Perhaps one of the most popular and well-loved of all cuisines, Italian food needs no introduction. Worried you will have to give it up now you are a vegan? Well worry no more. This guide is here to show you how easy it is to adapt some of your ‘old favourites’, and it will also let you in on a little secret… many Italian dishes are already vegan.
Deep pan, as many toppings as you can squeeze on, and oozing with cheese right? Wrong. The crust of authentic Italian pizza is normally hand-tossed and thin. One of the three variations of Neapolitan pizza is called pizza marinara, and has no cheese. The tomatoes on this pizza are normally topped with garlic, oregano and basil and then extra virgin olive oil is dribbled over the surface right before baking.
So a pizza without cheese is not an unusual thing in Italy. In the UK you might find this sort of pizza listed in the Pizza Bread section of the menu, so don’t be put off if you don’t see it immediately. The simplicity of the marinara is one its attractions, but don’t feel that this must always be the case. Without cheese, any vegetarian pizza is vegan. Pizza dough, if traditionally made, is always vegan, and most pizza restaurants have the option to create your own… simply pick all of your favourite veggies and be your own pizza chef.
When you’re at home can go wild. Include any of your favourite melty vegan cheeses, make your own meatless ‘meat’ pizza with vegan chorizo or pepperoni, and have fun experimenting with new flavours and combinations. Having non-vegans round for dinner? A pizza evening is a great idea for a dinner party – have the toppings set out in bowls and get everyone to make up their own pizzas. You can even have a vote at the end to see who has made the best combination. (A Veganuary favourite is a great tomato sauce, artichokes, Kalamata olives, and a good handful of dressed rocket on top.)
The foundation of a good bowl of pasta is its sauce. And tomato sauce is king. A quick check to ensure a restaurant makes it sauces with olive oil rather than butter, and you’re onto a winner. Tomato and Basil and Arrabbiata sauces are always great options. A proper Italian tomato sauce is a thing of beauty. You can ask for a version of Puttanesca without anchovies, and a pasta Primavera is packed full of fresh veggies – just be sure to check they don’t add any surprise extras like chicken.
In restaurants, the creamier sauces are likely to be off the menu for vegans, but the fun is only just beginning when you’re at home… you’ll discover vegan pesto and a host of creamy sauces made out of cashew nuts or soya milk. In our Recipe section you’ll find more ideas than you ever thought possible; mac & cheese, creamy garlic pasta with roasted tomatoes, fettuccine Alfredo, and vegan lasagne are just a few to get your taste buds tingling.
One final thing to note; the pasta itself. Most dried pasta is made from durum wheat and is always vegan. Fresh pasta is often made with egg. Be sure to check with your waiter or waitress as to what type of pasta they use. Even if it is their standard to use fresh pasta, they should always have a durum wheat variation available due to allergies. Also, different regions in Italy dictate the use of egg or durum wheat in their pastas, so you could just as easily be dining in a restaurant where the vegan version is the norm. When shopping for pasta, a quick scan of the ingredients will tell you all you need to know – a little tip from us, check the allergy advice first; egg always has to be listed there.
And, why not check out our range of Italian Vegan Recipes!