By Kathryn McLean
Are you trying to eat more vegetarian meals? Maybe you need some inspiration for Meatless Mondays. Or do you have a family member who is vegetarian, but you are used to cooking “square meals” with meat as the main entree? There are lots of dishes that traditionally include meat where you can omit the meat and still have something that tastes great.
How about pasta with a no-meat cacciatore sauce? Cacciatore is a tomato-based dish with chicken or rabbit, plus onion and bell peppers, which sometimes also includes carrot and celery. You can make the base without the chicken and toss it with pasta for a filling dinner.
How about stuffed peppers or cabbage rolls? Rather than adding veggies to a meat base for those, simply leave out the meat and increase the vegetables and grains. Adding beans, lentils or chickpeas, or tofu will increase the protein, and keep everyone feeling more full than making these with vegetables alone.
Try including any of these vegetables: onion, celery, fennel, tomato, bell peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, potato, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, peas, beans, corn, cabbage, spinach or other leafy greens. Include any grains you already like or try something new.
You probably already like lots of vegetarian dishes without thinking of them that way. Consider this list:
- Cheese-filled ravioli or tortellini
- Grilled cheese
- Pasta salad
- Vegetable stir fry with rice
- Lentil soup
- Dal, and paneer curries
- Bean chili
- Omelets and other egg dishes
If you want to eat (or offer) more vegetarian dishes, think of what you like aside from meat and start there.
Cacciatore-style pasta sauce
Here’s a simple recipe for a cacciatore-style sauce for pasta: First prepare the sauce, then cook the pasta according to the package directions. Stir the cooked pasta and sauce together completely, adding extra veggies to each plate as you serve if they fall to the bottom of the serving dish.
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, cut in half lengthways, and thinly sliced
1-2 stalks celery (optional), thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, cored and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 can tomatoes in puree; crush the whole tomatoes with your hands
Olive oil, salt, pepper
1 454g package of dry pasta
Heat a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat: add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, then the sliced onion and carrots. Stir to coat the vegetables in the oil and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the celery, if using, and the peppers. Stir and continue cooking for an additional 5-10 minutes.
Add the canned tomatoes and puree, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 15-20 minutes on low heat until the tomatoes have reduced to make a thick sauce.
Cook pasta according to the package directions and drain. Combine the sauce with the pasta, including all the vegetables. Stir well so all the pasta is coated.
If you want to round out this pasta dish into a larger meal, try serving it with crusty bread or garlic toast, a crisp salad or a vegetarian snack board filled with cheese, crackers, dry fruits, nuts and olives.