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Italy’s Most Vegan Friendly Region

Updated: May 26, 2023


Want to know Italy's most vegan friendly region? This southern region has a traditional cuisine of eggless fresh pasta, abundance of olive oil and fresh vegetables, a love of bread in all shapes and forms, loads of legumes and biscuits made with oil and white wine. Can you guess? Read on to discover the plant-based dishes of this special corner of Italy.



The award for Italy’s most vegan friendly region goes to….


Drum roll please.


PUGLIA!


So why is the southern region of Puglia so vegan friendly?


Pugliese plant-based cuisine at a glance:

  • Fresh pasta is traditionally made with just flour and water.

  • Olive oil is favoured over butter.

  • Vegetables are used abundantly in dishes.

  • Legumes and beans are an economical protein source.

  • Bread is beloved in a variety of forms.

  • Many biscuits are often made with olive oil and wine - instead of eggs and butter.

  • Traditionally, recipes were created ‘cucina povera’ - with limited use of meat.




VEGAN PUGLIESE DISHES


Orecchiette


Small pieces of eggless pasta dough are transformed by dragging along wooden boards with a knife or thumb to form a little ear 'orecchiette' shape. These little hollows catch the sugo. One of the most popular regional ways to eat it is with cime di rapa (or broccoli rabe).




Ciceri e Tria


Tria is known as the tagliatelle of the Salento region. It is a rustic thick ribbon pasta and is always made senza uova (without eggs). The sauce is a chickpea puree with garlic, rosemary and a hint of chilli . What makes this pasta dish so unique is a small portion of the fresh pasta is set aside, fried in oil and added as a crunchy garnish.




Fave e Cicorie


This is a humble but flavourful dish of smooth pureed dried fava (broad) beans topped with cooked garlicky bitter greens. You will find this in other regions, such as Basilicata.




Friselle


Friselle or frise is a twice-baked bread. Historically it was a favourite of farmers

who needed food that wouldn’t spoil. Friselle are dipped in salty water,

topped with fresh tomato, basil and drizzled with olive oil.




Taralli


Taralli are an addictive biscuit - you won’t be able to stop snacking on these. The Pugliese taralli are usually smaller (tarallino), made with olive oil and wine and come in a variety of flavours.



Focaccia Barese


This focaccia from the capital Bari has a crispy outer crust and is light and soft inside. Tomatoes and olives are almost always pressed into its luscious dimples. The combination of plain wheat flour, semolina and cooked potato creates a unique dough that doesn’t need to be kneaded!



Puccia


Here is another street food recipe from the Salento region. This is a kind of flatbread that offers itself to a variety of fillings. After baking, the puccia is traditionally sliced through the middle then layered with toppings before cutting in half.



Intorchiate


Intorchiate are sweet biscotti, traditionally vegan, with the wondrous inclusion of olive oil and white wine (two hallmark ingredients in Pugliese baking). These buttery crunchy morsels are the ideal coffee dunking biscuit and deserve a place alongside all your biscotti favourites.



Cartellate


Cartellate are a celebration dessert - and often drizzled with either honey or vincotto. In other parts of southern Italy, these deep fried treats are made with a dough of butter and eggs. Thanks to the Pugliese traditions, this version is vegan friendly with olive oil and white wine.



Caffe Leccese


This refreshing summery drink is from Lecce. It’s like an iced coffee - but better. Enjoy these layers of sweet almond milk syrup and espresso coffee in a glass with large chunks of ice.





 

Okay, but let me be transparent.


This does not mean the Pugliese are vegan.


Unlike the larger tourist cities of Rome and Turin, Puglia isn’t brimming with dedicated vegan restaurants and eateries (though, there are some amazing restaurants like Pesto di Pistacchio in Trani).


Fish, dairy and meat is still undeniably part of the Pugliese cuisine. However, it's not in your face, nor is it an obstacle for you to eat well.


Instead this region is ‘accidentally vegan’ with its quality produce and traditional cuisine. In this way, you can find many vegan options on the menu, as well as snacks and produce - without the ‘vegan’ label.





MORE VEGAN FRIENDLY REGIONS...


Vegan friendly runners up are the regions of Campania and Sicily. You will find an array of accidentally vegan dishes, eggless fresh pasta, as well as an abundance of vegetables.


Special mentions go to Basilicata, Calabria and Tuscany, where vegetables, breads, egg-free pasta and pulses are used in resourceful and delicious ways.


So, what about the north?


Northern regions are slightly less vegan-friendly (but not entirely unfriendly) because of the richness of cuisine, economic wealth, geographic location and local produce. Butter, cream and meat are more common. Higher in the north, due to the mountainous colder climate, less vegetables grace the tables and food is higher caloric, for sustenance through the harsh winters. This of course isn’t as necessary in modern day Italy, but historically, food was harder to come by (think limited transportation and importing).


History creates tradition, and tradition leads to an established cuisine. Food identity and tradition is valued in Italy - and that's why we love Italy so. Just like the eggless pasta with chickpeas Ciceri e tria is a beloved dish in the south today because of history, so too is butter drenched yolky tajarin pasta of Piedmont.


However, there is a black sheep region of the north I want you to know about.


 

The award for Italy’s most vegan friendly northern region goes to…



LIGURIA!




When you think of Liguria, the seaside villages of Cinque Terre might come to mind. Then there’s the port city of Genoa, seafood and pesto.


But Liguria also has much to offer with its plant-based produce.


Liguria has a long love affair with fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs. A fertile region, green from abundant rainfall, a temperature climate and warm sea breezes. Fragrant herbs, exquisite basil, quality olive oil, lemons, tomatoes, chickpea flour farinata, fluffy focaccia, eggless trofie pasta, bean soups and fresh vegetables.


Unlike other northern regions, Liguria’s cuisine doesn’t feature butter, cream and meats as prominently.




Although I’m celebrating Puglia and other regions, don’t let this stop you from exploring each Italian region as a vegan! All unique corners of Italy feature their own plant-based dishes and beautiful produce. It’s all part of the adventure and culinary exploration.


Go forth and dig for those tasty treasures.






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