Recipes & Foods for Big Groups You Can Make Ahead of Time

Recipes & Foods for Big Groups You Can Make Ahead of Time

You know the feeling. You have just sent out invites to a party and you're planning on serving food for a big crowd. But what recipes and dishes can I prepare in advance? I have never hosted a big group - how do I plan?

10 Recipes & Foods for Big Groups You Can Make Ahead of Time

Your guests will never leave hungry with these tasty, healthy, and beautiful dishes that have been created just for them.

In this article, we will provide you several recipes that you can cook for your upcoming gathering with families and friends. A make-ahead meal will take the pressure off you and let you enjoy the family gathering or big crowd of friends more. 
Also, most of these can be used as a freezer meal recipe or a camping meal also.

See also our database of Catering For Large Groups Tips and Advice.

What Foods Can Be Prepared Ahead of time

Here are the cheapest meals to feed a crowd and the best recipes that you can prepare ahead of time.

Also see How to cook french fries for a crowd and how to make chili for 100 people exact quantities

Recipe #1: Baked Chicken Spaghetti

Servings: 25-30 servings

Prep and cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 2 kg spaghetti noodles (or stuffed shells)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1/2 can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (optional)
Chicken Pasta For A Crowd
Chicken Pasta For A Crowd - Bacon Added For Extra Flavor

Directions

1. Cook your boneless chicken and strip it to make it softer.

2. Cook the spaghetti pasta on the chicken broth until al dente. Put the oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

3. Drain the spaghetti noodles from the chicken broth.

4. Combine the remaining ingredients and leave 1 cup of cheddar cheese.

5. Place the mixture in a baking pan and place the remaining cheddar cheese on top.

6. Bake immediately at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes until soft and bubbly. Add more cheese on top if you want it to be creamier and cheesier. Cover with foil.

7. Serve

Tip you can make this in a sheet pan or a foil pan

Recipe #2: Mac n' Cheese

Servings: 16 servings

Prep and cook time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 32 ounces elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 pounds cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 12 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 2 pounds short pasta
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 10 cups whole milk,
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 4 tbsp parsley, chopped (optional)
Mac And Cheese For A Crowd
Mac And Cheese For A Crowd

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Prepare a two 16 inches baking pan. Brush them with butter.

3. Cook the pasta on the stove in medium heat for two to three minutes then draining using a strainer.

4. Melt the remaining butter in a large pot over low heat.

5. Add the flour and stir it. Allow it to cook for more than two minutes and make sure not to darken it.

6. Whisk the milk, salt, and pepper altogether in the butter and flour mixture.

7. Boil it over low heat until simmering for 10 minutes. Continually stir it to avoid burning and sticking.

8. Remove the mixture and stir in the parmesan and cheddar cheese.

9. Add sauce to the pasta and combine the mixture.

10. Divide the pasta evenly between the two 16-inch baking pans and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. bake for 15-20 minutes.

11. Serve.

Note that this can be put into the freezer if you wish to make it in advance. You just need to place it in a container and cover it with air-tight wrap or foil for up to three months.

Recipe #3: Lasagna For A Big Group

See Our Handy Table Of Lasagne Portions

Servings: 16 servings

Prep and cook time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 lb or 18 pieces dry lasagna noodles, unbroken
  • 30 ounces Ricotta cheese
  • 48 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 8 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 pounds lean beef, ground
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 48 ounces tomato sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 24 ounce fresh tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • salt
  • 4 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Lasagne For A Crowd
Lasagne For A Crowd

Directions

1. Place the pasta in boiling water and add 1 tbsp of salt to taste. Cook until al dente. Prepare the sauce while waiting for the pasta to be cooked.

2. Prepare a large skillet and heat 4 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Pour in the ground beef and cook until lightly browned. Drain the excess fat or oil when cooked.

3. Cook the onions, garlic, bell pepper together with the beef for 5 minutes or until they are softened. Make sure not to overcook. Reduce to low heat.

4. Prepare a large pot and add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Add the beef mixture. Stir thoroughly.

5. Add the Italian seasoning, oregano, and parsley. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

6. Sprinkle the white wine vinegar. Add the sugar gradually and taste it after each addition. Add more sugar if you have acidic tomatoes.

7. Simmer the sauce over medium to low heat. Stir it often and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. Make sure nothing will stick and scorch on the bottom and sides.

8. Remove from heat.

9. Drain the lasagna noodles and let them cool.

10. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

11. Assemble the lasagna. Start by placing the sauce and spread it over the bottom of the two 9x13-inch casseroles or lasagna dishes. Next, arrange one layer of lasagna noodles lengthwise over the sauce. Spread another layer of sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top of the sauce. You can also add ricotta cheese for a creamier dish. Apply the second layer of noodles or pasta sheets and repeat the steps in layering.

12. Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes.

Recipe #4: BLT Pasta Salad

Servings: 16 servings (healthy meal)

Prep and cook time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds bacon
  • 2 pounds pasta
  • 6 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced into small wedges
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 2 avocadoes, sliced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons mustard
  • Ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

3. Arrange the bacon and season with ground black pepper to taste.

4. Bake from 15 to 17 minutes or according to crisp. Let it cool when done.

5. Prepare a large pot of salted water. Let it boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and let it cool when done.

6. Prepare a mixing bowl and whisk the apple cider vinegar, mustard, and mayonnaise altogether. Season with salt and pepper.

7. In another mixing bowl, toss the pasta, avocado, tomato, and lettuce together. Crumble the bacon into the salad.

8. Pour the dressing (mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, and mustard mixture) and toss well to coat if serve immediately. Otherwise, store in the fridge for up to two days.

Recipe #5: Meatball Subs

Servings: 12 servings

Prep and cook time: 1 hr

Ingredients:

  • 48 frozen meatballs
  • 12 hoagie rolls
  • 12 tablespoons garlic butter
  • 3 cups mozzarella cheese or provolone, shredded
  • Marina sauce
Meatball subs For A Crowd
Meatball subs For A Crowd

Directions

1. Prepare the frozen meatballs as directed on the package's instructions.

2. Roll 1'' ball and place into a parchment-lined baking pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

4. Spread your desired amount of garlic butter inside each roll.

5. Heat the broiler and cook until golden brown or for 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat.

6. Arrange rolls in a large baking pan. Place them accordingly.

7. Pour the desired amount of cheese and marina sauce.

8. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes until cheese is melted.

9. Serve with additional sauce for dipping.

Recipe #6: Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

Servings: 16 servings

Prep and cook time: 8 hours or overnight

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds frozen hash brown potatoes, shredded
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 4 cups cheddar or parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 medium-size onion
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 24 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • Kale (optional)

Directions:

1. Saute the onions, peppers, and breakfast sausage in the skillet over medium heat. Add the kale to the mixture. Set aside.

2. Prepare a large slow cooker and grease with butter or spray with cooking oil.

3. Arrange the has browns in the slow cooker. Top with half the sausage mixture, cheese, and bacon. Repeat the layers until full.

4. Whisk the milk, salt, pepper, sour cream, and eggs in a mixing bowl. Pour the hashbrowns and sausage layers.

5. Cook for 2 to 4 hours on medium-high heat.

6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and cover until melted.

7. Serve warm.

Recipe#7: Fall Vegetable Sloppy Joes

Servings: 18 servings (easy recipe)

Prep and cook time: 4 hrs

Ingredients:

  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups peeled butternut squash, peeled
  • 2 medium-sized parsnips, peeled and shredded
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 can of soda/cola
  • 1 can of tomato paste (or mix with diced tomatoes)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of honey mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 18 hamburger buns

Directions

1. Prepare a large skillet and cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the excess oil or grease when done.

2. Cook the beef until brown. Add the onion and garlic to the same pan until thoroughly cooked. Drain the excess oil again.

3. Transfer the beef into a large slow cooker and stir in the squash, mustard, carrots, parsnips, tomato paste, and seasonings.

4. Slow cook for 4 to 5 hours or until the vegetables are tender. Cover it properly.

5. Stir in the bacon and serve your meal on hamburger buns.

6. Serve.

Recipe #8: Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Servings: 12 servings

Prep and cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup almonds, sliced or grounds
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 24 slices of bread
Chicken Salad Sandwiches For A Crowd
Chicken Salad Sandwiches For A Crowd

Directions

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, celery, and almonds. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2. Spread the mixture on the bread. Top with remaining bread.

3. Serve.

Recipe #9: Morning French Toast

Servings: 12 servings

Prep and cook time: 1 hr and 30mins

  • 2 large loaves of bread
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Maple syrup

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Grease a large casserole dish with nonstick spray or butter.

3. Cut the loaves into 1/2 thick slices. Do not cut all the way to the bottom. Place them side by side in the greased baking pan.

4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and simultaneously combine the whole milk.

5. Pour the sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon into the egg mixture. Continue to mix.

6. gradually pour the custard over the bread. Make sure to coat the bread's entire part.

7. Brush the butter over the bread.

8. Bake until golden brown or crisp for 25 to 30 minutes.

9. Remove from the oven and let it cool. Sprinkle with confectionary sugar.

10. Serve with maple syrup.

Recipe #10: Au Gratin Potatoes

Servings: 20 servings

Prep and cook time: 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 10 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 6 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 medium-sized onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 cups parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups gruyere cheese, shredded

Directions

1. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and add the garlic and stir until golden brown.

2. Add the onions, thyme, kosher salt, and ground pepper. Cook until soft. Stir occasionally.

3. Pour in the cream and chicken broth and stir consistently.

4. Add the potato slices and bay leaves and bring them to a simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. Cover and turn the heat into medium-low.

5. Stack the potatoes with the sauce in a large baking dish.

7. Sprinkle half of the cheese every layer.

8. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hr and 15 minutes or until golden brown. Refrigerate for an hour or so if not immediately needed.

9. Let it cool and serve.

How Do I Prepare Meals in Advance

Preparing meals in advance can definitely save your time and effort. With that, we will give you tips on how to effectively prepare meals in advance for your gathering:

  • Shop the ingredients in advance. If you can do it on a weekend or rest day from work, that would be great.
  • Do batch cooking, especially for large servings and big recipes. Freeze them afterward to maintain the quality.
  • Ingredients that need slicing, chopping, peeling, and roasting can be done early. These are usually vegetables and meat.
  • Prepare the ingredients ahead of time and mix and match to create different combinations. You can just grab and cook when needed.
  • Cook a single ingredient if possible.

How long can freezer meals last?

Most freezer meals can last up to 3 to 6 months. Some can make it until 9 months, depending on the ingredients and if stored properly. Foods kept in a freezer rarely get spoiled. That is why it is important to keep them in a proper container and freeze at a suggested temperature, which is 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do I thaw freezer meals?

How you thaw your food is one of the key methods you need to master when making freezer meals!

The safest way - is to thaw your food and meals in the fridge. Why - because the temperature is safe and bacteria can not grow.

Whereas if you leave it out at room temperature - the outside of the freezer meal is the ambient temperature (bacteria can grow) while you still wait for the inside to defrost!

Most freezer meals take 24-48 hours to thaw in the fridge, so plan to pull food out of the freezer at least 24 hours before, ideally 48 hours. Place food in the fridge to let it thaw during that time.

If you forget to pull it out of the freezer, you can use the "defrost" feature on your microwave to thaw it quickly.

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