• Choose your next vegetarian dish from one of the many regions of Italy. (Benito Martin)Source: Benito Martin
Discover the diversity of Italy's regional plant-based recipes and flavours.
Yasmin Noone

26 May 2021 - 9:33 AM  UPDATED 26 May 2021 - 9:32 AM

--- Catch the brand-new second season of Cook Like an Italian with Silvia Colloca at 8pm Thursdays on SBS Food and streaming free on SBS On Demand ---


Vegetarian dishes from Italy are as diverse as the country's 20 regions, which are laden with quality produce.

The variety and calibre of vegetarian food in Italy has led it to become sought after around the world.

Here is a vegetarian dish from each of Italy's regions for you to consider for your next meal.

Fill baked eggplants with ricotta, passata and herbs then bake again.


Ciabotto Abruzzese is a simple summer vegetable stew. It mixes sautéed spring vegetables like zucchini, potatoes, onions, eggplant and tomatoes with wine and olive oil.


Stuffed eggplant, Basilicata style, is probably one of the easiest baked eggplant recipes to make. This is because the eggplant pulp is kept and a herbed breadcrumb mixture is worked into a scored vegetable flesh. To finish, more breadcrumb mix is decorated on top of the eggplant before it is baked. 

Twice-baked stuffed eggplant

Eggplant is so delicious and creamy when baked, so why stop at one round? Fill the vegetable with ricotta, passata and herbs then bake again.


Lagane e cicciari fuses history with pasta and chickpeas. Lagane is thick durum wheat pasta (also found in Campania and Basilicata) that's believed to be one of the oldest dry pastas in Italy, dating back around 2,500 years. When the pasta is combined with chickpeas, rosemary, garlic, onions, parsley and chilli, it perfectly suits vegetarian tastes.

Pasta and chickpeas is native to Calabria in the southwest of Italy.


Silvia Colloca, host of SBS Food program, Cook Like An Italian, creates a gnocchi alla sorrentina in series two, using a regional recipe familiar to the coastal town of Sorrento.

The comfort dish is typically made with uncomplicated ingredients of tomatoes, garlic and basil (used to make a sauce) and potato gnocchi. 


Crescentine (also called tigelle or crescenza) is a popular street food found in the Modena area, resembling an English muffin.

The flat bread is made with warm milk, yeast, and flour and deep-fried in oil. Although it's common to stuff the bread with cured meats and cheese, it's also eaten plain or served flavoured with garlic and rosemary. 

Crescentine (pan-cooked flatbread)

When travelling in Italy last year, I asked my friend Laura who lives in Bologna what she thought was the most popular street food where she lived. “Tigelle, without a doubt,” she replied. “We eat them with a little prosciutto or cheese, and a glass of wine.”

Friuli- Venezia Giulia

Try the traditional Friulian prune-stuffed gnocchi dish, gnocchi di prugne, which hails from the city of Trieste, for a savoury and sweetness hit.

The potato dumplings, stuffed with prunes, are finished with parmesan cheese, butter, breadcrumbs and cinnamon. You can eat them for dinner or dessert.

Latium (Lazio)

You have Rome to thank for alla Romana (carciofi alla Romana). Round Roman artichokes are stuffed with mint, parsley, garlic, lemon and salt. They are then cooked in a mix of water and olive oil, before they are served tender. 

Stuffed artichokes (carciofo alla romana)

The Romans have been cooking and eating artichokes for centuries and this is a classic Italian recipe. Guy’s father taught him to stuff artichokes this way; he gathered all the family around and they prepared them together.


Go no further than Marche for deep-fried vegetables (verdure fritte), which can be served alone or as part of a mixed fried platter. You can use zucchini, artichoke or eggplant — although vegetables in season are always best.


Combine two Ligurian specialities with the dish, pasta di Liguria trenette. The meal uses trenette — a long type of narrow, dried flat pasta that's similar to linguine and fettuccine, and works well with Ligurian pesto. Add green beans and potato to the pesto pasta and you've got a dish that captures the flavours of Italy's northwest.

A classic regional dish, complete with Ligurian pesto.


To make minestrone soup that's true to Lombardy, like minestrone alla Lombarda otherwise called minestrone with risoni, use lots of fresh vegetables, rice and Parmesan cheese.

Minestrone with risoni

Packed full of beans and vegetables, minestrone warms the soul from the inside, and a steaming bowl of it is perfect to wrap one's hands around on a cold night.

There's an option to add pork or pancetta to the soup, but if you want to go vegetarian, omit the meat. Serve the soup hot in winter and cold in summertime.

Minestrone with risoni is filled with vegetables, bulked out with rice and topped off with cheese.


When you live in Molise in southern Italy, a region that's home to forests and mountain ranges, you've got permission to enjoy lots of hearty dishes.

One of these is baked fettuccine with tomato and mozzarella or fettuccine con salsa di aromi. Use tomatoes, garlic, mint, basil, parsley and chilli to make your sauce. Drizzle over cooked pasta before topping with cheese and baking.


This region is famed for tajarin pasta, hailing from Piedmont, made with only egg yolks. To make the silky pasta into a rounded meal, pair it with a simple sage and butter sauce.

Puglia (Apulia)

One of Italy's flattest regions, Puglia, is famous for orecchiette: 'little ears' of durum wheat pasta. Toss the pasta with cime di rape or turnip tops, a bitter green that comes into season throughout the region in autumn.

Orecchiette with cime di rapa and pangrattato

Sardegna (Sardinia)

Traditional flatbread from Sardinia, pane carasau, is so thin that it has acquired a second name — carta da musica meaning ‘sheet music’. The idea is that when you roll out the dough, it should be so thin that you can clearly read a sheet of music through it. Cook the unique bread twice and savour its crunch.

Try it for breakfast
Pita with passata, pecorino and egg (pane frattau)

In Sardinia, this casual stack of flatbreads, tomato sauce and cheese is known as pane frattau and is a fantastic way to make use of bits and pieces of Sardinia’s famous flatbread – pane carasau.

Sicilia (Sicily)

Sicilian vegetable stew (caponata Siciliana) has many versions throughout the island. But for a truly vegetarian recipe, stick to the vegetables that make the dish famous — mainly eggplant as well as zucchini, tomatoes, onion, red and yellow capsicum. Add basil, capers, pine kernels and raisins to your heart's content.

Toscana (Tuscany) 

According to Silvia Colloca, the Tuscan method of stuffing zucchini flowers with herbed ricotta cheese and then baking them is one of Tuscany's "most elegant vegetarian dishes". Zucchini flowers are best picked in spring.

This dish can be served as an appetiser or first course.

Zucchini flowers taste especially good when stuffed.

Trentino-Alto Adige (Trentino-South Tyrol)

Schlutzkrapfen (or mezzelune) is a semi-circle shaped pasta, filled with spinach, ricotta and potato, which are native to this mountainous area bordering Switzerland and Austria.

Toss the pasta in brown butter and serve with a fresh grating of Grana Padano cheese on top.


To celebrate the flavours of this region, make an Umbrian lentil soup (zuppa di lenticchie di Castelluccio) using small Castelluccio lentils if you can find them. But if you can't, opt to feature French puy lentils instead.

The soup features a soffritto and includes tomato concentrate, white wine and stock.

Broken pasta and lentil soup (pasta rotta con lenticchie)

This is a great throw-together dish for when your cupboards and fridge are erring on the empty side. 

Valle d'Aosta (Aosta Valley)

Here's your chance to eat hot cheese for dinner: create a fonduta alla Valdostana — a Valle d'Aosta-style fondue. To stick to tradition and honour the alpine region, use Fontina cheese melted into a sauce thickened with egg yolks. Pair the hearty fondue with potatoes, green vegetables or pickles.


Rice and pea risotto (risi e bisi) is quite soup like, with the peas and rice intentionally floating in a thick vegetable broth. The dish is traditionally served at the annual Doge's banquet on the feast day of St Mark, the patron of Veneto's capital city of Venice.

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