Warmth, family, full bellies, rich flavors- Italian food brings us everything we crave. From Pasta Marinara to Eggplant Parmesan, classic Italian tastes cannot be beat. One of my favorite Italian dishes is ravioli. Ravioli is a timeless dish because of its versatility and delicacy. Unfortunately, most Italian food is not entirely plant-based due to butter, cheese, milk and meat making their way into the recipes. Ravioli is typically one of these dishes that contains some form of dairy or meat, but lucky for us plant-based eaters, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Here some some tips on renovating ravioli to make it healthier, more fulfilling and still incredibly delicious too!

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Choose A Plant-Based Filling

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Most ravioli on the market and in restaurants has dairy-based fillings, whether it’s from cheese, milk, butter, cream or a mix of all of them. But you can make ravioli filling just as easily as you can make plant-based pizza toppings– simply use what you already have in your kitchen! Opting out of dairy products means that you need to choose another filling that will properly bind your ingredients together. One great choice is beans, such as in this Bean and Plantain Ravioli that uses beans as a base to bind plantains and spices. Beans provide a protein punch while also being smooth and creamy like typical dairy products. Using a bean base with dark green vegetables such as spinach, kale or broccoli is also a delicious way to get some dietary iron. For a meatier filling, try using crushed sunflower seeds or a non-GMO soy-based protein such as chopped tempeh.

If beans and legumes are difficult for you to digest, using a starch-based filling for your ravioli might be easier on your stomach. Potatoes make a great ravioli filling as they are binding and have a smooth texture, especially sweet potatoes that also have a large amount of nutrients and terrific flavor. Combine sweet potatoes with sage, lemon, pine nuts, or a pesto for an ultra-rich Italian meal, or try this Potato and Porcini Mushroom Ravioli. You can also swap potatoes for cauliflower, which has a similar taste and texture to both potatoes and dairy cheese with less starch and fewer calories.

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Try Different Dough

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Most store-bought or restaurant ravioli is made with refined flours. For an easy health fix, simply swap white flour for whole grain flour in your ravioli dough. Whole grain dough will leave your body more satisfied since it’s higher in fiber. To try a ravioli dough completely different than the norm, use vegetables as your shell. Root vegetables make great ravioli fillings, however they can make even tastier dough. This Turnip Ravioli uses turnips as the ravioli shell to make an easy, gluten-free and vegan dish. The lighter flavor of turnips allows the cashew-based filling to shine. For a real plant-based twist on this Italian classic, make these Golden Beet Raviolis which uses beets for the shell and combines sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomatoes and basil for an un-beet-able filling! For other dough alternatives, try using wonton papers, squash ribbons, or opt for a shell-free ravioli like these Spinach Tofu Gnudi Balls.

Ditch the Dairy and Make Dessert

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Vi Phan/Flickr

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Who says ravioli has to just be for dinner? Not only can ravioli be an appetizing entree, but this Italian gem can make a killer dessert as well. Just like with filling and dough, making dessert ravioli does not require any dairy or egg-based products. Sweet ravioli can be made using dough that you would typically use for a savory dish, and your filling can be anything that satisfies your sweet tooth. Vegan Nutella Spread would make a melty center to any ravioli shell for an indulgent treat, but if you’re not feeling chocolate, use pumpkin mousse from these Gluten-Free Pumpkin Mousse Tarts instead. And for your sauce, just like you can make savory pasta sauce for typical ravioli, you can also make sweet sauces for dessert ravioli. Try Caramel Dipping SauceButterscotch Sauce, or Raspberry Coulis as some great starter options, or for a lighter filling or sauce, use pureed fruit like bananas or apples combined with cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger. For the best results, bake or pan-fry your sweet ravioli so it’s crispy on the outside.

Making the simplest, smallest food swaps can make all the difference in dishes that are typically loaded with butter, cheese and cream. Try these plant-based tips to transform your ravioli to be satisfying and healthier since they give your body more nutrients than dairy-based options. For more vegan pasta ideas, check out these 25 Vegan Italian Recipes and 3 DIY Gluten-Free Pastas.

Lead Image Source: Bean and Plantain Ravioli