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Menu for a weeknight dinner party

Avocado Goat Cheese Pasta with a side salad. [Photo by EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]

Avocado Goat Cheese Pasta with a side salad. [Photo by EVE EDELHEIT | Times]

The goal

Adulting can be hard, and so can getting everyone together on the same night of the week for a dinner party. If your weekends are getting too packed, consider gathering everyone around the dinner table on a weeknight. You can pull off an after-work soiree with this menu, no problem.

The method

Like Rachael Ray before us, we can strive to pull off fantastic meals in 30 minutes or less. To make this as easy as possible, do any prep work the morning of or the night before. For this menu, there isn't much, but you could get a head start on grating cheese or making salad dressing. Consider setting your table in advance, too, and do any shopping the weekend before.

The menu

Simple Cocktails

Stick to one or two house cocktails for the evening, and keep it to recipes that utilize just one mixer and booze of your choice. I recommend a trusty Moscow Mule or Gin and Tonics. Set out the ingredients in a communal spot: a bottle of vodka, a half-dozen or so cans of ginger beer, and lime wedges. And display a recipe card so that guests can make their own drinks while you're making dinner: Fill a cup with ice, then add 4 ounces ginger beer, 1 ½ ounces vodka and a generous squeeze of lime. Swap the ginger beer for tonic water and the vodka for gin, and you've got G and T's.

Avocado Goat Cheese Pasta

We're packing a lot into this entree, because that's one less meal to worry about assembling, one less dish to clean afterward, and one less component to fuss over on the plate.

Side Sunflower Salad

Serve the rich pasta with a light salad. Buy a 10-ounce bag of pre-chopped romaine lettuce, then add 1 cup shredded carrots, ½ cup sunflower seeds and salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, mix 1 ounce goat cheese, ¼ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly, pour over the salad just before serving, and toss.

Classic Cheesecake

Continuing with the cheese theme, whip up a classic cheesecake in the time it takes your pasta dish to cook, then cook the cake while you eat. To make, arrange a homemade or storebought graham cracker crust in a 9-inch pie pan. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups room temperature cream cheese and ⅔ cup sugar until very smooth. Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and mix again. Pour filling into prepared graham cracker crust, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool; refrigerate until just before you'll be serving if desired. You can leave it plain, or drizzle with dark chocolate or pile on fresh raspberries or strawberries.


Avocado Goat Cheese Pasta


  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 pitted and diced avocados
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder


  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add penne pasta, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until penne is al dente (just done but still has some bite). Strain pasta and pour into a 9- by 13-inch glass baking dish.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium high heat. When melted, sprinkle in flour and whisk well, cooking for a minute while stirring constantly. Add 1 cup milk and keep stirring to incorporate. Allow mixture to come to a boil, then stir and cook for about 3 minutes, until thickened slightly. Reduce heat, cook for another 3 minutes, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. To the saucepan, add avocados, goat cheese and cheddar cheese. Cook for about 5 minutes until cheese has melted and you've got a thick sauce. If too thick, add more milk. If too thin, bring to a boil and cook for a couple more minutes.
  5. Pour sauce over pasta in the baking dish and stir to coat.
  6. In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with grated Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, dried onion flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir, then drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil and stir again. Distribute mixture over pasta. Bake for about 10 minutes, then turn on broiler and place dish under broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until cheese is melted and top is crispy. Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times

Menu for a weeknight dinner party 09/11/17 [Last modified: Monday, September 11, 2017 11:29am]
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© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


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