Winter delights: Italian vegan cuisine
A journey through vegan winter specialities, made with Italian ingredients, revealing a world of gastronomic delights with no compromise on sustainability and deliciousness.
Italian Mediterranean cuisine has always been regarded as very close to vegan cuisine both in terms of the culinary tradition and the ingredients used for the recipes. The use of fresh, seasonal vegetables and greens, the prevalence of olive oil, and the many salads and soups that have always been a hallmark of Italian cuisine make it possible for many traditional dishes to be vegan with just a few tricks.
Nothing warms the heart like a steaming soup on a cold winter’s day. In Italy, legume soup [su legumi: link all’articolo “Legumi e piatti tipici, la cucina povera italiana fatta di eccellenze”], like lentil or chickpea soup, is a delicacy that fits perfectly into vegan cuisine. With Umbrian or Tuscan lentils and the many varieties of local chickpeas, enriched with carrots and celery and seasonal vegetables like cabbage, it is possible to serve dishes that are nutritious and full of flavour. But if you are looking for a soup with a more marked and striking taste, try the leek, mushroom, pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke soup.
Pasta with vegetables and legumes
Italy is famous all over the world for pasta dishes and there are plenty of vegan options with vegetables and, of course, legumes. One of the classics of Italian cuisine is Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans), that can be cooked using borlotti beans, cannellini beans or any other variety of beans that are available dried in the cold season. Prepared with tomato purée, garlic, rosemary and extra virgin olive oil, this dish is a real treat combining tradition and flavour. Many vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family to which all types of cabbage belong are winter vegetables: curly, black, red, savoy, cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower. With black cabbage, for example, you can make delicious pastas: it needs to be cleaned and chopped into small pieces, stewed and sautéed for 20 minutes over low heat in a pot with two glasses of water, before adding short pasta and another glass of boiling water and letting it cook al dente (just right and not overcooked). Add oil, herbs and pepper for the final stir. Also impressive is pasta with lentil ragout, here made using paccheri pasta.
Made from maize or buckwheat, preferably organic, polenta is a perfect staple dish for a multitude of winter dishes. It can be served with porcini mushrooms, seitan ragout, pumpkin cream or with a ratatouille of fresh seasonal vegetables. But it can also be used as a base for vegetable pies instead of potatoes, just add some previously blanched broccoli and cauliflower to the mixture, place it in a baking tin greased with extra virgin olive oil and bake at 200 degrees until the surface is au gratin
Vegetable casseroles and meatballs
Seasonal vegetables are the ingredient for all kinds of casseroles, just use a brisé dough made with extra virgin olive oil or a base of boiled potatoes. Or maybe an ‘omelette’ by replacing the eggs with chickpea flour and acqua faba, which is the chickpea’s boiling or cooking liquid that has been properly whipped. And as all vegetables are ‘meatballable’ after being boiled or steamed, mashed, and mixed with breadcrumbs, the ways to make tasty dishes like these Cauliflower Meatballs, are countless.