Classic cuisine to cult favourite: how pasta has evolved to make veganism more accessible
The pride of Italy, beautiful pasta and mouth watering sauces haven’t always been all that vegan-friendly. But something is happening and now, authentic alternatives are being dreamt up that will have even the most discerning nonne giving their approval (we hope!).
Pasta is such an egalitarian food. It’s cost-effective and easy to whip up, but hang on. We’re talking about dried varieties that come in plastic bags for less than £1 here, aren’t we? That’s not ‘real’ pasta. Not as Italians know it anyway. The good stuff – as in fresh, hand-rolled egg pasta — has, traditionally, always been out of reach for those following a plant-based diet, but that is finally changing.
Nonna knows best
Prepare to be shocked because not all fresh, traditional Italian pasta is unsuitable for vegans. That’s right! There’s a bit of a north-south divide, with egg pasta being more recognisably northern and coming in the form of soft, pliable styles such as ravioli and tagliatelle. Down south is where you’ll find the regional durum wheat being put to great use and not only in terms of cultivating strong forearms. Ferretti, spaghetti and orecchiette are all tasty southern exports that are vegan by default, so what makes traditional dishes not so plant-based? Usually the sauces that have been passed down from nonna to mamma and beyond.
Look at the classic sauces and it’s hard to find anything that isn’t rich in locally produced dairy. Mascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella. The creamy collective is understandably hard to move away from. Then of course we have the traditional meat-based ragù. So while pasta, made in the traditional way, can absolutely be vegan, it’s those extra touches that prevent it from being plant-based. But there’s a food revolution in progress.
Not regular pasta, cool vegan pasta
We’re a discerning bunch of consumers these days. Packet macaroni might do in a pinch, but there’s no harm in admitting that we enjoy treating ourselves to something a little fancier. We want fresh pasta that’s charmingly non-uniform. Earthy flavours, funky colours and zingy accompaniments; we yearn for them all and what’s more, we want them to be vegan-friendly as well.
Some might say we’re being greedy but as the world starts to wake up to the fact that the future necessarily needs to look a lot less meat-centric, why can’t we have it all? The heritage of traditional pasta with a modern flair. What’s more, we want it delivered to the door, ready to enjoy. Because our takeaway tastes have changed. No more greasy pizzas that never quite hit the spot, we want restaurant quality food in the comfort of our own homes. We want it to be Instagrammable, cruelty-free and deserving of its own hashtag. Is that really too much to ask? Nope!
Consideration, not compromise
There are always going to be purists who say that really authentic Italian pasta has to be made IN Italy, using local wheat and finished with a decadent dairy-filled sauce but let’s evolve, just a little.
You can take inspiration and be respectful to the old ways, while making a proud regional dish more accessible and enjoyable for previously overlooked foodies. And yes, we do consider vegans to be food fanatics. If you believe that simply omitting certain ingredients from your day-to-day diet means that you can’t be considered a passionate gastronome, we respectfully disagree. If anything, it simply means that you have to make your chosen additions work all the more diligently, to faithfully recreate something.
Pasta is the ultimate everyman’s food and giving vegan pasta fanatics access to a real taste of Italy? That’s nothing short of perfection.