Italian food is delicious, flavorful, and versatile, especially when it comes to plant-based options. You are likely to find plenty of pasta dishes to enjoy in an Italian restaurant, however, the chances that you’ll be able to find a protein source other than eggplant is unlikely. And even then, most breaded eggplant is dipped in egg yolk at some point or topped with mozzarella.
Thankfully, you can make your own delicious Italian food right at home, no meat or cheese necessary! Think it’s impossible? Maybe that was the case a decade ago. Nowadays, no challenge is too big! Whether it’s finding a creamy and decadent pasta sauce that’s dairy-free, a hearty vegetable or legume that can emulate meat, or a pesto that doesn’t contain Parmesan cheese, there is bound to be a meatless and dairy-free version somewhere! Well, we’ve scoured the Internet in search of Italian cooking essentials and have found everything you need to make some seriously delicious Italian fare. Here are 14 products that’ll have you cooking like a real paisano (minus the meat and dairy).
Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds
When we think of Italian food, we can’t help but think of mozzarella cheese. Follow Your Heart Mozzarella Shreds are made primarily from filtered water, palm fruit oil, and modified food starch. In addition to being dairy-free, this product is gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, and kosher. Follow Your Heart uses only sustainably grown palm oil and suggests using these shreds anywhere you would use regular mozzarella. One package has eight servings and each serving (one ounce) is 90 calories. You can get eight bags for a little under $60.
Pacific Foods Italian Herb Seitan
Want to add a little protein to your bowl of spaghetti? Check out Pacific Foods Italian Herb Seitan. This product goes beyond vital wheat gluten, and includes sprouted lentils and red beans, as well. It also has a slight zest to it due to the inclusion of garlic and cayenne pepper. It is also soy-free, organic, and yeast-free and each serving has 15 grams of protein. You can get two 12 ounce packages (eight three-ounce servings) for $57. A bit expensive, but if you don’t have these in your local store, it might be worth it.
Mr. Organic Seitan Pasta Sauce
Instead of just adding seitan cutlets to your Italian dishes, how about using a sauce that also contains the savory wheat meat? Mr. Organic Seitan Pasta Sauce is made from a blend of crushed chili and sun-ripened tomatoes, which is then studded with seitan crumbles. Each 100-gram serving has three grams of protein. To try it out, you can get one 350 gram jar for $9.50.
Paesana Non Pareil Capers
Capers are the unripened flower buds of the caper bush, a prickly, perennial plant native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Capers are used frequently in Italian cooking for the burst of flavor they give to foods, a flavor usually described as lemony and olive-y. Paesana Non Pareil Capers are the smallest kind of capers available and are the number one best seller in Amazon’s Capers department. They are suspended in a brine made from water, vinegar, and salt. Reviewers are saying that these capers are wonderful and fresh-tasting. Many reviewers also commented that it’s nice to see a jar that is larger than the four-ounce containers usually available in the grocery store. You can get one 32-ounce jar for $20.
Bob’s Red Mill Organic Polenta
Polenta is a versatile form of medium to coarse cornmeal, that is considered to be fine-dining-style comfort food and is sometimes referred to as “Italian grits.” Like grits, polenta is a traditional hearty porridge with a grainy texture. Reviewers are reporting that Bob’s Red Mill Organic Polenta is delicious, easy to prepare (in a number of different ways, and is being sold at a great price. You can get one 24-ounce bag for $10.50.
Havista Dried Porcini Mushrooms
Dried Porcini Mushrooms are a great way to add flavor quickly to your Italian dishes. According to the manufacturer, Havista Dried Porcini Mushrooms simply need to be rehydrated in hot water to remove any grit before you can add their distinct flavor to your cooking. As for the quality of these mushrooms, they are loved by some reviewers, with comments saying that these mushrooms added great flavor and are very earthy and strong-tasting. However, a few reviewers did not have as pleasant results, stating that the mushrooms were bitter. If you’d like to test it out for yourself, you can get one 1.5-ounce package for a little under $6.
Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk
Eggs may not seem like a major part of Italian cuisine, but it is a must-have when it comes to battering. While many egg replacers on the market today are for replacing the whole egg, both white and yolk, the Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk is just for the latter. Reviewers reiterate the company and state that this product is not for replacing a whole egg in baking, it’s for using in dishes where you would normally use egg yolk. Reviewers report that this product is great for making an “egg salad” with tofu, and for adding a rich flavor to fried rice and potatoes. To try it out for yourself, you can get one 4.5-ounce container (almost 50 servings) for $14.
Go Veggie! Grated Parmesan Cheese
Who doesn’t love a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on their pasta or caesar salad? For a dairy-free Parm, try out Go Veggie! Grated Parmesan Cheese. This gluten-free product is made primarily from soy protein, rice flour, and salt. It is also casein free, lactose free, cholesterol free and non-GMO. Reviewers are saying that this product is delicious, an excellent pantry addition, and great for people with multiple allergies. While some of the cheese alternatives in the Go Veggie! line (like the shreds and slices) are actually not vegan since they have casein, reviewers confirm that this product is indeed 100 percent vegan. You can get one four-ounce jar for a little over $7.50.
Enjoy Life Pizza Crust Mix
Making pizza healthy is not too hard with a bit of effort. Simply swap out cheese for vegetables and white bread for a more nutritionally substantial base. Enjoy Life Pizza Crust Mix, for example, uses a blend of teff, millet, tapioca, and white rice flour instead of the usual all-purpose. It also contains nutrient-dense konjac flour and probiotics and is free of gluten, soy, and nuts. Reviewers are saying that this mix is delicious, creates a nice texture, and is very easy-to-use, requiring only oil and water. You can get one 14.5-ounce box for about $12.
Beyond Meat Feisty Crumble
Who would’ve thought you could take a vegetable like peas and turn them into a beefy, meat-like crumble? Beyond Meat Feisty Crumbles takes the power of peas and transform them into a savory product that, according to reviews, tastes and feels just like ground beef! Each serving (1/2 cup) has 13 grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and just 120 calories. It’s also gluten and soy free. Reviewers have been using this product in tacos, pasta sauce, chili, and Shepherd’s pie. You can get eight 11-ounce bags for about $46.
Arrowhead Mills Green Lentils
Did you know that just a 1/4 cup serving of green lentils has 10 grams of protein? No wonder so many Italians add lentils to their salads and sauces! This protein-packed pulse may be tiny in size, but it’s pretty impressive nutritionally! To reap all the benefits lentils have to offer, consider keeping a bag of Arrowhead Mills Green Lentils in your pantry. Reviewers are saying that these lentils are good quality, very filling, and are a great protein alternative to meat. You can get one 16-ounce bag for about $2.25.
West Soy Baked Tofu Italian Style
In a rush and don’t have time to press and cook tofu? West Soy Baked Tofu Italian Style was made for this very situation. This product is pre-cooked and ready to be served any way you want. West Soy’s suggestions? In a sandwich, on a salad, or warmed with pasta. The tofu block is seasoned with crushed garlic, molasses, tamari soy sauce, and a few other spices. You can get 12 packages for a little over $50.
Zest Basil Pesto
While most pestos on the market include Parmesan cheese, Zest Basil Pesto is dairy-free. It is made with vegetable oil, Brazil nuts, basil, white wine vinegar, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, garlic, salt, apple juice concentrate, black pepper, toasted sesame oil, and chili. Reviewers are reporting that this pesto is “delicious and complex,” nutty, salty, and spicy, and worth the price. If you feel yourself craving the slight cheesiness regular pesto provides, you can always add non-dairy cheese, as some reviewers did. You can get one 165-gram jar for $9.
Lundberg White Arborio Rice
Risotto is a traditional Italian dish consisting of rice cooked in broth until a creamy consistency is reached. To make this dish successfully, you need arborio rice, such as Lundberg White Arborio Rice. Reviewers are reporting that this short-grained rice is good quality, perfect for risotto and rice pudding, easy-to-use, and cooks fast. You can get one 32-ounce bag for $3.50.
Make Your Own Delizioso Italian Fare
If you simply can’t wait to get cooking, there are plenty of meatless and dairy-free Italian dishes you can make on your own. For meaty protein to add to your dishes, try these Seitan Meatballs With Homemade Tomato Sauce, these Lentil Meatballs, or this Chickpea ‘Meat’ With Pasta.
Looking for some cheesy goodness? Try these dairy-free Mozzarella Sticks, these Baked Eggplant Stacks With Cashew Ricotta, or this Creamy White Pasta With Crispy Coconut Bacon. Or you can make your own cheese from scratch, like this Moxarella Cheese or this Brazil Nut Parmesan.
And of course, these are just a few of the meatless and dairy-free recipes you will find on One Green Planet. To see them all, check out our Italian Recipes page.
Lead image source: Catalin Petolea/Shutterstock