The pandemic may have stopped most of us from travelling but we can still transport our minds; Giulia takes us on an imaginary vegan journey to Italy while stimulating our tastebuds.
Read on to find out about veganism in Italy and how to create delicious Italian-inspired plant-based recipes!
Italian cuisine has a rich history. Food historians agree that Italian cuisine bloomed under the Roman Empire and further branched out into a plethora of regional specialities after its fall and throughout the centuries.
There is a lot more to Italian cuisine than simply pizza and pasta; a whole range of fresh ingredients are used to create rich and textural dishes. What’s more, there are a number of sweet and savoury national recipes that lend themselves to veganism, including ribollita, focaccia, farinata, and caponata.
Is Italian food vegan?
Yes and no. Traditionally, Italian food includes various ingredients ranging from different types of meat and sausages, as well as fish, dairy, eggs, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, legumes, potatoes, sauces, olive oil, and wheat. While meat and fish are at the core of many renowned dishes, I can assure you that there are many plant-based foods you can try.
For example, cucina povera – the diet of the poor – is an Italian cuisine that strips food back to simple ingredients, such as grains, legumes, fruit, and vegetables.
Unlike many other cuisines, Italian dishes are almost always prepared using olive oil, rather than ghee or butter. Moreover, you can still bring a distinctive Italian touch to the table by experimenting and veganizing iconic recipes.
According to a recent survey carried out by Eurispes, a private Italian research institute, the number of vegans in the country is on the rise, so expect to see a more vegan-friendly country in the future!
4 quick and easy Italian plant-based recipes to try
Whether you’re a long-time vegan on the lookout for new recipes, or someone who’s at the beginning of their plant-based journey, here are 4 easy vegan Italian recipes to inspire you.
1. Pizza in padella (pan-baked pizza)
Pizza doesn’t need any introduction. This popular dish comes in many shapes and sizes now, and it’s easily customizable with all sorts of toppings.
In recent years, quite a few food bloggers have been popularizing the so-called pizza in padella (pan-baked pizza) – not to be confused with the Chicago-style pizza, though. This is a time-saving recipe that makes the preparation of the dough less daunting, especially for the inexperienced.
The vegan version of the pan-baked pizza usually has either a cauliflower crust or is made with Type 2 flour (high in bran, vitamins and minerals).
Ingredients (for 1 person) :
For the dough
Type 2 flour, 5 oz (150 g)
Warm water, 75 ml
Olive oil, ½ oz (15 g)
Lemon juice, as needed (but no more than ½ tsp)
Salt, 1 tsp
Baking powder, 1 tsp
1. Put the flour, salt, olive oil and warm water in a bowl, and stir for a few seconds.
2. Squeeze a pinch of lemon juice in the baking soda to activate it (this process replaces the yeast) and add it to the mix.
3. Knead until smooth, then let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.
4. Brush the pan with some olive oil and stretch the dough with your hands so that it covers the pan.
5. Cook both sides of the pizza for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat by covering the pan with a lid.
6. Add your chosen vegan topping to the pizza and serve immediately.
2. Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan soup)
Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan soup) is the perfect dish to savour on a winter’s day and one that can be easily veganised.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
The following are popular vegan ingredients that can be used to make this Italian dish.
Savoy cabbage (or kale), 1 head
3 Potatoes (corresponding to 10 oz or 300 g)
White beans, 21 oz (600 g)
Plum tomatoes, 7 oz (200 g)
A stalk of celery
Carrots, 5 oz (150 g)
Pepper, as needed
Salt, as needed
Olive oil, as needed
Bread, 4 to 6 slices
The traditional recipe also requires Italian bacon (pancetta), but you can replace it with a meat-free alternative of your choice.
- Cut, slice or dice every vegetable (if you use a food processor, make sure to leave some chunks). In the meantime, cook the beans.
- Sautè carrots and onions with olive oil in a large pot, then add the other vegetables.
- Add plum tomatoes, potatoes and let dry for a few minutes. Blend some of the beans and add them to the mix.
- Add 1 litre of water, salt and pepper, and the rest of the beans.
- Let it cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. When it’s ready, serve the soup with slices of bread.
3. Ciambelline al vino (wine-baked doughnuts)
In the Lazio region, where these doughnuts are from, they call them ‘mbriachelle. It’s a funny dialect word that means ‘something that makes you drunk’. Now, wine-baked doughnuts don’t really make you drunk, but they are arguably everybody’s favourite dessert. Just choose your favourite vegan wine (preferably red), and you’re good to go.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
For the dough
Red wine, 80 ml
Olive oil, 60 ml
Granulated sugar, 3 oz (80 g)
Flour, ½ lb (corresponding to 8 oz or 250 g)
Aniseed, as needed
For the glaze
Cane sugar, as needed (but consider less than 1 tsp per doughnut)
- Pour the wine in a bowl. Add sugar and stir for a few seconds.
- Add olive oil, sifted flour, aniseed and baking powder.
- Knead until smooth.
- Cut the dough in small stripes and start forming small doughnuts.
- Glaze the doughnuts with cane sugar and put them in a preheated oven for 15-20 mins at 180 °C (356 °F).
4. Pomodori col Riso (Italian stuffed tomatoes)
Stuffed tomatoes are a staple in every modern Roman household, especially during summer. It’s an old recipe that possibly originated from the Jewish community in Rome. They’re extremely easy and cheap to make as it’s something most working-class and poor families could afford. They taste wonderful and are also naturally vegan.
Big beef tomatoes
- Wash the tomatoes, cut their upperparts and save them for later.
- Delicately remove the tomato flesh with a spoon, then mix it in the blender with salt, olive oil and basil.
- Put the pulp in a bowl and add the rice (to give you an idea – it should be roughly 1 tablespoon of rice per tomato) and let it marinate for 30 minutes.
- Stuff the tomatoes with the pulp, then replace their upperparts.
- Bake the tomatoes in a preheated oven for at least 40 mins at 180 °C (356 °F).
- Serve them with baked potatoes to create a tasty one-dish meal.
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Giulia doesn't remember a time in her life where she hasn't loved animals, but she only started her plant-based journey quite recently. Originally from Rome, Italy, she moved to London over a year ago to pursue a career in book publishing. She spends her days trying out new vegan recipes and raising awareness on climate change.