Although Italian cuisine is known quite well for its decadence, due to its variety, there are also plenty of healthy options available. Because of its favorable climate Italy grows fruit and vegetables in abundance, many of which show up in the cuisine. Many pizza and pasta dishes have a tomato base to their sauces and so are rich with all the nutrients and vitamins that tomatoes offer. Dishes are thought out to best showcase each vegetable’s unique flavor.
- Eggplant Caponata. This sweet and sour dish is made from a base of vegetables including eggplant, tomatoes, celery, olives and capers. The dish can be served hot or cold and is similar to ratatouille. The tradition comes from Sicily where eggplant is frequently added into dishes.
- Orecchiete con cime di rapa. This pasta dish which is popular in Puglia is made from ear shaped pasta (the name actually means little ears!). The dish’s unique flavor is a tinge bitter as it is tossed with broccoli rabe leaves which leave their distinct taste. Some traditional recipes are made with anchovies which can easily be omitted from the dish. Just be sure to confirm whether or not the pasta contains egg when you’re at the supermarket!
- Chicory with Fava Beans. This dish, known as fave e cicoria in Italy, comes from the region of Puglia. It is simple yet rich in protein and other nutrients. The fava beans are served pureed alongside the chicory which can also be substituted with dandelion if you are feeling especially locally-minded.
- Polenta. A core element of the Northern Italian cuisine, polenta can easily be made vegan. This dish is made from finely ground yellow cornmeal and can be served creamy like mashed potatoes or in firmer baked squares. It is often served as a main dish and goes well with vegetables as well as covered in tomato sauce. Accompany it with tofu ricotta for a complete dish.
- Panzanella. This delicious summer time salad recipe made from stale bread, tomatoes, and spices is coated with extra virgin olive oil making it a classic Mediterranean delight that is also healthy. This dish was made by thrifty inhabitants of the region of Tuscany who instead of letting day old food go to waste, created a new recipe for it.