RECIPES: A Vegan Italian Christmas Feast.

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Buon Natale! Why not celebrate Christmas in Italian style this year? Enjoy a feast of flavourful, fun food that celebrates all the comforts of home-style cooking, gathering together with those you love most. Unfussy food that stimulates appetites and brings smiles of satisfaction and joy. That’s my kind of Christmas.


All recipes by Nadia Fragnito from Discovering Vegan Italian

Welcome to my Vegan Italian Christmas Feast menu - created just for you!

Antipasto Tofu carpaccio Pan-fried calamari Primi Ravioli with ricotta filling

Secondi

Tempeh ragu with polenta

Contorni

Cucumber and tomato salad

Dolci

Zabaione with berries or poached fruit


ANTIPASTO


The start of an Italian meal often includes a selection of cured meats, bitey cheeses, pickled and marinated vegetables and perhaps some seafood. It’s not particularly vegan, but alas, that doesn’t mean we can’t create such dishes. With the wide array of vegan sliced deli meats and cheese lining our shelves these days, you could fill your shopping basket with ready-made treats. But if you enjoy a little creativity and hands-on cooking, give these wondrous antipasto dishes a go.


Tofu Carpaccio


Okay, so it’s not quite the slap dash antipasto platter you might be used to. But this is worth the extra effort for something special. After all, it is Christmas. These combo of flavours will have you smiling from ear-to-ear and congratulating yourself with how clever you are for making such a scrumptious cruelty free dish. Here we use tofu for the beef, stock powder and liquid smoke for a ‘meaty’ flavour and beetroot powder for the colour. And finally there’s the egg yolk sauce…




Serves 2 | 15 minutes + marinating


Tofu Beef

250g block extra firm tofu

2 teaspoons beetroot powder

1 tablespoon liquid smoke

1 teaspoon ‘beef’ style stock powder


Egg Yolk Dressing

½ cup soy milk

½ tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes

½ teaspoon black salt (kala namak)

dash turmeric

cracked black pepper

¾ cup neutral vegetable oil, like rice bran

juice of ½ lemon


rocket leaves, lemon wedges, capers, olive oil, salt, cracked pepper and grissini to serve.


Tofu beef

Using a mandoline slicer or sharp knife, carefully slice the tofu block as thinly as possible into large pieces. Take a scone cutter or round object, and carefully cut rounds from the tofu slices. You want to create circle-shaped tofu.


Make the marinade by whisking together beetroot powder, 3 tablespoons of water, liquid smoke and stock powder in a bowl. Add the tofu rounds and marinate for at least 20 minutes.


Egg yolk

Pour soy milk, nutritional yeast, black salt, turmeric and pepper into a blender and blend to incorporate. With the blender still running, slowly pour the oil into the soy milk mixture and then squeeze in the lemon juice. This will emulsify into a thick sauce. If still too thin, slowly pour in extra oil and lemon juice.

Drain the tofu onto absorbent paper.


Arrange the tofu rounds onto a serving plate. Drizzle generously with the egg yolk sauce. Garnish with rocket leaves, capers, lemon wedges, grissini, a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of salt and pepper.


Pan Fried Calamari


A light and elegant start to the feast ahead. The squid-like texture of the King Oyster mushrooms and the sea vegetable seasoning will have your guests believing this is the real deal.


Serves 2 | 25 minutes


Marinade

¼ cup vegan fish sauce

2 teaspoons crushed dried wakame flakes (or any dried sea vegetable)

juice of ½ lemon

4 large King Oyster mushrooms

Aioli dressing

¾ cup full fat soy milk

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon black salt (kala namak)

cracked black pepper

1 cup neutral vegetable oil, like rice bran or sunflower

juice and zest of ¼ lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)


fresh parsley or lemon thyme, rocket and lemon wedges to serve


Prepare the marinade. Into a bowl, combine the fish sauce, wakame flakes, lemon and ¼ cup of water.

Slice the mushrooms into rounds. Take a small apple corer or a round object and cut holes in the mushroom rounds to create calamari ring shapes. I like using a piping tip or cannolo tube.

Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to coat thoroughly. Allow to marinate while making the aioli.


Aioli dressing

Pour the milk into a blender. Add the garlic, salt and black pepper and blend. With the blender running on low, slowly pour in the neutral oil in a steady stream. The sauce will start to thicken.

Add the lemon juice and zest. This will emulsify and thicken further.


Calamari

Drain the mushrooms from the marinade. Heat the olive oil in a frypan. Add the mushrooms and lightly pan-fry for 1-2 minutes, sprinkling in the optional chilli flakes.


Serve on a bed of rocket and garnish with fresh herbs and lemon wedges. Drizzle over the aioli generously.


PRIMI


First course on the Italian menu is often a pasta. We’re going a little extra special, because it’s Christmas – with a ricotta filled pasta.


Ravioli with Ricotta Filling and Cashew Parmesan


Imagine your plate filled with big pillows of rustic pasta, slicing them open to a filling of savoury tofu ricotta. Topped with lip-smacking pomodoro sugo. Sprinkled liberally with Cashew Parmesan. Buonissimo!



Serves 4 | 75 minutes + resting


Pasta 2 cups semolina flour 2 cups plain flour 1 ½ teaspoons salt


Tofu Ricotta Filling 250g firm tofu 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes 1 teaspoon garlic powder 1 teaspoon onion powder 1 teaspoon black salt (kala namak) 3 tablespoons soy milk ½ cup fresh parsley cracked black pepper 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or use soy milk for oil free)


Pasta dough

Into a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in 1 ½ cups of water a little at a time, stirring as you go with a fork. Mix until combined and then use your hands to bring the dough together.


Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until elastic. Cover the dough completely and allow to rest for 30 minutes.


Tofu ricotta

Add all ingredients to a food processor. Blend until it reaches a ricotta consistency - smooth, but with a touch of graininess.


Ravioli

After 30 minutes, cut the dough into 3 pieces. Take 1 piece and cover the others to prevent from drying out.


Using a rolling pin and a generous dusting of flour, roll out your dough into a rectangular shape, approximately 60cm long x 20cm wide. Fold the sheet in half, making a crease in the centre and then re-open it. This allows you to fold the sheet back over accurately after you’ve spooned on the ricotta.


Spoon tablespoons of the ricotta evenly along the sheet, leaving an approximate 2cm gap between each tablespoon of ricotta. Brush all the edges with water and fold the sheet over the filling. Gently press down around the filling, pushing out any air pockets as you go. Using a pastry roller or ravioli cutter, cut into large squares. Set the ravioli aside on a well-floured tray. Repeat with the remaining dough and ricotta filling. Sprinkle the pasta with flour and allow to dry for a minimum of 30 minutes.


In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook ravioli in small batches for 4 minutes or until al dente. Make sure the water is at a rolling boil each time you add in a new batch of ravioli. Drain carefully. You may wish to drizzle over some oil or sauce to prevent ravioli from sticking together.


To serve, gently stir through your favourite pomodoro sauce and sprinkle with Cashew Parmesan (get the recipe).




SECONDI


Second course is often a meat or fish dish, with more protein and heartier than the first course. Okay, so tempeh isn’t an Italian ingredient but it makes an authentic ‘meaty’ alternative for this rich dish. Inspired by northern Italy and using polenta as a base, you’ll be struggling to find room in that bursting belly of yours, but I know you will forge ahead anyway because it tastes so good!


Tempeh Ragu with Polenta


Serves 2 | 35 minutes


Tempeh Ragu

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 celery stalk, finely diced

250g tempeh

½ cup vegan dry red wine

1 tablespoon ‘beef’ style stock powder

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 ½ cups canned diced tomatoes or passata


Polenta

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup quick cooking polenta

2 heaped tablespoons vegan butter

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

cracked black pepper


Tempeh ragu


In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and fry the onion until softened. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute, being careful not to brown.


Add the carrot and celery and cook until softened. Crumble in the tempeh so it resembles small meat chunks. Fry for approximately 3 minutes, stirring often.


Pour in the red wine and allow to reduce completely. Stir through the stock, paste, tomatoes and salt, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. If the ragu becomes too dry, add a dash more of the diced tomatoes or water.


Remove from the heat and cover while you make the polenta.


Polenta


In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to the boil. Add the salt.


Pour polenta in a slow steady stream into the water, whisking briskly as you pour. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for approximately 5 minutes, or according to polenta package instructions. Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, nutritional yeast and black pepper.

Divide polenta into serving bowls, ladle over the tempeh ragu and sprinkle with Cashew Parmesan.


If tempeh isn’t your thing, replace with lentils or walnut mince (pg 61 of Discovering Vegan Italian, get the cookbook here)


CONTORNI


Contorni are side dishes, generally salads and vegetables. A southern Italian feast wouldn’t be satisfying without a salad to nibble on. Choose from lettuce, tomato, cucumber or beans. Dried oregano is essential. As is olive oil, vinegar and salt. Basil if you like. Sliced onion optional.


Cucumber and Tomato Salad



Serves 4 | 10 minutes


4 Lebanese cucumbers 4 medium tomatoes or 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes a generous glug extra virgin olive oil a drizzle of white or apple cider vinegar a good sprinkle of dried oregano and salt


Keep skin on cucumbers or peel off sections of the skin for a decorative style.


Cut each cucumber lengthwise and then chop into pieces. Cut tomato into small wedges or chunks.


Place the cucumber and tomato in a mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss thoroughly to combine. Check seasonings.


DOLCI


Italian families often finish their meal with lots of fruit, particularly if they’re in Australia – the heat of a summer Christmas inspires it. Bowls of juicy cherries, chunky wedges of watermelon. You’ll also find pastries, biscotti, gelato and perhaps tiramisu. At this time, pots of espresso coffee are placed on the stove top, and that sensuous coffee aroma wakes you out of your food coma to allow you to eat just a little more.


Zabaione with berries or poached fruit


I’m going to offer something a little different here. Let’s make it light and easy. Zabaione is an egg custard, served warm in a glass with a biscotti on the side and perhaps even some fruit. Here we’re combining the custard with fresh berries – a lovely summery way to end your feast. If you’re wanting to spruce this up a bit, poach some fruit in some booze. And try a dollop of your favourite non-dairy ice cream or gelato.


Serves 2 | 30 minutes


Zabaione

2 cups soy milk

¼ cup cornflour

¼ cup sugar

½ cup vegan butter

2 tablespoons Strega liqueur or Limoncello (optional)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon lemon zest

light dash of turmeric powder


fresh berries or poached fruit to serve

scoops of non-dairy gelato (optional)


In a medium saucepan, pour in the soy milk and whisk in the cornflour until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Heat slowly over a medium heat. Once it thickens, simmer on low for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.


Divide the custard into 2 serving dishes. Top with fresh berries or poached fruit. Add a scoop of gelato if you’re feeling playful. Serve immediately.








If you make any of these dishes this Christmas, be sure to tag @theveganitaliankitchen on Facebook or Instagram – let's share the vegan Italian love.


Buon Natale, amici!


From my family to yours xoxo



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