Pasta Friday Gets Communities Cooking Pasta Together

Allison Arevalo, a co-founder of Homeroom who sold her interest in 2017, offers tips for Pasta Friday gatherings of your own.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Allison Arevalo has lived in Oakland for only 10 years, but in that time she has made an indelible mark on the culinary scene. Homeroom, the iconic mac-and-cheese restaurant she co-founded in 2011 with Erin Wade, spawned a best-selling cookbook and awakened a national interest in updating beloved childhood favorites for an adult audience hungry for nostalgia and comfort food.

It was this return to the comforts of childhood that inspired Arevalo to begin Pasta Friday, a project she undertook after selling her stake in Homeroom in 2017. Pasta Friday is a simple concept: Every week for one year Arevalo will cook a new type of pasta with sauce, pair it with a hearty salad, and host as many friends as are available. The idea grew out of a desire to reconnect with friends after years spent raising children and running a successful business. It was also a way for Arevalo to reconnect to her own past. Arevalo’s grandmother left Italy for the United States when she was 16 and always hosted large pasta dinners for the family every Sunday. The first Pasta Friday was held a week after she passed away, and the menu for that night was cavatelli with pork neck ragu — Arevalo’s grandmother’s favorite dish.

Pasta Friday was an instant success: Within two months the email list had grown to 90 people. Guests came seeking good food, good conversation, and a connection. New friendships were born, and Arevalo’s community expanded as though her friends and neighbors had been waiting for an excuse to come together.

Soon Arevalo found herself cooking for 75 people including more than two dozen children. While she has since trimmed her email list and now caps RSVPs at about 50, she learned a lot about hosting large groups and is thrilled that other people are starting their own Pasta Friday traditions based on her model. Think you might be interested in hosting your own weekly dinner and connecting with friends? Arevalo shares these tips:

Keep it simple: Arevalo prepares a large pot of pasta, sauce, and a hearty salad. No appetizers, no desserts (other than Popsicles for the kids), and guests bring their own wine (she recommends one bottle per guest — it’s Friday night, after all.)

Feed the kids first: Hungry kids are no fun, so prepare their food first, feed them, and then reward them with a movie in a quiet room. This lets the grown-ups relax and enjoy their meal rather than being interrupted a hundred times for more parmesan.

Use compostable plates and forks: Who wants to end a great party by washing dishes for three hours?

Set an end time: Having guests leave at a reasonable hour means you can clean up and get into bed before the roosters come out.

Don’t stress about your house: Your guests are coming to see you, not inspect your corners for dust bunnies. Arevalo says it’s important to clean the bathroom (and stock it with extra toilet paper) as well as the kitchen — she washes her prep dishes and pots and pans 15 minutes before guests arrive. And don’t pressure yourself to get food on the table beforehand. No one expects to eat the minute he or she walks in the door.

Communicate: Arevalo uses a Facebook group to coordinate who will bring Popsicles for the kids, baguettes for the adults, and to ask for last-minute items. People are always happy to help.

Start small: Try having one or two families the first time around and see how nice it is to finish the week by having friends for dinner. Arevalo says people will be surprised how easy it is — and how eager their friends are to come.

Arevalo plans to create a Pasta Friday cookbook with recipes and entertaining tips. She also has a food truck in the works where she’ll create fresh pasta on demand. If her previous endeavors are any indication, these upcoming projects are sure to be successes.

 

For more information and to sign up for Arevalo’s Pasta Friday newsletter, visit PastaFriday.com.

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