International cuisine is very popular, but it’s tastier and cheaper to make your own, than rely on supermarket ready-meals, which are often very inferior and made with chemicals, as well as being packed in plastic. If you can’t afford to eat out at a nice restaurant each night, then try making your own food.
Italy is quite a young country (around 200 years old) and food is very regional, often from the countries that it used to border. So although pasta is consumed widely as a first course in Rome, you’ll find bolognese from Bologna, polenta from Verona, risotto from Milan and pizza from Naples. And ice-cream sandwiches in Sicily! Above is Butternut Squash & Cavolo Nero Pizza from the book Purezza Vegan Pizza.
Simple Vegan Italian Recipes
Spicy Mushroom Rigatoni (So Vegan) uses ‘minced mushrooms’ cooked in a rich creamy tomato sauce. Use a good brand of vegan cream cheese, and closed-cup mushrooms, if you can’t find chestnut ones.
Spinach Artichoke Pasta (Short Girl, Tall Order) features a basil vegan cream sauce. If making your own pasta, keep fresh dough away from pets, as it can expand in the stomach.
Vegan Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce (Short Girl, Tall Order) is as quick as it gets.
One-Pot Pasta Bolognese (Mississippi Vegan) is from a chef in the US Deep South
Try this Picnic Pasta Salad with Oregano & Dill from Timothy’s book Mississippi Vegan
One Pot Pasta Alla Norma (So Vegan) is very quick, cheap and simple to make.
Gnocchi with Rocket & Vegan Pesto (is super-simple to make)
Flatbread Pizza with Vegan Pesto (So Vegan) make for a speedy supper
Make or Buy Plant-Based Pesto
Did you know that many brands of pesto are not even vegetarian? That’s because they contain Parmesan cheese, which by law must contain calf rennet (look on most jars, and you’ll see they don’t carry the words ‘suitable for vegetarians’). Many restaurants and hotels wrongly serve ‘vegetarian option meals’ covered in Parmesan cheese.
Yet this popular Italian sauce is delicious on pasta, and makes a nice quick and easy supper. Made with pine nuts, garlic and fresh basil, it also packs in some protein and vitamins. So either make your own, or choose a better brand of plant-based pesto by small artisan brands.
Homemade Vegan Pesto (Crowded Kitchen) is an adaptable recipe if you can’t find fresh basil or pine nuts. Sub with easier-to-find ingredients spinach, other nuts and seeds or even carrot tops, to reduce food waste. Serve with pasta and white beans for a healthy Italian supper.
Recipes Using Plant-Based Pesto
Roasted Tomato & Pumpkin Seed Pesto (Short Girl, Tall Order) is a nice summer dish, using heirloom tomatoes.
Gnocchi with Rocket & Vegan Pesto (So Vegan) is a quick and easy Italian supper. What better way to get your greens?
Speedy Flatbread Pesto Pizzas (So Vegan) are topped with a creamy cashew cheese, olives and a rich pesto. You can wrap leftover dough in baking paper and freeze for up to 2 months (keep fresh dough away from pets).
Where to Buy Plant-Based Pesto
Bonsan Organic Vegan Red Pesto is made with plant-based ingredients. This vibrant pesto is a rich and sweet blend of sundried tomatoes and cashew nuts. Use this pesto to stir into pasta, or drizzle it over grilled vegetables or spread in sandwiches. Also as Green Pesto with basil, pine kernels and extra virgin olive oil.
Mr Organic offers a nice range of plant-based pestos (some contain tofu for a protein punch):
If shopping in supermarkets, ASDA sells a good vegan tomato & pesto flatbread pizza. It’s under £2 and tasty for the price, also free from palm oil.
Vegan Italian Dolce!
Vegan Strawberry Tiramisu (Addicted to Dates) uses up seasonal fresh fruits
Vegan Lemon Tiramisu is from the book Veganissimo
Coffee & Cream Vegan Panna Cotta is a recipe from 15-Minute Vegan Comfort Food.
Chocolate Amaretto Truffles (Addicted to Dates) were created by a classically-trained Irish baker
Vegan Italian Recipe Books
The Big Book of Vegan Pasta Dishes offers 100 recipes for everyone’s favourite quick and filling supper. In Italy, pasta tends to be the first course, but you can use these as appetizers or main meals. There are also recipes for multi-course menus like a Hearty Make-Ahead Supper, a Vegetarian Feast and a Traditional Roman Supper. And a brief guide to each region’s famous food like the Amalfi Coast (peppers, figs, lemons and San Marzano tomatoes).
Vegan Pasta Night is a modern guide to vegan Italian cooking. From simple Cacio e Pepe to Fettucine with Chanterelle Mushrooms & Shiitake bacon, chef Brianna Claxton offers recipes for everything from semolina dough to activated charcoal ‘squid ink’ pasta. Along with recipes to make your own vegan cheeses (Parmesan, Mozzarella) and meats (prosciutto), recipes include:
- Sausage & Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Lasagna Bolognese
- Cavatappi with Vodka Sauce
- Penne Arrabiata Parmesan
- Creamy Garlic Rigatoni
- Spaghetti Parmesan
- Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter & Sage
- Pancetta & Pea Linguine
- Roasted Fennel & Sausage Rigatoni
- Short Rib Ragu with Ricotta & Pappardelle
- Sundried Tomato Pesto Gnocchi
- Kale Alfredo with Chorizo & Farfalle
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- 20 Clove Garlic Penne
- Conchiglie & Sweet Pea Alfredo
- Beet & Mushroom Tortellini
- Insalata Mixta with Lemon Poppyseed Vinaigrette
- Caprese Salad
- English Pea Arancini
- Vegan Calamari
Purezza Vegan Pizza is by the founders of a successful chain of vegan pizzerias in England. After learning how to make your own wholemeal, sourdough or gluten-free crusts, recreate their famed dishes including:
- Mushroom & Sausage Vegan Pizza
- San Marzano Tomato Pizza with Asparagus Sauce
- Beetroot Carpaccio
- Smoked Carrot Pancetta
- Funghi Trifolati
- Cashew Mozzarella
- Almond Gorgonzola
Italian Vegan Grocery Finds
Find this in health stores, packed with protein from the seitan (wheat-meat!)
Suma Organic Ravioli in Vegetable Sauce (UK) is sold in Co-op and some other supermarkets, or buy online. Sold in zero waste tins, this dish is palm-oil free and very tasty. Just heat and eat on its own or with peas, carrots, broccoli. Also in tomato & vegan ricotta sauce and mushroom sauce.
Most arancini recipes use mozzarella cheese (the Roman version is called ‘telephone wires’ as it resembles them when they go all stringy, when melted). You can find plant-based versions everywhere. Kinda Co Mozzarellie comes in a glass jar. Just take out a scoop and put it on your vegan pizza. Made in Somerset from cashew nuts. Mozzarisella is an Italian cheese made from brown organic rice. In the US, Miyoko’s Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella is good.
Gorgonzola is a popular Italian cheese, said to be the favourite of opera singer Pavarotti. However, many people are unaware that this cheese is not even vegetarian, as it contains calf rennet from the stomach of dead calves. Named after a village just outside Milan, this ancient blue-veined cheese is mostly produced in northern Italy, and takes a few months to ripen. It is often melted over pasta.
Do not eat mould-ripened cheeses during pregnancy. Keep vegan cheeses away from pets (many nuts are toxic). Don’t feed leftover crackers with cheese to birds, as it can cause choking and/or affect waterproofing/insulation of feathers.
Honestly Tasty Vegan Blue Gorgonzola
Honestly Tasty Vegan Blue Gorgonzola is an authentic vegan cheese that is matured over several weeks, and made with real Pencillium Roqueforti. A smooth but firm almond cheese, it has the distinct blue taste of genuine gorgonzola (which contains calf rennet, so is not even vegetarian). It’s made with fair trade organic coconut oil, organic tapioca flour, almonds, nutritional yeast and cultures. May contain traces of allergens. Store at 3-5 C and eat within one week of delivery (can be frozen up to 4 weeks, but may affect flavour).
Honestly Tasty is a plant-based food start-up in Haringey (London) founded by Mike, when his new vegan lifestyle came up against his love for cheese. After months of experiments, he landed on his own winning Veganzola. So he closed down the door on his career in corporate banking, and founded his own vegan cheese company. He runs the family business with his sister, offering authentic vegan cheese alternatives, which are sold in good shops and online. 2% of profits go to a community-run animal sanctuary in Wales.
Mozzarella is a very popular Italian cheese (and the best-selling cheese in the USA) that is made from buffalo milk. Very mild and soft, it is often sold in balls, and added on top of pizza or mixed with fresh tomatoes and basil, to make a Caprese salad. However, recent investigations in Italy on buffalo welfare, have found even cheese-eaters boycotting it, in favour or plant-based versions.
Believed to have been created when cheese curds accidentally fell into a pail of water (the word ‘mozza’ means ‘to separate’). Known as a stretched curd cheese, it is often stored in water, and only keeps a few days.
Keep vegan cheeses away from pets (many nuts are toxic). Don’t feed leftover crackers with cheese to birds, as it can cause choking and/or affect waterproofing/insulation of feathers.
Kinda Co Mozzarellie (UK, above) comes in a glass jar. Just take out a scoop and put it on your vegan pizza. Made in Somerset from cashew nuts.
Fed up of simply buying conventional boring pasta sauce? Sometimes you may not wish to make a pasta sauce from scratch, but these brands are far better than the best-selling ones, and also many contain protein too. Serve with spaghetti and vegan Parmesan (conventional Parmesan is not even vegetarian, as by law it contains calf rennet in the cheese).
Natural Collection offers a great selection of organic and vegan pasta sauces, if you don’t live near a health store (these brands tend to only be sold in them). So order in bulk and stock up your cupboards. Their range includes Mr Organic, a brand made with Italian tomatoes (the seitan version is full of protein too). Mr Organic also makes a soya ragu pasta sauce.
Sacla has recently brought out a range of vegan pasta sauces. The Bolognese sauce is made with fresh Italian tomatoes and pea protein, alongside sauteed onions, garlic and carrots.
Pappardelle with Lentil Bolognese (Carlo Cao) is made with red lentils to replace the ground meat, and uses egg-free pasta.
Tomato Basil Pasta (Short Girl, Tall Order) uses fresh tomatoes and 9 other seasonal ingredients. Ideal for summer, this recipe is ready in 30 minutes and is easily made gluten-free.
You can buy fresh vegan pasta, if you prefer. Pastan makes handmade vegan ravioli using the finest Italian ingredients, encased with pumpkin/sage or pea/shallot. Ready to serve in minutes, you can freeze it too. Their tip to ensure ravioli is cooked – just slice into it, to check that there is no starchy line, in the centre of the dough. You can also buy fresh vegan pastas at Dell’Ugo. Use to make dishes like this porcini mushroom & spinach ravioli.
Homemade Tomato Sauce (Crowded Kitchen) can form the base of a nice homemade pomodoro recipe. You can also use it on pizza and add to stew, sauces and other dishes. All you need are a few hours to simmer, and a few jars.
Vegan Mushroom Ragu (Crowded Kitchen) is cooked in a rich wine and tomato sauce, with 3 types of mushrooms. Hearty and easy to make, ideal for cold nights.