What happens when you’re having guests for dinner and one or two of them are vegetarian?

Some preparation beforehand can ensure that your vegetarian guests will enjoy the evening as much as your other guests.

Ask your dinner guests exactly what they do or do not eat.There are different types of vegetarians. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions and what options are safe to serve.

Lacto vegetarians eat non-meat animal products, e.g. dairy (milk, gelatin-free yogurt, butter, rennet-free cheese) and honey, but no fish, chicken, meat, or gelatin.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs in addition to dairy products, but no fish, chicken, meat, gelatin, or cheese that contains rennet.

Vegans avoid eggs, dairy products, honey, meat, gelatin and animal-derived ingredients. Many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products.

Pescetarians aren’t vegetarians but eat seafood and a mostly vegetarian diet. 

Read the labels: Some curry pastes and pasta sauces contain meat or fish products (fish sauce or shrimp paste in the former, and anchovies or meat stock in the latter are common culprits). Always check the labels. Some recipes may already be acceptable, or could be easily adapted (for example, using soy milk instead of cow’s milk to make a dessert vegan). When purchasing products, look out for hidden animal ingredients such as meat broths, gelatin, casein or whey, lactose, butter, cheese, etc.

Do not assume that vegetarians will pick the vegetables out of a meat dish, or eat potatoes or vegetables that has been cooked in the same oil as meats or fish. Prepare a separate meat-free dish for them, without using the same utensils. Don’t assume that vegetarians just survive on tofu and lentils. Look to some of the great cuisines of the world, such as those of Asia, southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, for inspiration.

Keep it fresh-avoid mock meat. When in doubt, simple is the way to go. Use seasonal produce – it will be cheaper, too. Remember that vegetarians eat what non-vegetarians eat, just without meat. Think basics such as pasta and risotto and you can’t go wrong. Make sure that the quantity and quality of food served to all the guests is similar. Don’t expect a vegetarian guest to feel satisfied with an iceberg lettuce salad or pasta in boring, basic tomato sauce while everyone else has a gourmet meal. It is a common error that restaurants also make. Don’t forget to include protein. Good protein sources are vegetarian bean or whole grain casseroles.

How to best accommodate vegetarian dinner guests:

An easy solution is to make two versions of the main dish; a meat version and a vegetarian one, and prepare vegetarian sides. That way you’ll satisfy all guests. The secret to making a vegetarian version of any main dish is simply substitute the meat with a meatless ingredient that will easily take the place of the meat. This way you can cook a balanced vegetarian version for any main dish without requiring any complicated or hard-to-find ingredients.

Both main dishes can be treated similarly in terms of timing, letting you focus on being with your guests the rest of the time. Very little extra work is required; only the main dish is being duplicated, and it still takes less than twice the work because you’re simply splitting your ingredients into different pans. Ultimately, your vegetarian dinner guests are certain to notice and appreciate any efforts you make to accommodate their dietary requirements, particularly a vegetarian version of your main dish.

Holiday dinners present an even bigger challenge because special meat dishes are usually the centerpiece of the menu . The following recipes show you how to prepare two versions of the main dish; a meat entree and a similar vegetarian one. Much of the preparation can be done in advance in all these recipes. 

Beef Wellington

Vegetable Wellington

Beef and/or Vegetable Wellington

A classic Beef Wellington can break both your calorie and grocery budget. It is an extravagant combination of beef tenderloin, truffles, chicken liver pate, puff pastry and a rich sauce made from Madeira wine. Few dishes can top a Wellington when it comes to elegance and presentation. However, with a few substitutions, you can make this dish fit better with a healthy diet without sacrificing any of the decadence or flavor. If you have vegetarian guests at the your table, you can save time by using the same stuffing for both entrees and still give your vegetarian guests an equally elegant holiday dish. I would serve two non-starchy vegetables with these entrees, such as sauteed greens of choice and roasted parsnips.

For the Wellington Stuffing:

  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (any combination of white, brown or gourmet)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped, sweet onion or shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 ounces fat free cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons truffle oil, optional


Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan set on medium heat. Saute the chopped mushrooms, garlic, onion, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of cracked, black pepper until the water has cooked out of the vegetables and they are condensed — approximately 15 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

Remove the mushroom mixture from heat. Stir in parsley, cream cheese and truffle oil. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover it and keep it at room temperature.

For the Beef:

  • 3-pound beef tenderloin, in one piece
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


Remove the tenderloin from the refrigerator approximately one hour before it’s time to assemble the dish.

Pat the roast dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-hot heat. Sear the beef, cooking it approximately two minutes on each side.

Transfer the tenderloin to a cooling rack. Place a baking sheet under the rack to catch the drips. Rest the roast until it’s cool to the touch — about 10 minutes.

For the Squash:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small butternut squash (1 1/4 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


In a very large skillet over high heat, melt butter. Add the squash in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, for 4 minutes. (If the squash doesn’t fit in one layer, cook it in batches). Stir and continue to cook until the squash is golden, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Stir in the maple syrup, thyme, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook one minute. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Spray two baking sheets with cooking spray. 

Assemble the Beef Wellington:

  • 16-ounce package puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets in a package)
  • 1/2 of the Mushroom Pate
  • Browned beef tenderloin
  • 1 egg, whisked with 1/2 teaspoon water and divided in half
  • Olive oil


Lightly flour work surface and a rolling pin. Line the 2 pastry sheets up side by side and fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

Roll the pastry into a 13-by-16-inch rectangle. Take care to join the seams.

Spread half the mushroom pate in an even layer over the pastry with a rubber spatula, being careful not to tear the tender pastry. Leave approximately a 1-inch border around the pastry without pate. The mixture will spread out when you wrap it around the beef.

Lay the tenderloin in the center of the pastry. Pull the dough up around the beef, making clean, straight seams. Trim away excess pastry. Press out air pockets as you wrap the pastry around the roast.

Brush the seams with a pastry brush dipped in the whisked egg set aside for the beef. Press the seams lightly with your fingers to seal them. Cool the beef in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Assemble the Vegetable Wellington:

  • 16-ounce package puff pastry, thawed (2 sheets in a package)
  • 1/2 of the Mushroom Pate
  • Butternut Squash mixture
  • Reserved egg wash
  • Olive oil


On the same floured work surface, line the 2 pastry sheets up side by side and fuse the sheets together by slightly overlapping them and lightly rolling over the seam until adhered.

Roll the pastry into a 13-by-16-inch rectangle. Be sure to join the seams.

Spread half the mushroom pate in an even layer over the pastry with a rubber spatula, being careful not to tear the tender pastry. Leave approximately a 1-inch border around the pastry without pate. Then spoon the squash over the center of the mushroom pate (it will look like a stripe of squash lying on a bed of mushrooms).

Brush the exposed borders of dough with the egg wash set aside for the vegetarian entree. Fold the long sides up to meet in the middle and pinch together to seal; pinch the ends, too. Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and turn it over so that the seam is face down. Cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Baking the Wellington :

Brush the top of both Wellingtons with more egg wash.


Place the Beef Wellington on a baking sheet seam side down in the preheated oven (475) for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to 400 degrees F. and cook the beef for an additional 20 to 25 minutes for a medium-rare roast. Check for temperature of the meat by sliding a meat thermometer into the center of the roast. A reading of 135 F. indicates medium-rare.

Lift the roast carefully with a large, sturdy spatula and place it on a carving board. Allow the Wellington to rest for approximately 10 minutes before serving. Cut the Wellington into thick slices for serving.


Place the Vegetable Wellington in the oven when you reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F. and bake until puffed, golden, and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve.

Madeira Sauce

  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Pour the vegetable stock into a pan after placing the Wellington in the oven. Season the stock with salt and pepper to taste and bring it to a boil. Continue boiling for approximately 20 minutes — until it has reduced to approximately 2 cups.

Add 1 cup of Madeira wine, and boil the stock for about five minutes, until it has again reduced to 2 cups.

Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Place butter, a dab at a time, into the hot liquid and whisk well while it melts. Do not allow the liquid to boil over.

Serve sauce along with slices of Wellington.


There are several parts of the Wellington preparation that can be done ahead of time to make the process easier. Prepare the mushroom pate and butternut squash mixture several hours or days ahead of time and refrigerate it until use.

You can also sear the beef a day or two ahead of time. Allow it to set at room temperature for a full hour before wrapping in pastry and cooking.

Vegetarian Cannelloni

Pork Cannelloni

Spinach and Cheese Cannelloni and/or Spinach and Pork Cannelloni

Round out the menu with a sliced tomato basil salad and oven roasted asparagus.  The asparagus can roast on a baking sheet along with the cannelloni.

Serves 8 or more

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons (Wondra) all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano


In a heavy saucepan whisk together flour and milk, add butter and heat pan over medium. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly (sauce will thicken). Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 2 minutes, then whisk in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, then cover pan.

Vegetarian Filling

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 oz. baby spinach
  • 1  3/4 cups skim ricotta
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano 


Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and sauté, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Stir together ricotta, egg, parsley, salt, pepper, and grated cheese in a bowl, then stir in spinach mixture.

Pork Filling

  • 1/2 cup (packed) dried porcini, soaked 20 minutes in 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and diced
  • 10 oz. baby spinach 
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • A small onion, minced
  • A medium carrot, minced
  • A 6-inch stalk celery, minced
  • A small bunch parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala (or sherry)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup freshly finely grated Parmigiano
  • Salt & pepper
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon)


Heat butter in a saute pan and add carrot, celery and onion and brown them lightly. Add the pork and continue cooking until it is browned, then stir in the soaked mushrooms. Add in the Marsala and the diluted tomato paste, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and simmer for an hour, until thickened. Stir in the spinach and cook until completely wilted. Remove from heat and add the grated cheese and parsley.

Prepare Pasta

16 (6- by 4-inch) fresh pasta rectangles or 16 packaged dry lasagna noodles or 16 oven-ready (sometimes labeled “no-boil”) lasagna noodles

See recipe for homemade pasta sheets: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/11/how-to-make-stuffed-pastas-at-home/

Boil fresh pasta, 2 pieces at a time, in a large pot of boiling salted water , stirring to separate, until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta or about 6 minutes for dried lasagna noodles. Gently transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop cooking, then remove from bowl, shaking off water, and lay flat on dampened kitchen towels (not terry cloth).

 If using no boil noodles: Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.Trim noodles, as closely as possible, to 6 1/4- by 5 1/2-inch rectangles.

Assemble and Bake Cannelloni:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray two 13- by 9- by 2-inch ceramic baking dish or other shallow 3-quart flameproof baking dish (not glass) with cooking spray.


Spread 2/3 cup sauce in each each prepared baking dish. Spread about 1/3 cup ricotta filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging them snugly in 1 layer. Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni.


Spread 2/3 cup sauce in each each prepared baking dish. Spread about 1/3 cup pork filling in a line along 1 short side of 1 pasta rectangle, then roll up to enclose filling. Transfer, seam side down, to baking dish. Make 7 more cannelloni in same manner, arranging them snugly in 1 layer. Spread 1/2 cup more sauce over cannelloni.

Reserve extra sauce.

Bake, covered with foil, in the middle of oven until sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Turn on broiler.

Remove foil and broil cannelloni about 5 inches from heat until lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Reheat remaining sauce and serve on the side.


Cannelloni can be assembled (but not baked) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before baking. Remaining sauce will need to be thinned slightly.

Stuffed Turkey Breast

Stuffed Winter Squash

Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast and/or Baked Winter Squash 

Good sides for this meal could include a wild rice pilaf and green peas.

Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or Smart Balance, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 6 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless turkey breast, butterflied
  • 4 large acorn squash or any winter squash of your choice
  • 3/4 cup water

Directions for Mushroom Stuffing:

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large, deep sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 seconds. Add leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in breadcrumbs, cheese, 2 teaspoons parsley, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 2 teaspoons sage, 2 teaspoons thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. When cooled, set aside 4 cups of stuffing for the squash. The remainder will be used to stuff the turkey.

Directions for Turkey Herb Butter:

Combine 1 tablespoon butter with remaining 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1 teaspoon sage and 1 teaspoon thyme; set aside.

 Preheat the oven to 350ƒ degrees F.

Directions for Turkey Preparation:

Arrange turkey breast skin-side down on a clean surface so that it lies open flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten and make an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap and season turkey all over with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing reserved for the turkey over the meat, leaving a 3/4-inch border around the edge.

Close up snugly, tucking in the stuffing as you go, then tie with kitchen twine at (1-inch) intervals around the entire turkey breast.

Rub turkey all over with reserved herb butter and arrange it in a roasting pan. Roast uncovered in a 350 degree F. oven, basting occasionally, until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, about 1 1/2 hours. (Cover with foil if top browns too quickly.) 8 servings.

Directions for Squash Preparation:

Cut each squash in half. Remove and discard seeds and membranes. With a sharp knife, cut a thin slice from the bottom of each half so squash sits flat. Fill squash halves with 1/2 cup mushroom stuffing. Place in a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Pour water into pan.

Coat one side of a large piece of heavy-duty foil with cooking spray. Cover pan tightly with foil, coated side down.

Place squash in the oven after the turkey has roasted for 45 minutes. Bake at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until squash is tender. Yield: 8 servings.

Transfer turkey to a carving board, tent with foil and set aside for 15 minutes. Remove and discard twine, cut turkey into slices and serve. Serve one squash half per person.


Fine Cooking; Classic Beef Wellington; Sophie Grigson

Simply Recipes; Beef Wellington; Elise; June 2009

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures