Vegan Cooking Recipe, part 2

You are just come back from your Vegan Vacation in Tuscany, well so  it’s time to relive your vacation again with wonderful Vegan Recipes!

  1. Pesto di Cavolo Nero (Kale Pesto)

A simple Vegan pesto, this option is simple to prepare and extremely taste! We use pine nuts, almonds and natural yeast to mimic the flavors of traditional pesto. This pesto is also excellent on bread as a spread for crostini. First, remove the stalks from the kale, and steam the leaves. In a mortar, put together the kale, pine nuts, almonds, and garlic (if you like it!). Add some (about 50 grams) of natural cooking yeast, salt, and lots of olive oil to achieve a smooth consistency. This pesto is good for two to three days in the fridge, so be sure to make an ample batch.

  1. Vegan Carbonara

Vegan carbonara is possible and can be achieved with the use of our favorite seitan, together with soy cooking cream. First, cut the seitan into tiny pieces and set aside. Do the same with some zucchini, and in a non-stick pan, heat some garlic in olive oil. Remove the garlic from the pan and add the seitan pieces together with the zucchini. Add some pepper and cook all together over medium heat. In the meantime, cook the spaghetti leaving it al dente. Put the soy cooking cream in a bowl and add turmeric. Mix them together so they are in a homogeneous sauce. Drain the spaghetti and put it into the pan with he seitan and zucchini. Add the cream with turmeric mixture together with some fresh thyme and mix well. Your carbonara is complete!

  1. Tempeh Ragu

Another option for a Vegan ragu is to make it with tempeh, instead of seitan. Tempeh is a protein made from the fermentation of yellow soy beans, and is rich in fiber, vitamins, and of course protein. As we did before, prepare a soffritto with onion, carrot and celery. Let it cook before adding the tempeh, and then clearing the pan with some white wine. Once the wine has cooked away, add the tomato, and let it cook down for 20 to 30 minutes. Add a little salt, and then choose what pasta you want to make! This sauce is really great with anything, and is also excellent on crostini, so make a lot and invite your non-vegan friends to see how vegan ragu can be just as good as the real deal.

These are just some suggestions to get you started with your vegan cooking adventures. There are lots of ways to eat meat-free, and we are here to help with ideas whenever you need them. Be sure to enjoy your pasta with an excellent vegan wine!

Vegan Cooking Recipes, part one

You can experience creating these and many other Vegan Recipes in our Vegan Cooking Course in Florence, available daily in a charming country house in the hills with beautiful views of Florence. You will learn to cook vegan delicacies as Tuscans have been doing for centuries!

Part 1

Vegan Sauces: 2 Recipes to Try

Those who love first courses know that the right sauce can transform a simple plate of pasta into a true gourmet dish. To make a dish special, it’s fundamental to choose the right sauce. Seasonal vegetables, aromatic herbs, plant-based oils, and even seitan, tofu or tempeh are the main ingredients that will help you prepare an excellent vegan sauce for your pasta (and other things!), to enjoy every day at dinner or even on the holidays. Here are 2 recipes to try!

  1. Vegan ragout with seitan and apples

Ragout is the number one go-to sauce when it comes to the holidays, and it is ideal for any form of pasta, including lasagna. Why give it up when you can make a vegan version of this Italian classic using seitan protein and apples? This recipe calls for you to first make a normal soffritto base of carrots, onion and celery. Cook the soffritto in olive oil before adding some water and then the tomato, as you would with a normal ragu. Add the seitan, chopped in pieces, and let it all cook down for about 15-20 minutes. Finally, when there are just a few minutes’ cooking time left, add the chopped apple. This ragout will surely wow your friends and family, alike!

  1. Vegan zucchini spaghetti with white seitan sauce

Another recipe with seitan as the protagonist, due to its versatility and high protein content. Seitan particularly lends itself to making sauces, since its texture mimics that of the meat normally used to make traditional sauces. In this case, we make a sauce that is without tomato, and suggest adding walnut pieces for crunch. Here, instead of noodles or pasta, make zoodles – zucchini is a great stand-in for egg-based pastas since their texture is similar after boiling. Clean the zucchini and, using a knife, remove both ends. Cut each one in half and then cut into strips. Finally, cut them into 3 or 4 mm ‘noodles’ before boiling them in slightly salted water. Cook them for a few minutes before draining and setting aside. For the ragu, put some garlic in some oil and turn on the heat. Add the pre-chopped seitan to the pan and add a little salt. Crush the walnuts and add them to the pan. After about ten minutes, add some chopped parsley, then toss in the zucchini and heat through on a low flame. Enjoy this healthy, vegan alternative to spaghetti!


Vegan holiday meal

It’s easy to prepare a vegan holiday meal

This holiday season, we want to encourage you to respect our animal friends, and the planet, as you prepare your festive holiday meals. Of course, it’s always nice to celebrate tradition, but it can also be really fun and exciting to try something new, especially if it will diminish your carbon footprint! Not only will the animals thank you, but your guests will benefit from healthy alternatives to the traditional holiday dishes. As you most likely know, food and wine are obsessions in Italy, and naturally more so at this time of year. We gather with friends and family every chance we get to share meals and celebrate, and plan the next meal!

Vegan dinner recipes

Vegan appetizers with vegan cheese

Beginning with the antipasti, instead of serving cheese, try cashew cheese, instead! You can buy it pre-made, or make it yourself at home. All you need are 150g of natural cashew nuts,
1 ½ tablespoon of food yeast, ½ lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of mustard, 1 pinch of salt, 1 pinch of garlic powder, 1 pinch of pepper, 30g of cranberries and 20g of pumpkin seeds.

Put the cashews soaked in hot water for 2 hours, then drain, and pour into the food processor adding the yeast, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Blend everything well until you get a homogeneous mixture, transfer it into a bowl and add 20 g of very coarsely chopped cranberries. To shape the “cheese,” cover a low and wide bowl with a film and pour the cashew mixture over it. Press the edges together with the film and place it in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Once ready, remove it from the bowl and remove the film, then decorate the surface with the remaining cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Serve it on a tray or on a cutting board accompanying it with crackers and breadsticks. This lovely vegan appetizer will be appealing to all!

Vegan home made pasta with broccoli

For the first course, we suggest you stick to pasta. While traditionally in Italy the first course is a lasagna with meat sauce, it is simple to switch it up and make a vegan lasagna. We love this recipe for vegan lasagna with pumpkin and cime di rapa or broccoli. The bechamel sauce can be made with oat milk instead of dairy.

You will need 300g pasta without egg, 500g cime di rapa (or broccoli), 400g pumpkin, 1 garlic clove, 1 rosemary branch, and a pinch of cinnamon. For the bechamel sauce, you’ll need
500 ml unsweetened oat milk, 40g type 2 flour, 20g olive oil, 20g sunflower oil, 1 spoonful of yeast, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Vegan béchamel

First, make the bechamel.

Put the flour and two types of oil into a small pot and mix well with a wooden spoon over a small flame. Once the roux begins to form, add some warm oat milk as you continue to mix to avoid the formation of lumps. Continue to mix and let boil for two minutes. Turn off the heat and add salt, pepper, nutmeg and yeast.

Next, roast the pumpkin. Clean the pumpkin by removing fibers and seeds, remove the skin, and cut it into thin strips. Place it on a baking sheet with oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon and rosemary and bake for ten minutes at 200°C. While the pumpkin roasts, cook the broccoli  or cime di rapa. Clean the stalks and cut it into pieces. Please it in lightly salted boiling water for a few minutes to blanch. Drain it, and then pan fry in some olive oil with garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the lasagna, boil the pasta in salted water for three minutes, then drain and let rest on a tray. Cover the bottom of a pan with some of the bechamel, then a layer of pasta, more bechamel, and then a layer of pumpkin followed by a layer ofcime di rapa or broccoli. Proceed with another layer of pasta, pumpkin, andcime di rapa or broccoli, until all ingredients are in the pan. Finish with a layer of veggies covered in bechamel. Then, put the whole thing in the oven at 180°C for twenty minutes. Once the time is up, let rest ten minutes before serving.

Vegan secondo: spezzatino with seitan

If your guests are still hungry after the antipasto and primo, you can always prepare a spezzatino with seitan, instead of beef, and leave things traditional! Spezzatino is a traditional Italian beef stew, made with potatoes, peas and carrots, Substitute beef stock with veggie stock, and the beef with seitan to make this classic stew vegan-friendly! For dessert, keep it simple with fresh, seasonal fruit!

Be sure to accompany each course with a vegan wine. We suggest a bottle for every two guests. Look for wine bottles labeled “V OK”, meaning they don’t contain any animal products whatsoever.

We wish you and your loved ones the best this holiday season, and we hope you enjoy a cruelty-free meal with the help of these easy suggestions!

Vegan Wine

Vegan wine, given that wine is made from fermented grapes, it seems obvious that it would be vegan. However, some winemaking techniques are actually not vegan compatible! Normally, wines that are not vegetarian or vegan friendly will have a warning on the label so that consumers known what they are getting themselves into. But let’s look at how wine is made, why it may not be vegan, and some of the best vegetarian and vegan wines available on the market.

Normally, pressed grape juice needs to settle before the fermentation process can begin. Suspended solids sink slowly to the bottom of the tank or barrel that the wine is stored in, and as the wine matures, it clarifies itself as solids continue sinking to the bottom. Wine made this way is considered unfiltered and un refined, and definitely takes longer to produce due to the slow, natural process.

Modern markets and high demand for certain wines have called for winemakers to develop ways to speed up the process though a technique known as “fining”. Fining frequently uses animal products to speed the production process and to bind and remove unwanted substances more quickly. Fining agents are generally removed before the wine is bottled, so there is no need to mention their presence on the wine labels themselves. Fining with animal products may also be done to correct faults in some wines, like cloudiness, or too much tannin presence. This process that speeds up production is what allows for some wines to be produced and sold so cheaply.

The animal products used in the fining process can include egg whites, casein, which is a protein found in milk, gelatin, isinglass, which is derived from the swim bladders of some large fish, and chitosan, derived from the shells of crustaceans. There are, however, vegetarian and vegan alternatives to these products that winemakers can use to ensure their production remains speedy and efficient.

Non-animal based fining agents include PVPP (poly-vinyl-poly-pyrrolidone), which is a man-made plastic that absorbs excess phenols and colors in wines. Bentonite is another fining agent, which is made of negatively charged clay. It is used frequently in white and rose wines to ensure their clarity.

So, if winemakers aren’t obliged to share the fining agents they use in their wines, how can you know if a wine is vegan or vegetarian? We’ll tell you! You may not know this, but Angela, the owner and director of the Wine School Florence, is a vegan herself, and is always working to showcase excellent vegetarian and vegan products to promote the sustainability of the industry.

If you want to learn about how wines are made, or learn more about vegan wines, get in touch with Wine School Florence for a visit to a vegan winery, or a special class on vegan wines. This is definitely a trend that will continue to grow, and we will be keeping an eye on how the winemaking industry reacts to the desire for vegan and vegetarian wines in Tuscany!

Vegan wine and food in Tuscany

Vegan wine and food in Tuscany

Some of the most popular dishes in Tuscany are vegans such as Pappa al pomodoro, Panzanella and Ribollita

Red as … Pappa al pomodoro and Chianti wine.

The pappa al pomodoro, tomato soup, is a special balance between the amount of stale bread, typical Tuscan “sciocco” that is, without salt, ripe tomatoes, some garlic cloves, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and even a hint of sugar, vegetable broth; and requires precise workmanship, made from crusty bread on the grill or in the oven, the preparation of tomato to be seeded and cut into chunks. Tradition has it that the cooking is done in a “coccio”: a terracotta pot which makes cooking slow and nice, and the food tastier. The final basil and abundant extra virgin olive oil provide an explosion of flavors that only a good glass of Vegan Chianti wine can bring out even more!

Panzanella is another traditional tuscan recipe, it  is a cold row dish, but just as tasty, where the presence of vinegar (maybe Chianti vinegar) does not allow to drink wine with. Even panzanella has as protagonist the bread, vinegar and oil, and fresh tomato. And the red onion as absolute queen, along with thinly sliced cucumbers that are the pages.

The pappa al pomodoro tomato soup and panzanella, as well as ribollita,  are simple foods in the choice of ingredients, but due the attention to the doses and cooking times (on the stove and in ‘vinegar) they need trained and experienced chefs: for this reason taste these dishes at their best is not always easy! We have chosen some restaurants  that can make you taste these specialties deeply rooted in Tuscan culinary history. Here, the pleasure of being at the table eating tasty things is naturally and simply vegan and you certainly want to try.