Spaghetti Bolognese for 250

Spaghetti with meat sauce seems simple enough to make, but not so if you are making it for 250 people. Sauce was fairly easy, but my main challenge was the pasta. Since 250 hungry diners stream down the serving lines all at the same time, I could not cook the pasta last minute. So it had to be done ahead. But how do I keep the pasta firm to bite and piping hot? Well, here is what I found out and it works beautifully.

Cook the pasta in boiling water with salt (about 4 tablespoon of kosher salt per gallon). Make sure water is in "rolling boil" when dry pasta is put into the pot. Stir immediately to avoid sticking. Cook until the pasta is firmer than al dente. As Itialian definition goes, "to the tooth", you should feel some resistance when biting into the noodle. 24 pounds of spaghetti noodles was cooked for my church family.

Have a metal colander with a large metal bowl underneath. When pasta is cooked, pour the entire pot of cooking pasta into the colander, lift the colander into another sink and run cold water to cool pasta quickly. You can also use ice water if cooking in smaller amount. Pour back the reserved pasta water back into the pot, add more water and back on the burner.

When the pasta is completely cooled, add 2-3 tablespoon of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking. Keep pasta in colander, cover loosely until ready to reheat. Can be made up to 3 hours in an advance.

When ready to serve, place colander with pasta in a large bowl, boil the reserved pasta water, and pour the boiling water over the pasta to rewarm, gently stir, about 1 minute. Drain the pasta and put another tablespoon of olive oil. Serve immediately with sauce.

This seems like a bit of trouble to have firm pasta, doesn't it? But I vowed that my church family will not be eating overcooked, mushy pasta!

Recipe Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Bolognese Sauce
Makes 3 Cups enough for 1 pound of pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons minced carrot
2 tablespoons minced celery
3/4 pound meatloaf mix or 1/4 pound each ground beef chuck, ground veal, and ground pork
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoon of dried basil
2 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 cup whole milk
1 cup dry white wine
(28 ounce) can whole tomatoes , packed in juice, processed, with juice reserved

1. Heat olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion, carrot, and celery and sautè until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add ground meat, teaspoon salt, garlic, basil, and organo. Crumble meat with edge of wooden spoon to break apart into tiny pieces. Cook, continuing to crumble meat, just until it loses its raw color but has not yet browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Add milk and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until milk evaporates and only clear fat remains, 10 to 15 minutes. Add wine and bring to simmer; continue to simmer until wine evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and their juice and bring to simmer; reduce heat to low so that sauce continues to simmer just barely, with an occasional bubble or two at the surface, until liquid has evaporated, about 3 hours. Adjust seasonings with extra salt to taste and serve.

Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days or frozen for several months. Warm over low heat before serving.

To serve 250, I multiplied this recipe by 42, adjusting oil and other liquids. If you are a church cook and will be cooking this recipe in large volume, email me! To reheat this sauce, sauce was placed in deep steam pans in low heat and simmered for 5 hours.


  1. I am so excited! I am a church cook too! I cook the Wed. evening meals for Woodruff Rd. Pres. church in Simpsonville, SC! I found your fb page through Heidi Jones. I have been looking for a better spaghetti recipe for our large group. I typically feed 100. Any suggestions would be welcome!

  2. Hi, Donna!
    A fellow laborer in Christ!

    Email me directly and I can email you food quantity and liquid adjustment for the sauce!

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  4. Hi, love your webpage. Lots of good recipes for groups. I help feed 125 servings on Wednesday evenings and if you have time I would love to have this recipe for that many people. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi, Wayne! Thanks for your visit. For large volume, I tend to cook by feel rather than exact recipe conversion.
      For 125 you will need about 16 quarts or 4 gallons of sauce (1/2 cup of sauce person) with about 15 lbs of pasta.
      please email me at thechurchcook@gmail.com and I will send you an improved recipe and conversion for large volume.

  5. I cook pasta for 250 every year for our 4-H Awards banquet. I always did baked ziti because I could cook it earlier that day. I wanted to do spaghetti and meatballs but wasn't sure about pre cooking the pasta. Thank you for your advice. I am cooking spaghetti and meatballs for 250 on Jan 26 wish me luck!!

    1. Good luck, LIsa! Let me know how it turns out! If it is going to be a self-serve and if you are going to have mostly teens and adults you will need more than 24 pounds. We usually portion and my congregation is mixed ages. :)