Delicious Living Blog

Can Italian cuisine also be vegan?

New cookbook showcases plant-based Italian cuisine.

Italian cuisine represents the pinnacle of whole-food deliciousness. Characterized by taking the freshest ingredients available, cooking them expertly (usually how your mama taught you) and diving in with friends and family, Italians seem to have the whole food culture figured out. (It’s no surprise, too, that the concept of Slow Food was developed in Italy.)

But eating classic Italian dishes can be tough if you eat a primarily plant-based diet. Many recipes feature meat, and even more contain cheese.

Thankfully, author and chef Rosalba Cioffre has stepped in with her new book, Vegano Italiano (Countryman, 2017), which features 150 plant-based recipes that pay homage to southern Italy, where Cioffre was born. Cioffre explores how veganism can intersect with the heart of Italian cuisine. “The memory of my family has been passed down through food; every recollection is tied to a mangiata, a hearty meal around a large table. Invariably, whenever we get together we talk about what we’d eaten or were about to eat.”

The recipes in Vegano Italiano, such as the one below reprinted with permission, are not complicated. They don’t require expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. But they do require heart, a hungry group and perhaps a bottle of red. Buon appetito!

Calamarata Pasta with Mushrooms, Beans, and Greens

The first few times that I added this pasta to the menu for a few vegan evenings, there was always someone that would look at me suspiciously. I had to constantly explain that it was not fish, but rather a Neapolitan pasta, the shape of which was similar to calamari rings that had been floured and panfried. I have a real passion for calamarata pasta—it’s fantastic, has a magnificent texture, and goes perfectly with any sauce. You might also find it fresh at the supermarket and I’m always cooking it with tomatoes and vegetables. It is especially tasty with beans, which slip inside the delicious rings of pasta and become slightly powdery when cooked.

For 4 people

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped
  • Salt
  • ½ pound mixed mushrooms
  • 1 cup cooked cannellini beans
  • ¾ cup tomatoes, peeled and crushed with a fork
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound calamarata pasta or similarly thick, tubed pasta

Directions

  1. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic clove in the oil.
  2. Add the Swiss chard, season with salt, and leave to fry lightly over a low heat, stirring every so often.
  3. When it is halfway done cooking, add the mushrooms and a little warm water, if needed, then cook covered until the chard and mushrooms are soft—it should take 15 minutes total—then add the beans, too.
  4. Toss in the tomatoes, crushed with a fork, then season with salt and pepper, stir and cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Cook calamarata pasta, drain it when it is al dente, reserving the cooking liquid, and sauté it with the vegetables for a few minutes, adding a little cooking liquid, if necessary, as it should not be too dry. Serve sprinkled with pepper.

The calamarata is also outstanding with sauce and then baked with breadcrumbs in the oven.

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