Pasta lovers know that spaghetti is cheap and it tends to multiply on one’s plate. So, it makes a good meal to feed 250 people at one time.
The Knights of Columbus at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Community have had a lot of practice producing their annual spaghetti dinner over the last 25 years. The event, held Nov. 5 this year, is now named the Ben and Lea Aloe Spaghetti Sunday Dinner. Ben Aloe, one of the founding members of the dinner, died in 2015.
Jeremy Ridgeway has been the head cook for the last 10 years and he has a system in place for preparing such a large meal. The knights are each asked to contribute four pounds of pasta which they are instructed to cook three minutes shy of the package directions. (They finish cooking the pasta right before it is served.)
Ridgeway himself starts preparing the sauce’s ingredients (tomatoes, beef, onion, garlic, basil and a few other spices) at 3:30 p.m. the day before the dinner. He then starts cooking the sauce, leaving it on the commercial stove with the pilot light keeping it warm overnight.
Basil is a key ingredient. Ridgeway adds fresh basil to the sauce using an immersion blender, and then the servers add some more basil to garnish each plate of spaghetti served.
Wives of the Knights serve the spaghetti at the counter, adding garlic bread to the meal. Diners help themselves to salad from two huge bowls of mixed greens, with Italian dressing to ladle on top.
Some of the Knights work at the bar supplying beer and wine for an extra fee. Water and coffee come with the meal.
Students help out by taking cups of Neapolitan ice cream around to the tables when guests are ready for dessert. So, the dinner involves families serving families.
More than a fundraiser, the dinner is meant to be a community gathering, Ridgeway said. The dinner tickets are priced low ($8 for adults, $5 for children) but the helpings are big – big enough for couples to share one plate of spaghetti, or for one person to take home leftovers for another meal. Better yet, the well-cooked sauce is mellow enough for the touchiest stomach.