From pizza to pasta, vegan Italian food is pretty easy to come by. Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your own Italian-inspired feasts, or you’re off to an Italian restaurant and wanting to know what’s ‘safe’ to order, then we’ve got you covered. Look no further, here’s our complete guide to vegan Italian food… 🇮🇹
Ordering Vegan Italian Food in a Restaurant
Luckily for us vegans, Italy, like other Mediterranean countries like Greece and Spain, tend to favour olive over butter when cooking. This means there’s less of a chance of being caught out eating dairy products without realising – unlike Indian food, which tends to contain ghee (Check out our complete guide to Vegan Indian Food for more tips).
However, that’s not to say butter is completely unheard of in Italian cooking. For instance, in a restaurant you might be tempted to order a garlic bread to share with other guests (or all to yourself, we don’t judge), it’s best to check first whether they use olive oil or garlic butter to top the bread – I’m going to bet it’s the latter.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
A great way to eat vegan in an Italian restaurant is to order pizza without cheese – just ask to make sure the base isn’t made with milk powder. You can top with as many veggies as you like – we love olives, capers, artichokes, peppers, mushrooms and sweetcorn. If you’ve never tried pizza without cheese then it’s definitely worth giving a go – we love it! You can all the great bits of pizza with none of the sluggish after-effects of too much cheese (plus it’s less filling so you can eat more of it!).
“Do you like bisghetti?”
Another option is to order pasta with a tomato sauce. This is a bit tougher than pizza as there are few variables to consider. Traditionally, fresh pasta is made from egg but not all Italian restaurants will make it this way – in fact, many opt for dried pasta like we use at home. Always ask the waiter before you order pasta so you don’t get any nasty surprises.
In addition, always check whether the sauce is purely tomato-based or has a more creamy texture, which means it could include marscapone cheese (check out my tips below for how to re-create this creamy tomato sauce vegan-style!). As long as you are confident in your waiter, then ordering a veggie tomato pasta shouldn’t be a problem. But if you have any worries then we highly recommend you stick with a veg no-cheese pizza, you won’t regret it!
Another great thing about opting for Italian food is that they often have a dairy-free dessert option like lemon sorbet – you can’t knock that, can you?
Eating Vegan at Italian Chain Restaurants
The UK’s Italian chain restaurants are fantastic for catering for vegans these days. Zizzi has boasted a range of vegan dishes, including pizzas with mozzarella made from rice milk (!). Pizza Express, Carluccio’s and Pizza Hut also offer vegan pizza options. Zizzi is my personal favourite as they even do a vegan dessert – Praline Chocolate Tart with Coconut Ice Cream! Yum!
Cooking Vegan Italian Food at Home
If you’re looking for inspiration for cooking vegan Italian food at home, then you’ve come to the right place. Often we’ll pick up a loaf of freshly cooked olive ciabatta and dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a snack. We absolutely love antipasti like olives, roasted peppers, artichokes and sundried tomatoes – there’s really no going wrong with these types of picky foods!
Garlic Bread Forever ♥
If you’re wanting to knock up a proper meal then here are a few tips. Garlic bread is an easy one – never buy the ready made ones from the store, not only are they a rip off but they’re also generally made with dairy butter.
You can easily make your own buy buying a fresh baguette, and topping with homemade garlic butter. I mix dairy-free butter (we use Vitalite Sunflower Spread), Easy Garlic (the one in the jar) and some mixed dried oregano in a small bowl. I’ll spread this paste onto the sliced baguette and pop in the own for 5-10 minutes to crisp up – it’s as easy as that!
Easy Vegan Creamy Tomato Sauce
Making a vegan creamy tomato sauce is another super easy but filling meal choice. Saute red onion, garlic, your choice of spices (I like paprika and chilli flakes) in a pan and add a tin of chopped tomatoes. While the sauce is simmering, soak 50g cashews in cold water (longer you soak the better, if you can remember to soak for a few hours before then good for you but it’s not a problem if you don’t.)
Drain the cashew nuts and chuck them in your blender with some fresh cold water (just enough to cover them) and whizz up until completely smooth. At this point your tomato sauce should have begun to thicken, so add it to the blender and whizz all together. You should be left with a creamy tomato sauce you can use for all means of things, we love it with spaghetti and roasted veg! (See above).
Lazy Vegan Supermarket Pizza
Here’s another one for you lazy vegans (like us!). Did you know that the pizzas from Sainsbury’s pizza counter are vegan without cheese? I can’t vouch for Asda as I’ve asked a few times and had a pretty naff response “we don’t do gluten free!” so I always stick to Sainsbury’s or Morrisons when I fancy an easy pizza on a Friday night.
Plus, you can pick up a bag of their own brand vegan cheese, or even Daiya cheese, which has recently arrived in the UK) and Taste the Difference Prosecco (also vegan!) to wash it down while you’re there. We get all the veggies on the pizza and add the cheese when we get home before it goes in the oven. It’s better than any take away pizza and costs a fraction of the price!
Hopefully this article helps with a few tips and tricks for finding vegan Italian food when eating out, and even a couple of recipes to try in your own home. Of course, neither of us are Italian so we can’t vouch for the authenticity but it’s great to know these things as a vegan so you can attend meals with friends worry-free, and you can even knock-up a carby treat for your loved one without any animal products!