A Make-Ahead Vegetarian Dinner Party from Ina Garten

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

When it comes to dinner parties, Ina Garten is the queen. And this week Ina is helping you throw your next dinner party with a menu that is designed to be made ahead. Because making it ahead is the key to everything that Ina says makes a great party: you’ll be relaxed, and you’ll have more fun.

Today we have everything you need to put this menu together from start to finish — whether it’s for a dinner party or simply a Friday night in with your family.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

A Colorful Vegetarian Dinner Party

The other beautiful thing about this menu is that, with just a few minor omissions, it’s vegetarian. And yet I wouldn’t even mention this fact to a mixed table of omnivores and vegetarians; it’s so hearty, so satisfying, that the question of meat is a non-issue.

I also love how vibrant and colorful Ina’s recipes are. We’re still on the cusp of spring, and it’s not quite time for summer’s crops to come rolling in. A rich, warm lasagna is still appreciated, as is the soup.

And it’s so easy to make ahead! Here’s how to do it, step by step.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Ina Garten’s Make-Ahead Dinner Party Menu

Round out this menu with a few of these sides!

Ina’s Recipes

Your Cooking Timeline

What to Prep Ahead

Up to a Week (or More) Ahead

  • Make the Wild Mushroom & Farro Soup and keep refrigerated (or freeze for up to 3 months).
  • Make the dinner rolls and freeze for up to 3 months.

The Day Ahead

  • Prepare the Roasted Vegetable Lasagna and refrigerate, uncooked, overnight (or freeze for up to 3 months — thaw overnight in the fridge before baking).
  • Prepare the Spanish Tapas Peppers, and refrigerate, uncooked, overnight.
  • Prepare and completely bake the Banana Crumb Cake. Wrap it well and let it sit at room temperature overnight.
  • Prepare the dressing for the salad and refrigerate.

Dinner Timeline

1h:00 before guests arrive

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Bake the Spanish Tapas Peppers for 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Make the whipped cream for the dessert and refrigerate in a sealed container until ready to serve.

0:15 before guests arrive

  • Transfer the tapas to a serving platter and set out for guests to nibble as they arrive.
  • Lower the the oven to 350°F.
  • Put the lasagna in the oven to bake and set a timer for 6o minutes.

0:00 — Guests arrive!

  • Open wine and serve the tapas.
  • Place the frozen dinner rolls, wrapped in foil, in the oven with the lasagna and bake until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes. (Note: This is a slightly warmer oven temperature than recommended in our directions; just keep an eye on the rolls and remove from the oven when they’re warmed through.)

0:30 after guests arrive

  • Invite everyone to the table.
  • Serve the soup with dinner rolls.

0:45 after guests arrive

  • Check the lasagna and remove from the oven when the top is browned and bubbly (60 to 70 minutes total baking time).
  • Bring the lasagna to the table and let it rest about 10 minutes while the guests are finishing their soup.

1h:00 after guests arrive

  • Serve the lasagna with the salad.


  • Serve the banana cake with whipped cream.
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Your Shopping List

To buy at the grocery store:

  • Garlic (2 heads)
  • Yellow onions (2 medium)
  • Shallot (1)
  • Red bell peppers (3 medium)
  • Yellow bell peppers (2 medium)
  • Carrots (3 to 4 medium)
  • Celery (6 to 7 stalks)
  • Eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Zucchini (3/4 pound)
  • Sugar snap peas (8 ounces)
  • Radishes (4 small)
  • Heart of romaine (1 head)
  • Cremini mushrooms (12 ounces)
  • Tomato (1 large)
  • Fresh basil (1 bunch)
  • Flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
  • Fresh thyme (3 large sprigs)
  • Fresh dill (1 bunch)
  • Bananas (3 to 4)
  • Dried wild mushrooms (1 1/2 ounces)
  • Extra-large eggs (3)
  • Large eggs (1)
  • Unsalted butter (6 ounces, or 1 1/2 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon)
  • Whole, 2%, or skim milk (1/2 cup)
  • Whole-milk ricotta (16 ounces)
  • Garlic-and-herb goat cheese (8 ounces)
  • Parmesan cheese (enough to make 1 cup grated)
  • Fresh mozzarella (1 pound ball)
  • Crème fraîche (4 ounces)
  • Sour cream (1/4 cup)
  • Whipping cream or heavy cream (1 cup)
  • Lasagna noodles (10 ounces)
  • Jars of marinara sauce (40 ounces total)
  • Green olives (4 to 6 ounces, with pits)
  • Pearled farro (3/4 cup)
  • Vegetable broth (or beef broth, if not making vegetarian, 4 cups)
  • Golden raisins (1/2 cup)
  • Bittersweet chocolate (6 ounces)
  • Sliced blanched almonds (3 tablespoons)
  • Saffron threads (1 teaspoon crumbled)
  • Bread crumbs (2/3 cup from a stale baguette)
  • Cream sherry (1/2 cup)
  • Marsala wine (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)

If not making this vegetarian, add these ingredients:

  • Pancetta (4 ounces)
  • Oil-packed anchovy fillets (1 container, or 8 anchovies)

In your pantry — check to make sure you have these things:

  • Olive oil (2 cups)
  • Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)
  • White wine vinegar (1 tablespoon)
  • Dijon mustard (1/2 tablespoon)
  • Dried oregano (1 tablespoon)
  • Ground cinnamon (1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • All-purpose flour (5 cups + 2 tablespoons)
  • Granulated sugar (3/4 cup)
  • Light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
  • Vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)
  • Baking powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Baking soda (3/4 teaspoon)
  • Active dry yeast (1 tablespoon)