Old jokes about vegetarian food being boring, tasteless and overflowing with lentils were long ago booted into touch as top chefs began turning out dishes so mouth-wateringly delicious even ardent carnivores were converted.

Vegetarian choices now hold their own on restaurant menus as diners who might not necessarily want to turn veggie' opt for them as tasty way of getting an essential dose of their five-a-day.

Experimenting with veggie cuisine is even easier in March as it's Veggie Month - a time when you are encouraged to find out more about the many benefits of switching to a meat-free diet.

It's sponsored by Animal Aid, which opposes animals being killed for food, and there are events throughout the country.

If you want to whip up your own vegetarian feast that's different and delicious - far too good for rabbits - there's a wealth of Italian inspiration in new book, The Vegeterranean.

Authors, husband-and-wife Malu Simoes and Alberto Musacchio, who've run the Country House Montali hotel near Perugia in Italy for 14 years, reveal the secret ingredients and methods that have led to their international acclaim.

She says: "We've fulfilled our dream to redefine vegetarianism, so we can introduce people to unexpected and incredibly melded flavours and ingredients. It has left non-vegetarians awe-struck at how delectable and satisfying meatless food can be."

The book's a treasure trove of tips, and has easy-to-follow instructions for making sauces, stocks, pesto and other essentials as well as dishes that can stand alone or make a platter, together with side dishes and breads.

Conjure classics such as cannelloni di ricotta and gnocchetti sardi, or clever meatless alternatives to stroganoff and a meat loaf, polpettone di seitan vestito.

We're celebrating Veggie month with a special recipe, rullo di spinaci e ricotta, right

IngredientsServes four150g (5 1/2oz) spinach, cooked and squeezed<</p> 1/2tbsp butterSalt and black pepper to taste150g (5 1/2oz) fresh ricotta, drained of excess liquid30g (1oz) grated Parmesan1 pinch of nutmegFor the dough:125g (4 1/2 oz) flour, plus more dusting1 pinch of salt60g (2 oz) butter, softened and cut into chunks1 egg, lightly beaten1/2tsp water2tbsps single cream, mixed with 1tbsp of milk, for brushingMethodFinely chop the spinach and saute in medium-sized pan with butter. Season to taste and cool completely in a medium sized bowl, work the ricotta with a fork until creamy. Mix the Parmesan and nutmeg into the ricotta. Fold in the cooled spinach and mix. Season to taste, cover and set aside.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the butter to the well and work into the flour with your fingertips until the dough resembles a coarse meal. Scoop handfuls of dough into your hands and gently rub between your palms.

Repeat until the dough reaches a sand-like consistency and all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add the egg and, using a pinching motion, work into the dough until a ball begins to form.

Knead for one minute until smooth. Pick up the dough and forcefully throw it down on the work surface 20 times. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface into an 28 x 33cm (11 inch x 13 inch) rectangle, short side facing you. Loosely roll dough around a rolling pin, then unroll on a large sheet of parchment paper. Use a pizza cutter to even the edges. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C/350F. Mix the single cream and milk in a small cup and brush the entire surface of the dough with cream. Spread the filling over the surface, leaving a 2.5cm (1 inch) border across the top uncovered. Gently roll in the sides. Using the paper as a guide, start from the bottom and roll upwards, creating a log shape.

Brush the surface with more cream. Transfer, using the paper as the base, to a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.