Cooking With Friends
Divide and Conquer
Set up your kitchen so each task has a designated spot and let guests pick their stations. A little teamwork can make peeling and chopping fun. (Wine helps, too.)
Everything you need to get your party simmering.
- Tomatoes: Ask guests to bring the main ingredient. For a party of six, figure on each person contributing 5 pounds of tomatoes toward a big batch of sauce. The host provides the other ingredients.
- Signs: Mark workstations with note cards set in place-card holders. Binder clips turned upside down also work.
- Snacks: Rev up the troops with a “Take a Break” area, complete with a spread of Italian cheeses (try Gorgonzola, Robiola, and bocconcini), prosciutto, olives, fruit, honey, bread sticks, and crackers.
- Kitchen essentials: Multiple helpers require multiple tools. You’ll need 3 cutting boards, 2 paring knives (for coring and peeling), and 2 chef’s knives (for chopping), as well as 3 large pots (for blanching the tomatoes and cooking the sauce).
- Aprons: Outfit your guests in aprons ($8 each, apronstore.com), or have them bring their own from home.
Once the tomato sauce has finished bubbling on the stove, invite your guests to relax and enjoy a delicious supper. Simply prepare spaghetti and top it with the freshly made sauce and grated Parmesan. Accompany the hearty dish with a Tricolore Salad and rustic bread.
Tip: Display a variety of candles and candlesticks to create a flattering centerpiece that won’t obscure diners’ views of one another.
Take It Away
Send everyone home with a healthy portion of the sauce―enough for several meals―so they can freeze it and savor the taste of summer long after tomato season has ended. Ask each guest to bring 2 pint-size freezer-safe food-storage containers and have extras handy just in case. (RS pick: Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids 2-cup container, $2.60, rubbermaid.com for locations.) Label the containers with the stickers shown left, noting the date and who made the sauce. And don’t let anyone leave without a recipe booklet with creative ideas for using their bounty.
Print the Tomato Sauce Recipe Booklet and the Tomato Sauce Labels.
Let It Pour
Medium-bodied, fruity wines with acidity complement the bright acidity of tomato sauce. Red is standard, of course, but the fresh flavors of the garden also go well with rosé, says Chris Deas of Italian Wine Merchants, in New York City. For a red, try the 2006 Planeta La Segreta Rosso ($15.50); for a rosé, try the 2006 Bacaro Pinot Grigio Blush ($11).
- To “peel” large quantities of garlic quickly, place a dozen or so cloves in a bowl, then cover with another bowl to form a sphere; shake vigorously. The skins will fall off.
- Place a cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet when chopping tomatoes to keep the juices from running across the counter.