Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Guest Post: Vegan Pizza Tips

Some time ago Lenny and Stacy from MyVeganMind.com got in touch and asked me to write a guest post for them. I created an exclusive vegan BBQ menu just for them and it is now live on their website. Go check it out!

In return I asked them to write a post for Self Sufficient Cafe and as they spend 6 months of the year in Italy I asked if it could be Italian themed. You can imagine my delight when they wrote a post about pizza! 

So without further ado I introduce Lenny & Stacy and their top tips on vegan pizza in Italy!
Ciao a tutti! 

Pizza not only is a complete meal in Italy, but also a past­time. A work of art in some areas, if you will. There are a couple of things you need to know to get it right the first time. The trick to getting the perfect pizza is not so much in the ingredients, but a number of other things.

#1: The proper crust. First off, are you a thin­cruster or thick­cruster? Traveling through Italy one will notice that in some regions the thickness of crust varies greatly. Naples is famous for a traditional pizza crust, which is a bit higher and thicker, but not so thick you have to chew for a while. Places such as Tuscany are known for an extremely thin almost cracker like crust. Different flours will help determine the thickness of crust you want, as well as the rolling or tossing technique. It also needs to be determined if one is using yeast or not. Yeast will make the crust fluffier and usually thicker. For example, we used whole wheat/rye flour mix in our pizzas. They remain thinner and do not rise, but in generally are more difficult to work with than white dough simply because more kneading is required. Experiment....the adventure is yours!

#2: The right amount of salt. It’s always a dilemma because adding too much kills the taste of the vegetables on the pizza, but also isn’t so health­friendly. Salt can be added either into the pasta dough, onto the pasta dough after it has been prepared for sauce and vegetables or simply added on top after the pizza is cooked. Salt is not a requirement whatsoever and one can choose his/her level of saltiness.

#3: The right amount of tomato. Adding too much tomato also kills the fresh vegetable taste. Of course, if you love tomatoes, go for it. Fresh tomato sauce is ideal, but will evaporate quicker in the oven since it is mostly water and not so dense. If using some store­bought sauce, check to see if it is diced, stewed, sauce or paste. If you buy tomato paste it will need to be diluted with a bit of water. The paste is the most dense of the different types and will not evaporate like canned sauce or homemade tomato sauce will. The taste will also be different. Obviously fresh tomatoes tastes....well fresher! Is tomato sauce mandatory?? NO! Pizza Bianca is found all over Italy. It is pizza without the tomato sauce 

#4: The right amount of cheese. With the faux cheese we noticed that the mozzarella is generally less strong than the faux provolone we use. In fact, on the pizza the mozzarella really did not add any taste at all so if you want a cheesier taste, go for the provolone. It is best to put the cheese on after you spread the sauce. This way it will melt more evenly and will not burn. Cheese that is added onto the top of the pizza can be added a couple of minutes before the pizza is done.

#5: What vegetables to use? Anything goes. We have used everything on our pizzas and they all came out great! Hard vegetables like potatoes and carrots take a bit long to cook. If mixing them with delicate green vegetables such as spinach it is best to cook the pizza first with the hard veggies then add the spinach a couple of minutes before the pizza is done. Same with broccoli, kale, corn kernels etc. Onions work best if you put them onto the pizza first because the taste absorbs into the crust. We used potatoes, carrots, onions, broccoli, black olives, peas, and red lentils on this one. For a stronger taste you can add garlic and capers.

How vegan is the pizza in Italy? Let’s go over a few very vegan friendly options

There are a few different types of pizza to learn about. Pizza is normally with tomato sauce, but 
you can also get pizza bianca (white pizza) meaning there is no tomato sauce. Many times there is fresh rosemary and salt on it.

1) In Italy, you will never have to worry about cheese filled pizza crust. Does not exist. At most you may have a sfoglia or torta salata where there could be melted cheese and meat inside. A sfoglia can be kind of similiar to a calzone, since they are closed. A torta salata literally mean salty cake. But these are not pizzas. They are completely other dishes.

2) Pizza is in and of itself ONE, as far as meals are concerned. You do not need a first, second 
plate, no need for appetizer. If you get a pizza, it is definitely going to be enough for your stomach, trust me. (though there is always room for vegan dessert). Most pizzas come by the slice, the classic size and some pizzerias, but not all, make a large size for 4­-5 people.

3) The base is always flour, water and salt. Some doughs may include sugar, olive oil or leavening/yeast. The typical flour used will be “00′′, which is plain old white flour. If you have a 
gluten sensitivity, you may want to look for some gluten free options such as kamut. 

4) Not all pizza menus will be in English, so just prepare. Also, not everyone knows what vegan means. Many Pizzeras are now owned by Egyptians or Turks, so they may be learning Italian as their 2nd, 3rd or 4th language! It helps if you take the step forward.

5) A general rule of thumb for crust thickness: farther north is thinner, farther south is thicker.

6) The Marinara is always going to be vegan. It is tomato sauce, olive oil, oregano, basil, garlic and maybe a couple variations, for example maybe the pizzeria uses only oregano because they ran out of basil. Anyways, its vegan. Wherever you go, with family, friends, tours, whatever, the marinara pizza will be your best friend.

Several other pizzas have mozzarella. You can always order a pizza “senza formaggio” (without cheese) or if you have a rough time learning Italian, just say “no mozzarella”, but just make sure they have not added other cheeses onto the pizza. Other cheeses include:

  • Zola ­- Gorgonzola
  • Grana ­Grana Padano - A version of Parmesan
  • Parmigiano ­Reggiano -­ Parmesan
  • Pecorino­  - Sheeps cheese
  • Mozzarella di bufala­ - Buffalo cheese

Let’s review. “No” + anything above and they will understand you.

Meats. There are quite a few meats and instead of memorizing what you don’t want, it’s easier just to simply say “No carne”, (car­neh).

Fish. Sometimes people will not consider fish, meat. Just to make sure it’s helpful to know the 
word for fish. “No pesce”. (pesh­eh) Or just remember Joe Pesci, the actor. Just don’t tell them “no Joe”, they probably will not get the joke.

Eggs. Yes, sometimes they put egg on pizza. You will have to the learn word if you don’t want it in your food. “Uova” (woah­vuh) is eggs, just tell them “No uova” or “senza uova”

**The best bet for veg­friendly pizza in Italy will usually have these names: A vegetariana, ortolana or alle verdure. Always ask because they may have different names.

Buon appetito!

Stacy & Lenny - VegItalyGuide.com


  1. What a helpful post, I love pizza!!

    1. Yep, Lenny & Stacy sure know their pizza!

  2. Loved this post! I've learnt so much!
    I have no trouble ordering cheeseless pizzas in Italian restaurants here in the UK but I never had the confidence to order one last time we were in Italy. I will do next time though... especially as I now know how to say 'no cheese' in Italian :o)

    1. I've not been to Italy yet but would love to go. I'll have to meet up with Lenny & Stacy and they can take me to all the best vegan eateries! :o)


Thanks for leaving a comment, Jasmine x