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need help! part veg part meat eater dinner party

Next week I am having two couples over for dinner with mostly meat eaters but one vegetarian in the mix. I was thinking of doing an italian themed evening, serving some crostini, a salad and then perhaps a veggie lasagna with some meat offering as well. I dont have a big enough dining room table for the 5 of us to comfortably sit so I was going to do it buffet style. 3 issues
1. I hate ricotta cheese - does anyone have a good veggie lasagna recipe that uses goat or some other non ricotta option?
2. any ideas for the meat course? Was thinking maybe sausage and peppers but totally open to ideas
3. its a celebratory dinner for the engagement of one couple and the first baby for the other so any ideas on how to make the meal more festive would be great - sounding a little peasanty to me right now. Maybe prosecco and tiramisu??

Thanks - I know i can count on you guys!

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  1. Do you like cottage cheese? you can make lasagna with cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

    this post also has some great meal ideas....http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/576731

    I posted a polenta recipe on that link, which would fit with the italian theme, could replace your lasagna...

    1. This butternut squash lasagna is fantastic. And no ricotta cheese in sight:
      I use regular noodles and par boil them for 4 minutes, b/c the no boil ones taste icky to me. And I use the amaretti cookies, but I think they would be OK to leave out if you don't have them in your pantry already.

      If the meal is a celebration, I might do a roast of some sort for the meat course. If just feels more festive to me. And prosecco too. :)

      1 Reply
      1. re: dexters

        oh yummy! and perfect for the cold weather that just hit there. thanks so much! (and totally agree on the no boil noodles)

      2. This is a typical delema for myself-
        I have done the veggie Lasgna and I use a recipe from Ellie Krieger- it is very low on the ricotta, it adds a richness and sticking power
        but the mushroom and tomato flavors are the real stars.
        It has been a repeat crowd pleaser

        Other thing I have done and will be doing again for a party very soon. Is individual meatloafs, some meat some veg. It is a fun presentation and elevates the comfort food level while pleasing many paletts.
        I work off of Ina Garten's recipe and subsitute veggie crumbles for meat.

        1. My mom always used to make lasagna with just mozzarella because my dad doesn't like ricotta. It comes out fine. Maybe you could add some spinach if you are concerned out it being dry.

          I also recently saw a recipe for pierogi lasagna that sounded really good.

          1. I was also thinking a meatless lasagne with sausages on the side when I saw this title, but my preference would be for a wild mushroom version. Make a bechamel using some of the soaking liquid from the mushrooms, and add plenty of parmesan.

            Another approach I use for dinner parties when I have vegetarian friends over is to go Mexican, either by making enchiladas (some with meat, some without) or for a larger group to set up an assemble-your-own taco bar.

            1. My thought is to make the lasagne, and then in a matching red sauce, cook some meatballs to serve on the side for the carnivores.

              1 Reply
              1. re: weezycom

                Another suggestion is to make a meatless lasagne with two sauces- one with sausages and one without meat. My mom typically makes a meatless lasagne, but her sauce has sausage and ground beef in it. She typically pours the sauce on right at serving and it works out fine.

              2. I've used cottage cheese instead of ricotta many times, too. Works quite well!

                In another thread I posted a recipe for Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Crumb Topping that is reportedly very, very good (I'm making a non-vegan version of it this weekend) and would be a great dish for a gathering. And it doesn't use ricotta, either, but instead makes a vegan substitute. Check it out! :)


                1 Reply
                1. re: Julesong

                  I made the non-veggie version of the pumpkin ziti tonight, and it was delicious! For those interested, here it is...


                  *** Baked Pumpkin & Sausage Ziti with Caramelized Onion and Sage Crumb Topping ***

                  Based on a vegan recipe from "Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" but revised for omnivores. :)

                  1 pound uncooked ziti or penne
                  2 onions, sliced very thinly
                  2 Tbsp butter
                  1 T olive oil
                  2 tsp white wine
                  1 1/2 lbs Italian sausage, sweet or hot according to your tastes
                  1 cup ricotta cheese
                  2 cups or 1 15-oz can pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
                  2 eggs, beaten
                  2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (roasted is even better)
                  1 1/2 tsp dried basil
                  1 tsp salt
                  1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
                  1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
                  1/8 tsp cayenne
                  1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth

                  Sage bread crumbs:
                  2 1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably freshly made
                  1/4 cup olive oil
                  1 tsp butter
                  2 tsp dried rubbed sage
                  1/2 tsp ground sweet paprika
                  salt and freshly ground black pepper
                  1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

                  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pan spray a 9×11 or 9×13-inch lasagna pan with olive oil. Prepare ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

                  While ziti is cooking, make the caramelized onions: preheat a large pan over medium heat. Melt together the butter and olive oil and sauté the onions until onion bits are browned and caramelized, about 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

                  Add white wine to the pan and stir, scraping the pan, to deglaze. When liquid is reduced to at least half, add the sausage and sauté until browned. Set aside.

                  In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with the pumpkin, egg, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, and broth. Add the cooked ziti, caramelized onions, and browned sausage. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and level with a spatula.

                  Make the bread crumb topping: heat oil and butter together in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bread crumbs, dried herbs, and paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Stir constantly until the mixture is coated, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes, then add the grated Parmesan and combine well. Spread over pasta mixture.

                  Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Removed from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

                  Makes about 8 servings.

                2. Another recipe that would go over well for both the meat and non-meat folks is:

                  *** Polenta Stuffed Sweet Bell Peppers ***

                  I've made these several times, and they're quite tasty! You can either use your own cooked polenta or commercially packaged cooked polenta, whichever you prefer.

                  50 min | 10 min prep

                  SERVES 4 -6

                  * 4 large red bell peppers, suitable for stuffing
                  * 2 garlic cloves, minced
                  * 1 green onion, chopped
                  * 1 zucchini, diced small
                  * 1 tablespoon olive oil
                  * 5 roma tomatoes, diced small
                  * 1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
                  * 3 drops balsamic vinegar
                  * 1 teaspoon salt
                  * 1/2 teaspoon pepper
                  * 2 cups cooked polenta or 1 (1 lb) package pre-cooked polenta
                  * 1/4 teaspoon cumin
                  * 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
                  * 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese
                  * paprika

                  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
                  2. Cut the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes from the inside; set aside.
                  3. Saute the garlic, green onion, and zucchini in the oil over medium heat until the zucchini starts to soften; add the tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and heat for 5 minutes.
                  4. While that's cooking, if you're using commercially packaged cooked polenta remove it from the packaging and briefly microwave for 2 to 3 minutes to soften.
                  5. Stir the cooked polenta and cumin into the vegetable mixture until well incorporated, then removed from the heat and stir in the mozzarella.
                  6. Fill the peppers with the polenta mixture and sprinkle each with a tablespoon of Parmesan and a dash paprika.
                  7. Bake on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until pepper has reached desired texture.
                  8. Makes 4-6 servings (if you cut 'em in half).