Italian cuisine is known for its use of meat such as veal, prosciutto, and beef shank. So, if you are a vegetarian, you may initially hesitate to go to an Italian restaurant. However, there is some good news: authentic Italian cooking actually includes more vegetarian dishes than you might realize. Here are some authentic, meatless Italian dishes that are well worth trying if you see them on a menu.
Eggplant Parmesan is a delicious, layered dish that consists of breaded eggplant layered with cheeses and red sauce. Most versions use both Parmesan cheese and mozzarella, but there are versions that call for some ricotta, too. The tender eggplant and bed of noodles make this dish a pleasure to eat. The cheese makes it quite filling, in spite of the fact that it does not contain meat.
Ordering pizza at an Italian restaurant may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but if you order Margherita pizza, that is not at all the case. This is perhaps the most authentic of all Italian pizzas. It's made with a thin, crispy crust topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves. If you go to a really good Italian restaurant, they'll likely use San Marzano tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella on the pizza. Both of these ingredients are top-quality and delicious, and will make you forget all about meat.
Risotto is an Italian dish consisting of rice, stock, and a variety of seasonings. It is made with a starchy type of rice that breaks up and creates a smooth sauce when stirred. Some risotto is made with chicken or beef stock, so ask about this before ordering it. Many restaurants will be happy to make yours with veggie stock instead if requested. Look for truffle risotto, as it is flavored with truffles for a delicious, umami taste.
Ravioli are little pasta pockets filled with various ingredients. If you see cheese ravioli on a restaurant menu, those are ravioli filled with ricotta cheese. They are usually served with a delicious red sauce over the top. Sometimes, a restaurant may serve it with a meat sauce by default, but you can typically ask for this to be subbed out for a classic marinara.
Italian restaurants are actually great places to eat when you're a vegetarian. There are plenty of authentic Italian dishes that do not contain meat, such as the examples above. To learn more, cotnact a private dining services that offers Italian food — such as zprime.