Every year, a group of friends plan a weekend at a northern Minnesota ski area. Some folks ski, some snowshoe, some spend their time at the local bar. Everyone is responsible for some portion of the food - snacks, breakfast, appetizers, etc. For the last 4 years, my fiance and I have been tasked with the Saturday night dinner - the main meal for the weekend. In the past, we've done: lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, (or eggplant balls), and a few varieties of baked ziti.
I'd like to solicit some different ideas. We could just do another duo of baked pastas, but that's starting to get a little boring.
Here's the logistics/constraints:
1) Group size will be about 18.
2) A few folks with dietary constraints, most notably no pork or red meat (so we've done both a chicken and pork based baked ziti, and spaghetti and meatballs with traditional and eggplant meatballs, and a vegetarian and meat based lasagna).
3) If possible, we like to have two dishes, for a little variety and to accommodate different tastes, but those different dishes are varieties on the same theme (to make things easy).
4) We'll have a kitchen to cook in (we renting a giant old house), and a pretty good one at that, but we do have to compete with others making appetizers, which usually means the oven is taken for a period of time.
5) There's a time constraint - we're coming back from snowshoeing and bar shenanigans around 4 or 5ish, and dinner is around 7, so whatever we make needs to be prepped ahead of time - meaning prepped at home several days in advance, and assembled as much as possible. (In the past, we brought assembled and frozen lasagna; cooked the spaghetti on site (and cooking enough pasta for that many people at once was a challenge, don't want to do that again); and brought pre-cooked ziti and pre-made sauces and vegetables from advance work at home, and assembled and baked on site).
6) There's somewhat of a price constraint - we don't want to go over $100, ideally under $75.
7) Mix of men and women, but all with hearty appetites after playing in the snow and a few drinks.
8) Ideally, leftovers would pack and reheat well. We (my fault, really) usually vastly overestimate how much food we need - I usually imagine that everyone has an appetite like mine, so we end up with about 30% leftovers, which is fine by me.
The pastas play well. The crowd loves them, which is why we get dinner every year. And every year, we try to go bigger and better. I don't think we'll do a pure meat-centric dish, like a beef and/or chicken stew, or chilli. A mix of starches with meat is good. To be honest, I just can't think of anything other than another pasta dish that fits all these constraints. I was thinking of doing another set of baked pastas, but bringing 2 crock pots and doing 2 meat roasts, maybe some bone-in chicken breasts and a pork roast porchetta style, but not really because we'd need the meat, but just to do something different. Thoughts?