Do you have a dinner party to plan, or a crowd to feed? Is it a mixed crowd? Vegetarians, vegans, and inveterate meat-lovers, perhaps? We've had some experience with meal-planning for mixed groups, and we feel like they are a great opportunity to branch out into new kinds of dishes, and to create fun meals for our guests. Here are five flexible menu ideas for vegetarians and omnivores alike. Pasta
This is perhaps the most classic and easy-to-make supper option for a mixed crowd. Make a pot of good pasta and a couple different sauces or toppings.
• 3-Sausage Pasta Sauce or a basic meat ragu should keep the meat-eaters happy, although some might spring for the vegetarian option too!
• 8 Light, Meat-Free Pasta Sauces - Including a rich mushroom sauce, a lighter broccoli and feta pesto, and a basic tomato marinara.
This one is easy, right? Make pizzas and everyone can top them just the way they like. Here are a few pizza ideas and recipes.
• Homemade Thin Crust Pizza - Here's your basic crust recipe, and recipes for sauces, too.
• Four interesting ideas for topping pizzas.
Tacos or Tortilla Wraps
See a theme? Give people a base to build their own custom meal, just like with pizza. With tacos or tortillas, it's a lot of fun to build a little bar full of guacamole, salsa, pickled onions, rice, beansand shredded meat and cheese. The omnivores can eat meat; the vegetarians can build a meat-less burrito.
• Taco Bar Fixings - Everything you need to put together a great taco bar.
• How To Cook (and Shred) a Pork Shoulder - The meat for a meal like this is super easy (and cheap) - slow-cook a big pork shoulder in the CrockPot and then shred it.
Beans are a slightly different alternative, but we like the idea of introducing meat-eaters to delicious heirloom beans. With a little meat on the side, of course. But if they love those beans like we do, they may find that they don't want to eat quite so much meat.
• How To Cook Beans - A basic primer on pot beans. Cook a couple big pots of different heirloom beans, then have a few toppings ready.
• Florida Butter Beans with Caramelized Onions and Bacon - This is an easy topping, and much richer than you might think. You could even make this for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians - one batch with bacon and one without.
Treat the meat-eaters to lots and lots of vegetables with a giant chopped salad. Have dishes on the side of chopped hard-boiled egg, bacon, fried sausage, cheeses, grilled steak strips, and other salad toppings. We love a big chopped salad with plenty of fresh garden greens, lightly cooked corn, grilled zucchini, and other good vegetables.
• Recipe Roundup: Main Dish Salads - Lots of good ideas here for main course salads.
• Salade Poubelle Paris - On the "garbage" salad, made with all sorts of things from your fridge.
What do you like to make when you cook for a mixed group?
Related: Good Question: Menu for Meat-Lovers and Vegetarians Too - Lots more good ideas in the comments here.
(Images: Please see linked posts for image credits.)