Vegan Italian recipes: 20 recipes from Italy that are veg by tradition

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Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Laura Teso

Pizza marinara, spaghetti al pomodoro, pasta e fagioli… in Italy there are several dishes that are vegan by tradition. Since I’ve recently made up my mind to include more vegan dishes in my diet, I thought it would be also interesting for you to get to know some Vegan Italian recipes. Maybe because you want to try some of them at home. Or because you’re planning to travel to Italy in the near future and you want to check what the vegan options are. Well, this is a list of (not all but) the most famous and common Italian vegan recipes

Vegan Italian recipes from appetizer to dessert

Appetizers and snacks

Let’s start with the appetizers or snacks

Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a classic Italian antipasto appetizer consisting of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt. This is the most common and beloved. But you can find many variations, vegan or not. In fact they may include toppings of tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, or cheese. Attention: the right pronunciation is brʊˈskɛtə (IPA). The che is like in the name Kelly, mi raccomando

bruschetta with tomatoes black olives and basil Vegan Italian recipes
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Taralli

Taralli are delicious ring-shaped snacks originally from the region Apulia. But you can find them at every supermarket in Italy. And also at restaurants in the bread basket. Their texture is similar to a wheat-based cracker with a crunchy and crispy texture. Their base ingredients are flour, olive oil, white wine and salt. But there are also some add-ons like fennel seeds, black pepper, onion, and chilis. So better to check the ingredients list before purchasing them. There’s also the sweet version with sugar and sometimes almonds. 

glass of tea and snacks
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Vegan Italian Pasta recipes

In Italy the most common way to eat a vegan pasta is to accompany it with veggies (cut into small pieces and cooked, sometimes blending a part or all of them with an immersion blender to create a creamy sauce). You can use zucchini, eggplants, broccoli, basically every vegetable, according to the season. So there are tons of options. But the 4 most common and beloved vegan Italian recipes are:

Pasta al pomodoro

The classic of classics would be spaghetti al pomodoro, but you can use every pasta you prefer. For example, I love the mezze penne rigate. This dish is super easy. You just have to warm up the tomato sauce or the tomatoes. Or you can make a soffritto di cipolle o misto, ie. sauteed onions or mixed veggies (onion, carrot, celery) before adding the tomato sauce to the pan. It depends on your taste.  

food texture pasta spaghetti Vegan Italian recipes
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Spaghetti aglio olio peperoncino

Aglio olio e peperoncino means Garlic, oil and chilly. It is a classic Italian pasta dish typically served as a first course. You can prepare it with a variety of different pasta shapes. But spaghetti is the most traditional choice. To make aglio olio e peperoncino, simply cook the pasta according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili peppers and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and toss to coat in the oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Orecchiette alle cime di rapa – Turnip greens pasta

Orecchiette alle cime di rapa is a traditional Italian dish from the Puglia region. The main ingredient is orecchiette, i.e. small, ear-shaped pasta. And plus cime di rapa, which are broccoli raab or turnip greens. Better if they’re fresh, but you can also use frozen ones. The dish is typically seasoned with garlic, olive oil, and chili peppers. Attention: sometimes the recipe may also contain anchovies, used to add more flavor. But it’s delicious even without them. 

yummy vegetable orecchiette on a plate Vegan Italian recipes
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Risotto

As for pasta, same thing. You can prepare a delicious risotto without cheese or meat. Risotto with radicchio (old recipe, vegetarian – simply skip the butter and the cheese if you’re vegan) is an idea. But also risotto with asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, squash are very common. But I want to focus in particular on a regional recipe from my area, the Veneto. And that’s risotto with peas, that we call risi e bisi

Risi e bisi – Peas risotto

Risi e bisi is a traditional Venetian dish made with rice and peas, prepared at springtime when peas are fresh. However, it can be made with frozen peas as well. It is a simple but flavorful dish that is typically served as a first course. Some people also use pancetta to add flavor but I personally do not. The dish is typically served with grated Parmesan cheese, but you can skip this if you’re vegan. 

cooked edamame bean risotto Vegan Italian recipes
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Vegan Italian recipes: Soups

Zuppa di lenticchie – Lentils soup

Zuppa di lenticchie, which translates to “lentil soup” in English, is a classic Italian dish, particularly popular during the colder months. The star of the show are of course the lentils. The soup is enriched by vegetable broth, prepared with carrots, onions, and celery. Some recipes may also include potatoes, tomatoes, and herbs, in order to add flavor and texture. Be sure to add a couple of bay leaves, since they help the digestion of lentils. 

Zuppa d’orzo – Barley soup

Italian barley soup is a hearty and comforting dish, especially popular during the colder months. In some parts of Italy, particularly Alto Adige in the north, the soup is traditionally made with smoked meats like speck, adding a distinct smoky flavor. You can find the Alto Adige recipe in an old post of this blog. Yes, it includes butter and smoked meat but you can simply skip those ingredients and the soup will still be very good: Italian barley soup

Italian barley soup
Italian barley soup

Minestrone

In Italian soup is minestra. Minestrone is literally “big soup”. Actually the word simply implies that you’re using a lot of different ingredients to create your big soup. In fact minestrone features all the veggies and legumes you can imagine. And sometimes also small kinds of pasta or rice (or you can add some bread when it’s ready). It’s 99% an autumn-winter dish. But you can also have it cold or slightly warmed up in spring or summer. 

Pasta e fagioli

Pasta e fagioli, literally translated to “pasta and beans”, is a classic and hearty Italian soup. In my region it is a very common recipe for winter. Attention: someone also adds prosciutto or something. So if you’re vegan, you better ask before ordering it. Otherwise it is prepared with a vegetable broth (onions, carrots, celery), bay leaves, salt, pepper, herbs, beans (usually the borlotti kind) and of course pasta (ditalini is the most common choice). Here’s my pasta with beans recipe

Italian pasta with beans Vegan Italian recipes
Italian pasta with beans

Ribollita

Ribollita is a soup originating from the region of Tuscany. Stale bread is a defining ingredient. Vegetables form the core flavor profile: kale, cannellini beans, carrots, and onions. Other vegetables like celery or potatoes might be added depending on the recipe. Garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and sometimes herbs like rosemary or thyme contribute to the overall taste. The name ribollita means “re-boiled” because people used to prepare a huge amount of it and then warm up the leftovers on the following days.

Single dishes

Panzanella

Panzanella is a rustic chopped salad originating from the Tuscan and Umbrian regions of central Italy. It’s a quintessential summer dish, bursting with fresh flavors and textures. The star of the show is stale bread, typically soaked in water and squeezed dry. Diced tomatoes, red onions, and cucumbers provide a refreshing base, while vibrant flavors are often amped up with the addition of basil leaves. A simple dressing, traditionally made with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper, ties all the elements together.

Pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al pomodoro, translating to “tomato mush” in English, is a thick and flavorful Tuscan cold soup. The star ingredient is ripe tomatoes, simmered until softened and broken down. Stale bread, a hallmark of many Tuscan dishes, is then added, absorbing the rich tomato sauce and lending a characteristic texture. Garlic and fresh basil infuse the soup with aromatic depth, while olive oil brings richness and enhances the overall flavor profile. Salt and pepper provide the final touches, creating a harmonious balance of savory and slightly sweet notes.

Fave e cicoria

Fave e cicoria means broad beans and chicory. It is a classic and simple dish from Puglia. The beans are typically soaked and then simmered until tender, transforming into a creamy and flavorful base. The slightly bitter and earthy taste of the chicory greens, whether wild or cultivated, beautifully complements the sweetness of the fava beans. Olive oil, a staple in Italian cooking, adds richness and depth of flavor, while salt and pepper provide the final touches of seasoning.

Side dishes

Caponata

Caponata, a culinary gem from Sicily, is a medley of fried vegetables, primarily eggplant, bathed in a sweet and sour sauce. Eggplant, typically cubed or sliced, takes center stage, offering a soft and slightly sweet foundation. Other vegetables like celery, onions, and bell peppers join the party. Then you can find tomatoes, olives, and capers. The crowning touch is the sweet and sour sauce, a delightful combination of tomato sauce, olive oil, vinegar, and sugar. Sometimes, raisins or pine nuts add a touch of sweetness and complexity, taking the flavor profile to another level.

Polenta

Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal, originating from northern Italy. It can be accompanied by fishes, meats, cold cuts, cheeses, beans, lentils, etc ect. But, if you’re in the mountains in Italy, one of the most common dishes you can find is polenta e funghi, polenta with mushrooms. 

Polenta e funghi

Polenta and mushrooms is a classic and comforting dish combining the creamy texture of polenta with the earthy flavors of mushrooms. It’s a versatile and satisfying meal, originating from the northern regions of Italy. For the fungal element, various types of mushrooms can be used. They are typically sautéed with garlic, olive oil, and sometimes herbs, infusing them with rich aromas and releasing their natural umami flavors.

Pizza and focaccia: Italian vegan recipes

Farinata

Farinata, also known as cecìna, is a thin, savory pancake originating from the northwest coast of Italy. This humble dish, made with just a few simple ingredients, packs a flavorful punch. Chickpea flour takes center stage, forming the foundation of farinata. Mixed with water, olive oil, and a pinch of salt, the batter is then cooked in a hot pan or oven until it sets, achieving a crispy golden crust and a soft, slightly custardy center. You can find it plain or topped with veggies, herbs or even cheeses.

Focaccia

Focaccia is a beloved Italian flatbread, offering a satisfying combination of a slightly crisp crust and a soft, airy interior. The base is a simple dough with flour, water, yeast, and olive oil. Unlike pizza dough, focaccia gets a generous drizzle of olive oil on top, creating its signature dimpled surface after baking. This not only adds richness but also allows for a crispier crust while keeping the interior beautifully soft and fluffy. The two homelands of focaccia are Liguria and Puglia (but you can find focaccia in every bakery in Italy). The original recipes are vegan, one plain and the other one (the Apulian version) with cherry tomatoes. But you can also find focaccia topped with other ingredients.

Pizza marinara

Pizza usually has mozzarella on top. But do not despair if you do not eat dairies. You can find some pizze rosse, i.e. red pizzas. Meaning without mozzarella. The most common one, the one you find in every pizzeria menu is the marinara. It is a pizza with a simple sauce on top: tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. 

photo of person making a pizza
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Cakes

Castagnaccio

And we go back to Tuscany! Castagnaccio is a simple Tuscan cake, made primarily with chestnut flour. In fact it’s a traditional autumnal dessert. Pine nuts and raisins are classic additions, adding pops of sweetness and textural contrast. Some versions might incorporate rosemary, orange rind, fennel seeds or dried fruits (figs, apricots). Photo below by Sara Varlani, via Wikimedia Commons.

Vegan Italian recipes

So, how did you like my list of vegan Italian recipes? Did you already know them all?

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