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Jul 19, 2012 06:50 PM

Cooking for carnivores

When I make pasta for my son and myself, he likes pesto and I might make myself a tomato sauce, or sprinkle on some feta or Romano. I often set out a bowl of olives. I am a vegetarian and my son is fine with eating pasta this way.

We are looking forward to some dear friends visiting and want to feed them well. The husband is a bit of a foodie, and does all the cooking in their house. The daughters are 8 & 12. I have no idea what they like to eat or if they are picky. I figure the safest way to go is buffets--make your own pizzas one night, mixed grill the next, lay out all the fixin's for burritos another night...

But my question now is about pasta. If I lay out the toppings we usually eat with pasta and then add a bowl with browned chuck and/or meatballs, will that work, or does the meat need to be cooked with the sauce so the flavors blend? If the latter, then how long do they have to cook together? Can I make my usual tomato with onions,garlic & basil and just pop some beef in there at the end, or do I need a whole second pot in which the tomatoes and beef bubble away together for a long, long time?

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  1. You can do it using either method, but the meat balls stewed in the herb enhanced tomato sauce will be better. If I were going to set out the meat balls separately I'd include some of the herbs in the meat mixture, brown them nicely and put them in a bowl over which I might pour some of the tomato sauce blend. In addition to basil and onion, don't overlook thyme and oregano.

    1. Meat sauce or meatballs should be cooked in sauce for a few hours for best flavor.

      1. You could go either way I guess. Except as first reply said, meatballs for example won't be the same not having been cooked in sauce. Also, do you really want to put a bowl of meatballs out that people add to their plate like a condiment?

        I'd just make two batches of the tomato sauce, one with the meat and one without. As for how long to cook them, it doesn't have to be hours and hours. What I do for an average meal of pasta and meatballs is cook the sauce and meatballs separately and adds the meatballs to the sauce when they're done and simmer at low for maybe 20 mins or so.

        If you normally lay out the sauces ect on the table and dress the pasta at the table yourself then go for it and do it the other way. They're guests in your house so do things how you'd normally do them.

        1. There is nothing wrong with serving the meat on the side. As a carnivore, myself, I applaud your effort to accommodate them. A lot of the vegetarian's I have run into are rather militant about it and wouldn't want to serve these guests the kind of meals they are used to.

          I wouldn't have any problem calling the foodie dad and asking what kind of dishes his family likes. Be prepared to chastise him if he says "Oh anything will be fine". Say something like "Great with my bumper crop of eggplant, we will have plenty of healthy food for you........(pregnant pause) ... now what the hell do you like to eat?"

          3 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover

            At this point I'm mostly vegetarian out of habit. I quit eating meat 25 yrs ago when I learned how many antibiotics those animals are fed, how much grain and water it takes to produce meat, how anti-humanitarian the whole industry was. Since then, animals raised the old-fashioned way on pastures, etc have become increasingly available. To really live/eat by my morals, I probably should be supporting the organic farmers raising animals this way even when I don't have house guests.

            Besides, this is the family who would have custody of my son if I die. Best to keep them happy ;).

            1. re: saacnmama

              Btw, I've heard of "militant" vegetarians before, can't say I've ever met one.

              1. re: saacnmama

                I have. Someone on these boards recently described his daughter as "the Hezbollah of vegetarians." :-)

          2. My guess is that your friend, if he is a foodie, is an omnivore more than a carnivore. If the food is well-prepared and tastes good, he will be happy with it whether or not it includes meat.

            I would also assume that he knows that you are a vegetarian and that he would be gracious and courteous enough to appreciate whatever you generously put in front of him.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chicgail

              Unless he feels like crap without substantial protein at a meal, like many of us. I make meals of substantially protein for us every day, but if anyone is coming to my home, I make sure to meet their needs, inquiring if necessary. That often means making a meatless lasagna or eggplant parmesan and making sure they get what they need with adequate protein, too.