Plus, the substitutes you need to make it vegan. 

By Stacey Ballis
August 23, 2019
Stacey Ballis

I am as guilty as the next person when I send out the call, pre-dinner party, for dietary restrictions and get the “my new boyfriend is vegetarian” or “I’ve recently gone vegan” reply, of sighing deeply or rolling my eyes. Because my personal philosophy for entertaining has always been that if one person has a dietary restriction, I simply make the whole meal fit that profile, so that no one is ever singled out. I know how difficult it can be to admit to a host that you don’t just “eat everything.” Between my weird supertaster restrictions and my Type 2 diabetes, going to someone else’s house for dinner, especially if they do not know me well, can fraught with peril. So, at my house, if you are currently eating gluten-free, the meal will be gluten-free. If you are doing paleo or keto, I will find delicious recipes that fit into your program. I dive into the challenge and try and enjoy the puzzle of putting together a meal that everyone will delight in, and my restricted guests will feel not just welcome, but celebrated. The only thing I cannot do is cook for people with severe celiac, because I bake so much bread that my kitchen is a nightmare of cross-contamination, there is flour in the air, and no amount of cleaning makes me feel confidence in the safety for these poor souls.

Vegetarian is easy, always has been. A composed salad or soup to start, a hearty pasta main or a whole-roasted vegetable supported by rice, some interesting sides, a cheese course, all work great and no one ever misses the meat. But vegan, I gotta be honest, that is the one that always gets me. Because the moment my flavor punches of butter and cheese go away, and once you lose homemade pasta due to the egg content, and honey leaves the table for sweetening salad dressings and the like, my repertoire gets decidedly short. I will admit that for a time, vegans were essentially told that there would be salad and at least one safe side dish, but that they should maybe bring something for themselves.

Stacey Ballis

But as veganism has gotten more widespread, I have broadened my toolkit. I have a great chocolate cake that happens to be vegan and can be made gluten-free as well when needed. I researched and was delighted to discover that most Barilla brand pastas are vegan, read labels of course, not all of their shapes are, but enough to have a wide variety of choices, and they are also now doing some gluten-free versions as well. I make a vegetable stock that I like and keep on hand for soups and sauces.

This dish is one of my standards for vegetarians and vegans alike. A filling pasta dish with bright flavors, beans and walnuts for protein, lemon for brightness, roasted garlic for depth, parsley and mint for refreshing herby punch. My most staunch meat-lovers adore this dish, and I have shared the recipe numerous times.

I have, to be honest, also made it with pancetta, which amps up the umami, but I truly don’t miss it. You can also swap out quartered cremini mushrooms for the cauliflower if you don’t love cauliflower, they will just roast faster than the cauliflower will, so wait about 20 minutes after you put in the garlic to do the mushrooms.

Since I originally did this recipe for vegetarians, I have given you that version which includes both butter and Parmesan cheese. But I have listed swap outs if you need to go vegan with it. And I use Barilla brand orecchiette which is vegan by nature.

Get the recipe: Orecchiette With Cauliflower, Walnuts, and White Beans

 

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