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alternative thanksgiving: italian & vegetarian

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i know it's waaay early to be thinking about this, but i'm planning on hosting my first-ever thanksgiving dinner (think "pieces of april" gone vegetarian!) and i wanted a few months to try out and perfect my menu beforehand. we are all vegetarian, some pickier than others so i thought a vegetarian italian meal, with an all-day group cooking & eating experience would best fit the evening.

i know i want to make my signature pasta, which is a fresh rigatoni pasta with a marinara sauce with a dash of cream, topped with fresh moz, fresh basil and capers. i can prepare this blindfolded, so i thought it would be an easy and delicious item allowing me to focus on other additions to the menu!

i know there will be plenty of our homemade extra-extra-garlic bread, but am not opposed to any other carb suggestions.

what other light starters would you recommend? what are your favorites for a cheese plate or a crudite dip?

i was also thinking of a chilled salad, but didn't want to repeat too many ingredients in the pasta (otherwise i would make a tomato/moz caprese, definitely!) any delicious & light salad ideas?

i think i want to make an eggplant entree to accompany the pasta, but i'm still a novice when it comes to cooking eggplant. any eggplant roll-up or parmigiana ideas? what other dishes feature eggplant?

what specialty cocktails would you serve for sipping during preparations? what wines would you serve during the meal? any thoughts on an easy desert? i am absolutely no good with deserts, so i was hoping for something simiple (preferably not baked) which focuses on the ingredients within rather than something heavy on preparation. love strawberries with marscapone in balsamic vinegar as a finisher to an italian meal, but worried about finding good in-season berries at this time of year.

thanks all!

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  1. You could kill two birds with one stone and make an eggplant starter - maybe caponata crostini?

    I'd also suggest serving a green salad instead of a caprese, just to keep things lighter. Especially since I assume you'll want to have dessert. :-)