Thanksgiving TM_TK_ALLVEG_FI_001

Trashing the Turkey

Meeting the challenges of a vegetarian Thanksgiving


When my sister was 14 years old, she stopped eating meat. We were always a household that was big on vegetables, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship, but when meat-centric holidays like Thanksgiving rolled around, it was a little bit more of a challenge.

One year, my mom sprang for a tofu roast that was pressed into the shape of a turkey. Other years, we did fanciful things with sautéed mushrooms, roasted acorn squash, and toasted nuts.

Eventually, my sister returned to the poultry-eating fold, but over those years I learned a lot about making main dishes that were both suitably celebratory and free from meat.

Unless I’m feeding a crowd of gluten-free eaters, pasta is my go-to for a meatless main (though you could just as easily drop some well-cooked farro or millet instead of the pasta for the gluten-free folks). To be appropriately seasonal, I paired whole wheat pasta with roasted butternut squash, sautéed spinach (kale would also be good), and a creamy ricotta sauce. Spiked with a little bit of freshly grated nutmeg, the bake is wonderfully autumnal and rich.

On the side, we’ve got creamed Swiss chard and some roasted potato coins. A salad of baby arugula and pomegranate seeds would also be a nice addition (but that’s so easy that you don’t actually need a recipe).

For dessert, instead of the traditional pie, I’m serving up a pan of apple cranberry bread pudding. One of the best things about this dessert (beyond its flavor) is that it can be constructed the night before and popped in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it off. Just make sure to add a few extra minutes of baking time to account for the chill.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake



For roasted squash:
1 medium butternut squash
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt

For pasta:
1 pound small cut whole wheat pasta
2 tablespoons kosher salt

For spinach:
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed
8 sage leaves, minced
8 ounces baby spinach

For sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup pasta water
1 pound ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For topping:
½ cup grated parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel the squash. Remove seeds and cut into small cubes. Toss with olive oil and salt and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring regularly.

While squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it boils, salt it with kosher salt and cook the pasta until it is just al dente. Before draining, reserve one cup of the pasta cooking water to use in the sauce. Drain and return pasta to the cooking pot.

Heat a large skillet and heat two tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add garlic, sage, and spinach leaves and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the spinach has wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt three tablespoons butter. Add three tablespoons flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring regularly, until the flour is toasted and starts to brown a little. Whisk in milk and pasta cooking water and cook until thick. Stir in ricotta, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Add the roasted squash, wilted spinach, and sauce to the pasta pot and stir to combine. Scrape the dressed pasta, squash, and spinach into a large casserole dish. Top with remaining Parmesan and cheese and bake in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Creamed Swiss Chard



1 large bundle Swiss chard
2 tablespoons butter
¾ cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Wash Swiss chard and cut into thin ribbons.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add chard and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to wilt. Add the cream, salt, and pepper and simmer until the cream thickens and has begun to take on the green color of the chard.

Roasted Potato Rounds



1½ pounds small creamy potatoes like Red Bliss or Yukon Gold
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Wash potatoes well. Slice them thinly using a mandoline or food processor and put them in a mixing bowl. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves and toss to combine.

Lay potato slices out on a large rimmed baking dish and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are golden brown and tender.

Apple Cranberry Bread Pudding



10 cups bread cubes
1 large apple, peeled and cubed
1 cup fresh cranberries
4 eggs
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Toss the bread, apples, and cranberries together in a large casserole dish.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, vanilla, and kosher salt together and pour over the bread. Using the back of a spoon, press the bread cubes down into the liquid so that they absorb it.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the custard puffs and the top of the bread pudding is nicely browned.

Marisa McClellan is a food blogger, freelance writer and canning teacher based in Center City Philadelphia. She runs a website called Food in Jars, where she writes about canning, preserving and delicious things made from scratch. She regularly writes for the Food Network, USA Today, Grid Philly and Mrs. Wages. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.


Leave a Reply