Vince and I got to make Christmas dinner this year. A very nice casual affair because we had a wedding to go to the next day. While the rest of the family relaxed (or played with their toys), Vince and I got to work on a pasta bar using the farm fresh veggies that my mom gets from a friend at work. In our corner we had a pound of spaghetti, some mature arugula (read very bitter), tomatoes, thai basil, shallots, garlic, chicken tenders, olive oil and some white wine. Vince made a base sauce with garlic, olive oil, butter, and thai basil, which tasted about the same, but turned the sauce purple (very cool). We mixed that with the spaghetti then set about making the add ins.
Ok, so the add-ins were made first, but the order has been rearranged for the sake of clarity. Add-in number one: Sauteed arugula with olive oil, white wine and shallots. Add-in 2: cubed chicken breasts with white wine, olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper. Add-in number 3: Sauteed tomatoes with shallots, white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. We served the pasta and garlic sauce in the pot and arranged side dishes with the add-ins. Everyone could mix as much or as little as they wanted of every ingredient and no one had to complain about eating green things.
The secret to making a pasta bar cohesive is to have repeating ingredients in every component. For our pasta bar, the usual suspects were the white wine, shallots, and garlic. This dish has endless variations and if you increase the portions would make a great luncheon buffet or casual dinner.