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50+ Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Italy – A Local’s Advice On Eating Vegetarian In Italy

Last updated on June 22nd, 2024

Are you a vegetarian coming to Italy and slightly concerned about what you will and will not be able to eat? 

I have been living in Italy since 2012 and I can assure you that even in most meat-rich regions in Italy, there is plenty of vegetarian food to try.

In this article, I will share with you over 50 vegetarian dishes to try in Italy, all of which are spread out across Italy’s regions. I will also provide tips and tricks for eating vegetarian in Italy, even if you don’t see these specific vegetarian dishes on the menu. 

For detailed tips, practical information and helpful vocabulary for eating vegetarian in Italy, check out How to Eat Vegetarian in Italy.

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Italy By Region

No matter what region you are in Italy, you can be sure to find excellent vegetarian food that speaks to the local culinary traditions of that region. 

Keep in mind these are not all the vegetarian dishes in Italy, just some of the most widespread, popular and interesting!

If you cannot find these items on the menu, look for other antipasti, primo, secondo or contorno sections of the menu. Alternatively, consider making a whole meal out of side dishes. Order roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, beans, salads and seasonal items from the side dishes, and eat your heart out!

Pregnant Travelers: If you are a pregnant woman in Italy, you may also be interested in
Eating In Venice While Pregnant
Snacks To Eat In Italy While Pregnant
10 Foods You May Want To Avoid In Italy While Pregnant (And What To Order Instead!)

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Abruzzo

Read more about Abruzzo and its food in Traditional Food from Abruzzo.

Pallotte Cacio e Uova

(Pronounced pahl-loht-teh cah-choh eh woh-vuh in Italian)

Pallotte cacio e uova means “cheese and egg balls”, which are essentially vegetarian meatballs made from old bread and served either in tomato sauce, broth or fried. They are particularly common in Abruzzo but look for them throughout Italy at casual eateries.

Sagne e Fagioli

white plate with pasta e fagioli and a spoon on the side of the plate.
The pasta and beans I make for my Italian family

(Pronounced sahn-yay eh fah-joh-lee in Italian)

Sagne e Fagioli is a dish you will find throughout Italy although it will be called various names (lasagne e cicciari in Basilicata, or ciceri e tria in Puglia, for example). This vegetarian soup is made from cooking beans in a well seasoned tomato sauce. Handmade pasta is added for extra bulk but be careful because  sometimes it’s made with pancetta or pork rinds for extra flavor. Just ask before ordering.

Le Virtù 

(Pronounced leh veer-too in Italian)

Translating to “The Virtues”, Le Virtù is an ancient dish from Abruzzo. It’s a thick, vegetable and pasta soup made with seasonal produce. You will find it changes from town to town as you travel through Abruzzo as each nonna or grandma has her own recipe for this delicious soup. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Basilicata

Eat your heart out with my guide to Traditional Food of Basilicata

Acquasale

(Pronounced ah-qwah-sah-leh in Italian)

Acquasale is a poor man’s soup made with a vegetable broth that is thickened with stale bread and topped with a poached egg.

Minestra di Patate e Verza 

(Pronounced mee-neh-strah dee pah-tah-teh eh vehr-zah in Italian)

Minestra di patate e verza is a cabbage and potato stew made mostly in the winter. Flavored with chili peppers, olive oil, garlic and onions, this simple soup is best paired with regional cheese xx for a wholesome and hearty meal. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Calabria

Learn all about Calabria’s culinary traditions in Traditional Calabrian Food

Licurdia 

(Pronounced lee-coor-dee-ah in Italian)

Licurdia is a bread based vegetable soup from Calabria flavored with whatever vegetables are in season. Local Tropea onions add richness while chili peppers bump up the flavor. 

Ciambotta

close up of ciambotta on a white shallow bowl.

(Pronounced chahm-boht-tah in Italian)

Ciambotto is a spicy eggplant stew from Calabria made with tomatoes, onion, local herbs and chili peppers. It’s usually vegetarian but like other simple soups, there may be some form of bacon or animal fat to add flavor so double check!

Polpette di Melanzane

(Pronounced pohl-peht-teh dee mehl-ahn-zah-neh in Italian)

Polpette di melanzane are vegetarian “meatballs”  made from eggplant, pecorino cheese and stale bread, often eaten as street food, snacks or as appetizers.

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Campania

Don’t miss a thing in Campania with my complete guide to Traditional Food of Campania.

Parmigiana Melanzane

top view of white paper plate with parmigiana di melanzane with fork and a piece of bread on a paper mat.

(Pronounced pahr-mee-gawn-ah meh-lahn-zah-neh in Italian)

Eggplant parmesan is a baked vegetarian lasagne but instead of pasta, thin slices of fried eggplant are used to make layers with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil

Mozzarella In Carrozza

Display of fried foods on platters for takeaway in Venice, Italy.

(Pronounced mohz-zah-rehl-lah in cahr-rohz-zah in Italian)

Mozzarella in carrozza, meaning “mozzarella in a carriage” (the bread being the carriage), is a fried mozzarella sandwich from Campania but now a favorite throughout Italy. In fact, it’s one of the best 5 Street Foods To Try In Venice & Where Eat Them

Pizza

Pizza on display at an Italian grocery store.

(Pronounced peet-tzah in Italian)

Of course, I can’t leave out pizza on the list of vegetarian foods to try while in Italy. Order whatever toppings you like as long as you avoid meat and voilà, the perfect vegetarian meal to dampen any hunger! 

More On Pizza: For more on pizza in Italy, read How Do Italians Eat Pizza? and Do Italians Eat Pizza With A Fork?

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Lazio

To discover more Roman food, don’t miss Traditional Food of Lazio.

Cacio e Pepe

white plate of cacio e pepe pasta on a red table cloth from side view close up.
The cacio e pepe I ordered in Rome

(Pronounced cah-choh eh peh-peh in Italian)

If you are in Rome you must try cacio e pepe, a simple pasta made from sheep’s milk cheese pecorino romano and freshly ground course black pepper.

Gnocchi alla Romana

(Pronounced nyawk-kee ahl-lah roh-mah-nah in Italian) 

Gnocchi alla Romana are semolina ‘cakes’ baked with parmesan cheese until golden brown. It’s a perfect Italian vegetarian dish in the winter. 

Bazzoffia

(Pronounced bahz-zohf-fee-ah in Italian)

Bazzoffia is one of the best vegetarian dishes to try in Italy only available for a couple weeks in the spring. Peas, beans, artichokes, lemon, lettuce, onions and olive oil are all stewed together until tender. Slices of stale bread are placed in the bottom of bowls where an egg is cracked on top. The hot vegetables are ladled on top, cooking the egg and softening the bread.

Like Eggs? Check out these Egg Dishes You Should Try in Italy.

Pomodori col Riso

top view close up of stuffed tomatoes with rice with roasted potatoes between the red tomatoes.
The stuffed tomatoes we eat in summer as a vegetarian meal

(Pronounced poh-moh-doh-ree cohl ree-soh in Italian)

Pomodori col riso is a main dish made from stuffed tomatoes with rice, cheese and plenty of good olive oil. Usually they are served with roasted potatoes but not always. It’s also a really easy and great dish to recreate at home with my step-by-step instructions in Stuffed Tomatoes With Rice – My Tuscan Family’s Favorite Vegetarian Meal.

Carciofi alla Giudia

various fried artichokes served on a white platter on a wooden table.

(Pronounced cahr-choh-fee ahl-lah jew-dee-ah in Italian)

March is the height of artichoke season in Italy and these carciofi alla giudia are one of the best ways you can enjoy them. In Rome, specifically in the Jewish quarter, you can easily find these deep fried artichokes resembling a golden flower at any restaurant or trattoria. 

Puntarelle alla Romana

(Pronounced poon-tah-rehl-leh ahl-lah roh-man-ah in Italian)

Puntarelle alla Romana is a cold salad made from Catalonian chicory that is thinly sliced and dressed in olive oil, garlic, salt and anchovies.  

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Liguria

More on Ligurian food traditions in Traditional Food of Liguria.

Lasagne al Pesto e Patate

lasagne with potatoes and pesto close up on white platter garnished with basil.

(Pronounced lah-sahn-yeh ahl peh-stoh eh pah-tah-teh in Italian)

Lasagne al pesto e patate is made by layering fresh lasagna sheets, thinly sliced potatoes, béchamel sauce, pesto and parmesan cheese together in a casserole pan and baking until crisp. Be sure to try this in Liguria as you won’t find it in other regions in Italy. 

Focaccia 

Slices of Ligurian focaccia piled on a white marble surface.
My favorite focaccia that I make at home when I can’t buy it fresh

(Pronounced foh-kahch-chah in Italian)

Focaccia is Luguria’s famous vegan flatbread characterized by a puffy, pillowy center made possible by using a brine when baking. Focaccia is a great snack, street food or breakfast item to try throughout Italy but the best is from Genoa. 

Mesciua 

(Pronounced mehs-choo-ah in Italian)

Mesciua means “mixed/mixture” in the local dialect, referring to the melting pot of ingredients in this hearty soup including chickpeas, pearl barley, cannellini beans, buckwheat, olive oil, bay leaves, sage, and broth.

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Lombardy

Discover all of Lombardy’s dishes in Traditional Food of Lombardy.

Risotto alla Milanese

close up of white plate with bight yellow rice on marble background. only showing half of the plate.
Risotto alla milanese is one of our family’s favorite vegetarian meals

(Pronounced ree-soht-toh ahl-lah mee-lahn-eh-seh in Italian)

Risotto alla Milanese is a creamy rice flavored with saffron. Look for it at any restaurant in Milan and throughout Lombardy, especially in the winter months. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Molise

To learn more about the food in Molise, consider reading Traditional Food of Molise.

Sagna

(Pronounced sahg-nah in Italian)

Sagna is made from homemade pasta and locally grown legumes flavored with carrots, onion, celery. It may be flavored with bacon or pancetta so be sure to confirm it’s actually vegetarian before ordering. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Piedmont

Discover all of Piedmont’s culinary delights in Traditional Food In Piedmont.

Risotto al Barolo

side view of a plate of purple risotto rice on a white plate garnished with a fresh basil leaf.

(Pronounced ree-soht-toh ahl bahr-oh-lo in Italian)

Risotto al Barolo is a slow-cooked rice dish flavored with the famous Barolo red wine, resulting in a bright pink risotto. Sometimes, sausage or borlotti beans are added to beef things up (read the menu or ask before ordering). 

Tajarin con Burro e Salvia 

(Pronounced tah-yahr-een cohn boor-roh eh sahl-vee-ah in Italian)

Tajarin con burro e salvia is a rich pasta dish made from fresh, handmade egg pasta dressed in a butter and sage sauce

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Puglia

Learn more about the food of Puglia in Traditional Food of Puglia

Orecchiette con Cime di Rape

Plate of orecchiette pasta with a broccoli pesto.
Orecchiette con cime di rape that my kids and I made together with vegetables from our garden

(Pronounced ohr-rehk-kee-eht-teh cohn chee-meh dee rah-peh in Italian)

Orecchiette con cime di rape is Puglia’s most iconic pasta made from homemade small pasta ‘ears’ dressed in a sauce of bitter turnip greens, olive oil and garlic.

We recommend: For the best orecchiette con cime di rape, try the osteria Vini e Cucina (Bari).

Polpette di Pane

(Pronounced pohl-peht-teh dee pah-neh in Italian)

Polpette di pane is a classic Italian way of using stale bread to make vegetarian ‘meatballs’ flavored with milk, egg, parsley and other herbs. Deep fried until golden, these little guys are best enjoyed as a snack or secondo.

Fava e Cicoria

(Pronounced fah-vah eh chee-coh-ree-ah in Italian)

Fave e cicoria is made by mashing cooked fava beans into a purée and topping them with sauteed bitter greens, finished with a heavy drizzle of good olive oil. Filling, nutritious and simple! This is also a great vegan dish to try while traveling in Italy. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Sicily

For more on the abundance that Sicily has to offer, read Traditional Sicilian Food.

Insalata Siciliana

close up of a white plate with fennel and orange salad finished with black olives in a marble countertop.
The fennel and orange salad I make in the winter when oranges are in season

(Pronounced een-sah-lah-tah see-sheelee-ah-nah in Italian)

Insalata Siciliana is an orange and fennel salad enjoyed throughout Italy with small modifications and variations (with olives, raisins, pine nuts, for example). 

Make it: Insalata Sicilian is an easy, wholesome salad to make at home with my step-by-step instructions for Italian Fennel and Orange Salad – A Winter Salad Recipe from Sicily.

Pane con Panelle

(Pronounced pah-neh cohn pahn-nehl-leh in Italian)

Pane con panelle is a sandwich made from fried chickpea fritters. You can also order the panelle without the bread and eat them for a ‘lighter’ snack option (or more easily shared). 

Pasta alla Norma

top angled view of pasta alla norma made with cavatelli with a fork in the middle.

(Pronounced pah-stah ahl-lah nohr-mah in Italian)

Pasta alla norma is Sicily’s most iconic pasta dish made from a tomato sauce flavored with fried eggplant and basil, finished with a heavy grating of ricotta salata. 

We Recommend: Nuova Trattoria del Forestiero (Catania) is known to have the best pasta alla norma around.

Pasta con le Fave 

(Pronounced pah-stah cohn leh fah-veh in Italian)

Pasta con le fave from Catania is a hearty vegetarian dish made by cooking broken up spaghetti in a broad bean purée.

Caponata

(Pronounced cah-poh-nah-tah in Italian)

Caponata is a vegetarian side dish made from fried eggplant, pine nuts, raisins, capers, olives, sugar and vinegar, which are all stewed together into a type of chunky spread or thick compote with a salty-sweet bite. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Trentino South-Tyrol

To learn more about the food in Trentino, check out Traditional Food of Trentino-Alto Adige

.Canederli

close up of white shallow bowl with three canederli in broth on light blue cloth.

(Pronounced cah-nehd-ehr-lee)

Canederli are bread dumplings made with stale bread, flour, milk, and eggs, flavored with different ingredients including local cheese, speck and wild herbs. The dumplings are then cooked and served in a rich broth. Oftentimes, however, the broth is made from beef so double check that these can be prepared vegetarian before committing. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Tuscany

To learn more about the food in Tuscany, check out
The Best Cheap Eats in Tuscany – 8 Unforgettable Tuscan Street Foods
10 Foods You Must Try On Your First Visit To Florence
15 Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurants In Florence

Fagioli All’Uccelletto

top view of round ceramic dish filled with white beans stewed with tomato sauce with a spoon for serving in the dish on a marble background.

(Pronounced fah-joh-lee ahl-ooch-chehl-leht-toh in Italian)

Fagioli all’uccelletto is a contorno or side dish made from white cannellini beans stewed in garlic, tomato sauce and olive oil. Look for it under the contorno section of any menu at restaurants in Florence and Tuscany.

Eat It In Florence: Check out my recommendations for the best restaurants to try fagioli all’uccelletto in Where Locals Eat In Florence, Where to Eat Bistecca Fiorentina in Florence and Restaurants to Try on Your First Trip to Florence.

Fagioli All’Olio

top view of a rectangle dish with fagioli on a marble surface.

(Pronounced fah-joh-lee ahl-ohl-eeoh in Italian)

Fagioli all’olio are white cannellini beans cooked with sage, garlic and olive olio. Order them paired with several other contorni to make a whole vegetarian meal out of sides. 

Make It: Fagioli all’olio are easy (and cheap) to make at home with my step-by-step instructions.

Can’t Get Enough of Cannellini Beans? Check out Homerun Italian Cannellini Beans Recipes For Dinner.

Schiacciata

Hand holding up schiacciata in front of a bakery in Italy.
The schiacciata I always order in Montepulciano

(Pronounced skee-ahch-chah-tah in Italian)

Schiacciata is Tuscan-style focaccia characterized by a chewy center and a crisp, golden exterior. You can buy it as a snack all’olio (with olive oil) or topped with various items like tomatoes, olives, grilled vegetables and even hot dogs! 

Buy It: Check out the best places to get schiacciata in A Local’s Favorite Bakeries in Florence and Where to Get Schiacciata in Florence

Pici

Plate of pici pasta with aglione sauce in a white dish.

(Pronounced pee-chee in Italian)

Pici is hand-rolled, thick spaghetti from the Val d’Orcia area of Tuscany originally made with flour and water and served with a traditional beef ragù or all’aglione, a very garlicky tomato sauce (which is my preference). 

I Recommend: Trattoria La Pace – Via del Teatro, 3, Celle sul Rigo, San Casciano dei Bagni.

Cecina

hand holding a piece of cecina wrapped in a piece of parchment paper with outdoors in background.
The cecina I make at home for a vegetarian snack

(Pronounced cheh-chee-nah in Italian) 

Cecina is a thin vegan flatbread made from chickpea flour cooked in a brick oven, most commonly eaten as street food. Check out Isola dell’Elba and other coastal towns in Tuscany for the best cecina, also called farinata. 

Make It: Cecina is a very easy recipe to recreate at home. Follow our full instructions for Tuscany’s Best Street Food is Vegan: Cecina Recipe.

Good To Know: Another bean snack I enjoy here – lupini beans.

Pappa al Pomodoro

(Pronounced pahp-pah ahl-poh-moh-doh-roh in Italian) 

Pappa al pomodoro is a thick soup generally eaten in the winter, or at room temperature in warmer weather made from stale bread that is stewed in tomato sauce to make a simple yet satisfying vegetarian stew. 

Nice to Know: Pappa al pomodoro is vegan and it’s super easy to replicate at home. Follow our full guide and step-by-step instructions to Pappa al Pomodoro Recipe – Tuscan Tomato Soup (with Bread).

Ribollita

Close up of white dish of Tuscan ribollita with spoon.

(Pronounced ree-bohl-lee-tah in Italian)

Ribollita is my absolute favorite primo from Tuscany made from stale bread cooked with winter vegetables. 

Make It: Ribollita is a fun dish to try at home after you get back from your travels. Read our full recipe for Authentic Tuscan Ribollita Recipe – Straight from Italy!

Farinata con Cavolo Nero

Hand holding blue bowl of farinata con cavolo nero. There is a spoon in the bowl and the bowl is held over a white marble counter.
A bowl of my farinata with cannellini beans and kale

(Pronounced fah-ree-nah-tah cohn cah-voh-loh neh-roh in Italian) 

Farinata con cavolo nero is a soft, creamy polenta dish cooked with kale and other vegetables, served with lots of olive oil. Another great example of vegan cooking in an authentic Tuscan dish.

Make It: Farinata con cavolo nero is super easy to recreate at home with my recipe, Farinata Con Cavolo Nero.

Panzanella

Close up from above of white plate with fresh panzanella salad.
Panzanella for my family in the summer, made with our own produce

(Pronounced pahn-zah-nehl-lah in Italian)

Panzanella is a summer salad created early on as a way to use leftover bread. The stale bread is rehyrated with a bit of water and flavored with summer vegetables such as onions, cucumber, tomatoes, herbs, a splash of vinegar, salt and plenty of good olive oil. 

Don’t Miss: The Sant’Ambrogio market in Florence is a beautiful and authentic open air market with a covered section. Head indoors to Trattoria di Rocco in the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio for some of Tuscany’s best and most seasonal dishes around, ideal for eating with kids in Florence!

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Sardinia

To learn more about the food in Sardinia, you may want to check out Traditional Food of Sardinia.

Culurgiones

close up of Culurgiones in tomato sauce and cheese.

(Pronounced coo-loor-zohn-ehz in Italian)

Culurgiones are large handmade ravioli filled with potatoes, pecorino, and mint, served in a butter and sage sauce or tomato sauce.

Food Festivals: Check out the sagra dei culurgiones, a food festival in celebration of this vegetarian dish every summer in Sardinia.

Insalata di Carciofi e Bottarga 

(Pronounced in-sah-lah-tah dee cahr-choh-fee eh boht-tahr-gah in Italian)

Insalata di carciofi is an artichoke salad made with a generous grating of bottarga, dried fish roe, giving it an extra kick of flavor. Look for this artichoke salad made in different ways throughout all of Italy if you can’t make it to Sardinia. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Umbria

To learn more about the food in Umbria, read Umbria Food Guide.

Arvortolo

(Pronounced ahr-vohr-toh-loh in Italian)

Arvortolo is a fried pizza enjoyed as a street food in Umbria with origins in Perugia. Over time, a sweet version has been developed as well, perfect as a winter snack. 

Bandiera

(Pronounced bahn-dee-ehr-ah in Italian)

Bandiera, meaning flag in Italian, is an Umbrian side dish made from green peppers, white onions and red tomatoes. Served with bread, this stew-like side dish is hearty and 100% vegetarian. 

Farrecchiata di roveja

(Pronounced fahr-rehk-keeah-tah dee roh-veh-yah in Italian) 

Farrecchiata di roveja is one of the must-try vegetarian dishes from Umbria made from a local legume that are cooked as polenta and flavored with olive oil and garlic. Be sure to confirm this is vegetarian before ordering because sometimes anchovies are added for extra flavor. 

Vegetarian Dishes To Try In Veneto

To learn more about the food in Veneto, check out
Traditional Food of Veneto
20+ Must-Try Foods And Drinks In Venice – And My Favorite Places To Eat Them

Radicchio Alla Griglia

Fresh radicchio in a wicker basket at the Rialto Market in Venice, Italy.

(Pronounced rah-deek-keeoh ahl-lah greel-yah in Italian)

Radicchio alla griglia is grilled radicchio, normally served as a side dish to grilled meats and fish (but you can order it without the meat, of course). The best is made from il Rosso di Treviso Tardivo.

Risotto alla Trevigiana

risotto con radicchio / with radicchio served in a shallow white bowl on white background.

(Pronounced ree-soht-toh ahl-lah treh-vee-yahn-ah in Italian)

Risotto alla trevigiana is a creamy rice flavored with a local radicchio variety that grows well on the islands of Venice. 

Fun Fact: In Veneto, risotto is normally made all’onda, meaning “with waves,” referring to the slightly more liquid consistency of the risotto when compared to risotto from other areas of Italy. 

Risotto Primavera

top view of a white plate filled with risotto primavera on a marble board from top view, off centered.

(Pronounced ree-soht-toh pree-mah-vehr-ah in Italian)

Risotto primavera is a risotto flavored with asparagus, spring onions, shallots, fresh peas and broad beans (sometimes made with asparagus) made in the spring. 

Venice Travelers: You may be interested in Eating Vegan In Venice, Italy – My Top Five Vegan Friendly Restaurants and Eating Vegetarian In Venice, Italy – My Top Five Vegetarian Friendly Restaurants + Tips.

Tramezzino

Display of tramezzino sandwiches in bar in Venice, Italy.

(Pronounced trah-mehz-zee-noh in Italian)

Tramezzini are individual crustless sandwiches made from white bread and filled with ingredients that pair well with mayo such as tomato, zucchini and mozzarella. Watch out though, as many tramezzini are not vegetarian. Just confirm before ordering as the choices will be vast at any bar, bacaro or restaurant in Venice.

Eating in Italy Basics: If you are curious to know more about navigating dining in Italy, you may be interested in
How To Order Food In Italian
Tipping In Italy – When & How Much From A Local
What Is A Coperto?  All About Italy’s Cover Charge
A Visitor’s Guide To Eating In Italy
How To Order Food In Italian