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 this year Nov. 5, has been renamed the “Ben and Lea Aloe Spaghetti Sunday Dinner.” Ben Aloe, who was 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 4 pounds of pasta, which they are instructed to cook for three minutes shy of the package directions and to bring it to the dinner. They finish cooking the pasta right before it is served, so it won’t go soggy.
Ridgeway prepares the sauce ingredients, including tomatoes, beef, onion, garlic, basil and a few other spices at 3:30 p.m. the day before the dinner. He cooks the sauce and leaves it to keep warm overnight on the commercial stove with only the pilot light lit.
Basil is an important ingredient to the dish. Ridgeway adds fresh basil to the sauce using an immersion blender, and the servers add some more basil to garnish each plate of spaghetti served.
The wives of the Knights serve the spaghetti at the counter, adding garlic bread slices to the meal. The diners help themselves to salad from two huge bowls of mixed greens, adding ladles of Italian dressing on top.
Some of the Knights work at the bar, serving beer and wine for an extra fee. Water and coffee come with the meal.
Students of the church’s school help out, taking cups of Neapolitan ice cream around to the tables as guests are ready for dessert. Families serve families at the annual feast.
More than a fundraiser, the spaghetti dinner is meant to be a community gathering, Ridgeway said. The dinner tickets are priced low, $8 for adults and $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.