Pizza, pasta, pesto: they can all be plant based! Here are our top delicious vegan Italian recipes that make for unforgettable meals.
Yes, pizza, pasta, pesto, and even Parmesan can all be plant based! Italy is often seen as a meat and cheese-based cuisine (and there’s truth to that!). However, there are lots of ways to riff on classic dishes to make them into vegetarian, dairy-free, and vegan Italian recipes. Some authentic recipes, like pizza marinara and panzanella, are even vegan themselves! Here, we’ve collected our best vegan Italian recipes that make Italian cooking accessible for a plant-based diet.
We love the classics, but sometimes it’s even more fun to see how delicious they can be with a little plant-powered twist! We’ve got everything from spaghetti and meatballs to classic basil pesto, made vegan. And don’t forget to shake on a little vegan Parmesan cheese! (None of the recipes here use plant-based cheese or dairy substitutes, though you also could do so with any of our vegetarian Italian recipes.)
First up in our vegan Italian recipes: a classic recipe that needs no introduction: spaghetti & meatballs! These vegan meatballs are uniquely delicious, made of oats, cashews, spices, and grated potatoes! Pan fry them until crisp, and they're incredibly satisfying meatless meatballs. Serve them over spaghetti with your favorite marinara sauce. If you're feeling fancy, top with a bit of our vegan Parmesan cheese for a stunning main dish.
Just WOW! No matter how you eat, this vegan lasagna will be a hit. Promise. We had a few friends over to try it, and here’s what we heard: “This is so good. I can’t stop eating it. I need another piece!” It's smothered in a zesty marinara sauce, layered with spinach, mushrooms, and our secret ingredient: hummus! Top with a sprinkling of "Parmesan" and it's a favorite that pleases everyone at the table.
This eggplant pasta has got it all! This vegan Italian recipe is packed with savory and zesty flavor: tender roasted eggplant, zesty marinara sauce, peppery basil, and salty capers. It's an incredibly versatile recipe: it works for weeknights and for serving to company! It’s cozy yet elegant all at once. You can use any shape of pasta you like: long noodles like spaghetti and bucatini, or short noodles like penne or rigatoni.
This vegan fennel orange salad features beautiful juicy oranges, with their vibrant color and citrusy flavor. Add to that a famous pairing: sliced raw fennel, which adds a subtle licorice essence. Throw it over greens with a few garnishes, top with a zingy homemade citrus vinaigrette, and wow! There’s so much going on flavor and texture-wise, it’s one of the most unexpectedly delicious salads we’ve ever made.
Your noodles are destined for greatness with this vegan pasta alfredo! The impossibly creamy sauce is a healthy spin on the traditionally rich pasta. It’s made with nutrient-dense cauliflower and protein-packed cashews instead of dairy. Said one reader: “YUM! I love it! It’s super easy to make. I made it again 2 days later!”
Next up: here's a classic Italian style tomato basil soup! This one is so easy to make. Chop some veggies, simmer, then blend. It couldn’t be cozier, and it’s the perfect accompaniment to crusty bread. This version is a gluten free, dairy free and vegan soup recipe, so it fits many diets. Though of course you could add a dollop of cashew cream to make it a creamy soup too!
Here's a vegan Italian recipe that never disappoints; pasta salad! Pasta salad isn't authentic Italian, but the flavors here are inspired by Italy. Crunchy romaine lettuce is refreshing and contrasts against Kalamata olives, capers, and pepperoncini. There’s a also a smattering of colorful vegetables: tomatoes, zucchini, and red onion. It comes together in 30 minutes, which is perfect for weeknights and lunches.
The best recipes are the simplest. And the simplicity of pesto pasta with homemade vegan basil pesto and ripe juicy tomatoes can’t be beat! With seasonal ingredients, it will always, always taste beautiful and fresh. The silky smooth, savory basil pesto coats the tender pasta, punctuated by the pop of the cherry tomatoes. It's one of our favorite vegetarian / vegan Italian recipes.
Pizza without cheese? Yes. And it's just as tasty! This is truly the BEST homemade vegan pizza recipe, with veggie pizza toppings so savory you won’t miss the dairy: like mushrooms, garlic, artichokes, and bell peppers. Top it off with our flavor-popping pizza sauce. And if you're feeling fancy, add a few shakes of Vegan Parmesan.
This vegan Italian recipe is so simple to put together and the tangy, creamy flavor of the marinara sauce is out of this world good! It uses cashew cream to make marinara sauce into a creamy orange sauce that’s a big like Vodka sauce. Garlic, shallot and capers bring in nuance to this plant-based pasta recipe. This one’s 5 star in our book!
This vegan Italian soup recipe we've lovingly dubbed “pizza soup” because it tastes like liquid pizza! The tomatoes are sauteed with garlic, fennel, and smoked paprika, which bring a meaty and savory undertone. Throw in some Tuscan kale to the mix, and you won’t even tell it’s there: all you'll be able to taste is pizza!
Looking for a fast and easy vegan Italian recipe? This plant based spaghetti recipe is for busy weeknights, and times when you just don’t want to have to think about dinner. And the flavor? Take it from one of our readers, who said: “Oh my, I scraped the bowl clean on this one! The flavor was awesome and it was so easy, it was exactly what I needed right now.” Got a pressure cooker? Try Instant Pot Spaghetti.
Got some crusty bread? This traditional vegetarian and vegan Italian salad recipe uses up old bread in the most genius of ways. Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that combines dry, crusty bread squares with fresh vegetables and a vinaigrette. It’s a unique idea for using up old bread, and extraordinarily delicious. You can use any fresh veggies you have on hand. The traditional vegetables used in a panzanella are tomatoes, peppers, red onion, and sometime cucumber.
And last but not least, here's one of the most classic vegan Italian recipes of all! Pizza marinara is the simplest of classic Neapolitan pizza: that is, pizza in the style that originates from Naples, Italy. This pizza has simple toppings, a dough that’s thin in the middle and poofed on the outside, usually baked in a wood-fired oven at super high temperatures. Pizza marinara has no cheese: just tomato sauce, thinly sliced garlic, and oregano! It’s similar to pizza margherita, but without the cheese.
More vegan and plant-based resources
Here are a few more collections of vegan and plant based recipes:
Boil 1/2 cup water. Place the oats in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Soak 5 minutes until the water is fully absorbed.
Meanwhile, wash and dry the red potatoes, leaving the skin on. Chop them into quarters and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the texture is evenly chopped and has a consistency like rice (scrape once and pulse again to ensure there are no large chunks). Transfer the potatoes to a clean, dry towel and squeeze out the moisture by wringing the towel a few times (using a dark towel is best because the red skin can color the towel). Then measure out 1 1/2 cups of the chopped potatoes (discard any remaining).
Peel the garlic. To the food processor, add the cashews and garlic and process until finely chopped. Add the potatoes, soaked oats, oregano, onion powder, chili powder, cumin, kosher salt, and black pepper. Pulse a few times until fully combined.
Form the potato mixture into about 1-inch wide balls by squeezing the dough together, then rolling it lightly, making about 28 in all. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. When ready to fry, cover the entire bottom of a large frying pan with a layer olive oil and heat at just over medium heat. Place the balls into the oil; it should lightly bubble when the balls meet the oil (if not, adjust the heat). Fry the balls in two batches, turning each one frequently until all sides are golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes per batch. Take care of the hot oil, as it may spit. Remove the balls to a plate lined with paper towels. (Alternatively, you can bake the balls in a 400F oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, then flip and brush with olive oil; bake another 25 minutes until browned and crisp.)
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Boil the pasta until al dente, following the package instructions. If the pasta finishes before the meatballs, place it back into the pan with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking.
Serve the meatballs with the pasta covered in high-quality marinara sauce (your favorite brand, or homemade if desired), and top with Vegan Parmesan.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.