Cooking for a Crowd

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Many have moved on to normal everyday life following our recent round with Hurricane Florence, however many of our friends and neighbors are still, and will still be dealing with the aftermath for quite some time. Homes, churches, and volunteers are stepping up to feed our neighbors and friends that are trying to rebuild homes, businesses, and communities. Here are some recipes that were written to be made in larger quantities and duplicated to feed larger audiences. They have also been slightly tweaked to be a tad healthier. Hope you will enjoy, a warm hot meal is always appreciated.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

(To make this a complete meal just added grilled or baked chicken tenders.)

1 pound orzo
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil
1 small jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Fill a large pot with water, season liberally with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook the orzo according to package instructions. Drain well, and rinse with cold water until the orzo is cool.
  2. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and shallot. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. In a big bowl, combine the orzo with the tomatoes, olives, green onions, and fresh herbs. Toss with vinaigrette. Season the salad generously with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Marinate for several hours in the fridge. Before serving, toss well and carefully fold in feta.

Serves 10-12.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

1 cup elbow macaroni
1 pound ground beef or lamb
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1½ to 2 cups diced onion
Pinch of oregano
1 (15-ounce) can of tomato sauce (your favorite brand)
Squirt of ketchup
Squirt of tomato paste
Freshly cracked black pepper
⅓ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 cup grated cheddar cheese


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and cook the macaroni till al dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, brown the ground meat in about a tablespoon of olive oil (if your meat is on the lean side) or less (if your meat is on the fattier side). I always start this browning process over high heat and then turn the heat down to medium when the meat starts browning. With a wooden spoon, stir the meat around so that it browns evenly (don’t get too fussed here . . . you just want the meat to be almost cooked through with a few browned bits here and there).
  3. Scoop the meat out of the pan with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan you cooked the meat in, add another tablespoon (or more or less depending on how much onion you are using) of olive oil, and sauté the onion until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Again, don’t get too fussed here — if the onions begin to brown, that’s OK; if they don’t, that’s also ok. You can’t mess this up.
  4. Add the ground beef back to the pan. Season with a pinch of oregano. Add the tomato sauce to the pan and stir to coat evenly. Squirt in some ketchup (about a tablespoon) and tomato paste (a couple of teaspoons) and season with pepper to taste. Stir to combine.
  5. Sprinkle in the cheese and stir until melted and combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. This gets better the longer it sits, so don’t be afraid to make it early in the day and reheat it come dinnertime. It also reheats in the microwave very nicely.

Serves 6-8.

Skinny Mexican Casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (4.5-ounce) can of chopped green chiles, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas, chopped
1 (16-ounce) can fat-free refried beans, warmed
1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
1½ cups reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion and bell peppers. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in black beans, corn, chili powder, and cumin until heated through, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in green chiles and cilantro; set aside.
  3. Place tortillas evenly on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread refried beans evenly over the tortillas, followed by the onion mixture and enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cheese.
  4. Place into oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro, if desired.

Serves 8. Each serving contains Calories 299, Fat 8g, Protein 15g, Carbohydrate 41g, Fiber 9g, Cholesterol 12mg, Sodium 942mg.

One Pot Cheeseburger Casserole

1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ pounds ground beef
1 onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pound rotini pasta
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
2 green onions, sliced


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion and cook until beef has browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Drain excess fat.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, ketchup, mustard, pasta, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until pasta is cooked through about 13-16 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and top with cheese. Cover until cheese has melted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately, garnished with tomato and green onions, if desired.

Serves 8. Each serving contains Calories 544, Fat 21g, Protein 34g, Carbohydrate 53g, Fiber 4g, Cholesterol 78mg, Sodium 655mg.