It’s also a flexible recipe, allowing you to adapt to different tastes.

“You can make it with or without spinach, with or without meat,” she says. “It is very easy to make, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand.”

It also freezes and reheats well — if there are leftovers.

Inside Out Ravioli Casserole

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1/2 pound medium-sized noodles

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

15 ounces ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon dried minced onions

Dash garlic powder

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Dash black pepper

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces frozen spinach, squeezed dry (optional)

26 ounces spaghetti sauce (Toth likes Prego)

1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded

Cooking spray

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain but do not rinse.

3. While the noodles are cooking, saute the ground beef in a frying pan. While it is cooking, add the oregano, kosher salt, pepper and garlic to the beef. Cook until it is browned. Drain fat, if necessary.

4. In a small bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg and dried onions, garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. If using spinach, add to this mixture. Set aside.

5. To prepare ravioli casserole, spray a large casserole dish or a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.

6. Mix together spaghetti sauce, noodles. Place a layer of noodles on the bottom. Top with a layer of meat, then dollops of ricotta then mozzarella cheese. Repeat this until all your ingredients are gone. Make sure you have enough mozzarella cheese to cover the entire top since this will get hot and bubbly.

7. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until heated through. Remove from the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

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