11 Top Italian Comfort Food Recipes That Are Totally Vegetarian
If you love comfort food and Italian cuisine and are looking for healthy vegetarian or meatless options for dinner, well, this list hits the trifecta. These top-rated recipes include a lentil-based bolognese, a meatless variation on the World's Best Lasagna, savory faux "meatballs" made with sauteed mushrooms, a super-healthy minestrone, and more!
A note for strict vegetarians: Some of these recipes call for Parmesan cheese; be aware that Parmesan cheese is not, strictly speaking, vegetarian. If you prefer, susbstitute a vegetarian cheese in its place.
Here's a totally meatless take on bolognese, the classic slow-cooked meat sauce. In this meatless version lentils and, mushrooms, combined with red wine, nutmeg, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, build big, bold flavors. "Delicious vegetarian sauce for pasta, so tasty, and as nice as a meat bolognese," says sorchaspud. "It can also be served with potatoes."
Meatless Monday Lasagna
"We are always looking for recipes to add to our Meatless Monday rotation," says Kristin. "Bumping up the protein is important for our 3 kids, so adding tofu to the cheese mixture of vegetarian lasagna works great. Use the excess tofu to make a high-protein salad dressing."
Judy's Hearty Vegetable Minestrone Soup
This hearty vegetable soup stars kidney beans, kale, and potatoes in a seasoned vegetable stock. Some reviewers have added leftover cooked pasta to the mix. "This was super good and easy!" says newsbug. " I made this for my first 'Meatless Monday.' I think next time I might add a little cayenne for some zip."
Chef John's Meatless Meatballs
Here's Chef John's meatless version of classic Italian-American spaghetti and meatballs. "Thanks to a thorough browning, mushrooms provide more than enough savoriness," says Chef John. "The garlic, cheese, and parsley do the rest. What really blew me away was how close the texture was to actual meatballs. They are officially approved for use on spaghetti!" Strict vegetarians may want to replace the Parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano) in the recipe, since it traditionally contains rennet.
Vegan Cacio e Pepe
With this recipe, the classic classic cacio e pepe from Lazio gets adapted for a vegan diet. It features raw cashews blended with nutritional yeast, miso paste, olive oil, and black pepper.
Vegan Italian Pasta Salad with Vegetables and Olives
The secret to this veggie-filled pasta salad is the flavorful paste made with pitted olives, parsley, capers, red pepper flakes, garlic, red wine vinegar, and olive oil. "A classic vegan pasta salad from Italy's Southern regions consisting of sauteed vegetables and dressed with a vegan olive-based sauce," says Buckwheat Queen.
World's Best (Now Vegetarian!) Lasagna
This vegetarian lasagna features layers of cheese, meatless crumbles, and a seasoned tomato sauce. "Carnivores will never know it was made with Beyond Meat instead!" says Michele Runge. "I doubled the sauce when I made it, laid out the ingredients into 3 bread size pans, and froze two of them."
Homemade Veggie Pizza
"The sauce is so easy and hearty everyone will think you were in the kitchen all day cooking this up," says Bird.
Spinach Cheese Manicotti
"My husband says this dish is restaurant quality. It can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator overnight. Very filling and great served with a salad and garlic bread."
Rigatoni al Segreto (Rigatoni with Secret Sauce)
You'll cook diced onions and garlic in olive oil, sprinkle in some chili flakes, and add pureed San Marzano plum tomatoes. Then cook for an hour before adding in cubed butter, basil leaves, cheese, and cooked rigatoni. So simple! "This Rigatoni al Segreto recipe was the most closely guarded secret at Gino's, one of New York City's most famous Italian restaurants," says Chef John.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Here's the perfect vegetarian comfort food for fall. Roasted butternut squash is layered with spinach, a homemade white sauce, and mozzarella cheese. "Lasagna, with its delicious layers, can take a while to put together, but it's always worth it! This warm vegetarian version is a comfy dinner any day of the week."