RECIPE: An Italian Christmas Menu #2

Updated: Jun 19

Here is a menu filled with all the indulgence of an Italian-style Christmas. But vegan! I'm so excited to share these dishes with you and also cook them up this festive season. For another Italian Christmas menu, be sure to check out this previous blog post here for other tempting ideas.



THE MENU


Antipasto: Bruschetta with tomatoes and tofu ricotta

Primi: Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Secondi: Braciole with slow cooked sauce

Contorni: Green beans

Dolci: Tiramisu cups


THE RECIPES



ANTIPASTO

Bruschetta with tomatoes and tofu ricotta




Bruschetta is a classic starter to any Italian meal, but this recipe goes a step further with its creamy tofu ricotta layer. Sprinkle over a few fennel seeds and you have a unique flavour journey. Don’t forget to finish with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. You can also use the ricotta recipe for a multitude of Italian dishes.


SERVES 4 | 15 MINUTES


INGREDIENTS


Tofu ricotta

250g extra firm tofu

¼ cup soy milk

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice

½ tsp garlic powder or ½ garlic clove

Tomato bruschetta

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + extra drizzling

2 garlic cloves

250g cherry tomatoes

cracked black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

Small loaf of crusty bread, such as ciabatta

1-2 teaspoons fennel seeds


METHOD


Tofu ricotta

Place all ingredients in a small food processor. Process until it reaches a ricotta consistency, smooth but with a touch of graininess. Refrigerate while you prepare the tomatoes.

Blistered tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a frypan and add the tomatoes. Fry the tomatoes for 3-5 minutes until they soften and blister. Add the salt and cracked pepper.


Slice and lightly toast the bread. Cut the garlic cloves in half. Rub the cut side of the garlic clove over the surface of the bread slices. This will infuse a garlic flavour without being too overpowering.


Generously spread the tofu ricotta over the toast. Pile the tomatoes evenly on top and garnish with a sprinkling of fennel seeds. Serve with a drizzle of oil and cracked black pepper.



 

PRIMI


Gnocchi alla Sorrentina



If gnocchi bathed in a rich tomato sauce and melted mozzarella makes your mouth water, this is the dish for you. Alla Sorrentina means in the style of Sorrento, a lively town on the coast. There are a few elements to this dish, so you may wish to make the sauce ahead of time. To replace the traditional cheese, we create a gooey sauce that mimics melted mozzarella. However, if you have vegan mozzarella on hand slice it into thick chunks and stir through the cooked gnocchi before baking. This recipe is taken from A Vegan Summer in Southern Italy (get the book here).


INGREDIENTS


Gnocchi

1 kg starchy potatoes

1 tablespoon salt

1 ½-2 cups (200g) plain flour


Tomato sugo

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

450g tomato passata

few basil leaves

½ teaspoon salt


Mozzarella sauce

1 cup soy milk

2 tablespoons tapioca starch

½ cup sufower oil or neutral flavoured oil

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes or vegan parmesan

½ teaspoon salt


METHOD


Gnocchi


Peel and halve the potatoes. Cook in a large pot of boiling water for 20-30 minutes or until soft. You can test this by piercing one with a knife; if the knife slides through without any resistance, the potatoes are ready. Drain and cool slightly.

Push the potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl or onto a floured benchtop. Sprinkle over the salt. Sift the flour over the potatoes, starting with 1 cup at a time. Thoroughly combine the flour and potatoes, scrunching it together with your hands and forming into a dough. If the dough is too sticky add more flour until you achieve a soft dough that doesn’t stick to your hands.

Turn the dough onto a floured bench and roll into a large log shape. Divide into 8-10 pieces. Sprinkle with flour as you go. If your dough becomes too sticky add more flour. Flour is your friend here.

Roll each piece into a long rope. Then cut into 2-3cm small pieces. You can leave the pieces as they are or shape into balls, roll down a wooden gnocchi board, or use a fork to create ridges. Place pieces onto a tray lined with a fresh towel until you are ready to cook them.


Tomato sugo


Heat oil in a medium pan and add the garlic. Lower the heat and cook garlic for approximately 1 minute, being careful not to burn. Pour in the passata, basil and salt. Cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes. If you have time you may like to simmer for up to 1 hour, as the flavour improves the longer you cook the sauce.


Mozzarella sauce


In a medium pot over medium to high heat, pour in the soy milk and immediately whisk in the tapioca starch until dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and stir briskly to combine. Stir frequently until the sauce becomes thick. When the sauce begins to turn stringy and thick, it is ready.

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180C.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the gnocchi in batches. When the gnocchi float to the surface, carefully remove and drain. Transfer gnocchi to the tomato sugo and stir to coat.

Pour the gnocchi into a large baking or casserole dish. Dollop the mozzarella sauce on top of the gnocchi then stir through gently, distributing the cheese sauce well.

Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, until the sauce begins to bubble and turn golden. If you would like a golden-brown crispy topping, complete cooking under a hot grill for 5 minutes before serving.



 

SECONDI


Braciole with slow cooked sauce




I'm excited to bring you the latest culinary re-creation from my childhood: Braciole. In many southern Italian homes, thin slices of beef are rolled with garlic, parsley and parmesan, tied with string or toothpicks and slow cooked in a pomodoro sugo. Once cooked, the sugo (sauce) is stirred through pasta and the braciole rolls are served on the side, perhaps as a second course. Here, the ever versatile seitan becomes the ideal meaty substitute.


INGREDIENTS

Pomodoro sauce

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

900ml passata or diced canned tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon salt

few basil leaves, optional


Seitan dry ingredients

2 cups gluten flour

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano


Seitan wet ingredients

1 scant cup of liquid stock

1/4 cup oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons tomato paste (or BBQ or tomato sauce, even hoisin sauce works)

1 heaped tablespoon Vegemite (Promite or Marmite)

1 teaspoon liquid smoke


Braciole Stuffing

slices of garlic, approximately ½ garlic clove per roll

chopped fresh parsley

nutritional yeast flakes or vegan parmesan (optional)

salt and pepper to season


2 tablespoons oil to fry


METHOD:


For the full recipe click HERE


 

CONTORNI


Garlic green beans



This humble gathering of tender beans marinated in olive oil, vinegar, garlic and salt pirouettes all over your taste buds. We always had a big bowl of this bean salad at our big family gatherings. It’s the perfect sidekick to a main dish. This recipe is taken from A Vegan Summer in Southern Italy (get the book here).


SERVES 4 SIDES | 15 MINUTES


INGREDIENTS


300g green beans

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

½-1 teaspoon salt


METHOD


Top and tail the beans, snipping o  the ends. In a medium pan heat water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and simmer on high for 5-7 minutes, or until the beans are a texture between al dente and soft.


Drain, then plunge in cold water for approximately 5 minutes, allowing the beans to cool down. Drain.


Toss the beans in a serving bowl with the garlic, oil, vinegar and salt. Serve immediately or enjoy cold the next day.



 

DOLCI


Tiramisu cups with berries


Photo: Freshly Picked with Simon Toohey

This tiramisu recipe is modeled on a classic version. Because vegan savoiardi biscuits aren’t easy to come by, you can substitute with slices of vegan cake to soak up the coffee. But to save time, a store-bought, sweet vegan biscuit will do the trick, like Nice or arrowroot biscuits (you can also choose gluten free versions). Aquafaba (chickpea brine) will substitute egg whites, so you will need a stand mixer or hand-held electric beaters. I love serving the tiramisu in individual glasses. This is best made a day ahead.


INGREDIENTS


1 ½ cups brewed espresso coffee, room temperature

300g vegan sweet biscuits or slices of vegan cake

4 tablespoons coffee or nut liqueur


Custard

2 cups full fat soy milk

⅓ cup cornflour

½ cup sugar

½ cup vegan butter or margarine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250g tub vegan cream cheese

½ cup brine ('aquafaba') from a can of chickpeas

½ cup icing sugar, sifted


To serve

½ cup cocoa powder

1 block 85% vegan dark chocolate (optional)

Berries, such as strawberries or raspberries (optional)

METHOD


Pour the chickpea brine ('aquafaba') into a very clean bowl. Beat with an electric hand beater or stand mixer on high until stiff peaks form, gradually adding the icing sugar. This could take 5–10 minutes. To check if it is ready, carefully tip the bowl of the aquafaba 'egg whites'. If the aquafaba doesn’t slide down the bowl then it is ready.

To prepare the custard, add the soy milk and cornflour to a medium saucepan and whisk to combine, ensuring the cornflour has dissolved. Add the sugar, butter, vanilla and whisk well. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Once the custard thickens, reduce heat to low and continue to stir for a further 1–2 minutes. Take off the heat and pour into a large bowl.


Scoop the cream cheese into the custard and beat together with an electric hand mixer until smooth. Fold in the aquafaba a little at a time until it is well combined. This is your custard cream! Set aside.


Combine the coffee and liqueur in a medium bowl. Dip the biscuits in one at a time for a few seconds, to allow the coffee to soak in a little. If you’re using cake slices, dip into the coffee only briefly. You don’t want the cake to go soggy. Line your dishes or glasses with a layer of the dipped biscuits or cake.


Scoop custard cream over the biscuits, creating a thick layer. Repeat with another layer of dipped biscuits or cake and a layer of the custard cream. Garnish with a generous dusting of cocoa powder.


Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours to overnight. The tiramisu is best served the next day. Garnish with optional grated dark chocolate and berries.

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