Adoro il cibo Italiano!

That statement could not be truer.

And if you can’t read Italian or Google translate isn’t that good it says I love Italian food!

There so many options on the Italian menu and almost all can be made gluten free and or vegan.

In a week Italian style meals or element make up almost all of my diet. From full Italian meal to touches added to other style meals.

For me Italian meals are like hugs from inside your belly; making you all warm and snuggly and in this lovely wet and cold end of August were having a big ole belly of warm pasta baked in rich tomartoee sauce is just perfect.

I’ve never been Italy but would love too but I do go to as many Italian restaurants I can or I make my own. There lots of different options in the supermarkets: fresh, frozen, jarred, homemade style and everything else.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite homemade meals, ingredients I use and restaurants I have stumbled across.


The basics….

First thing when I think Italian food I think pasta.

Big bowls of steaming hot squidgy pasta.

Now I know it is meant to be served not so squidgy and Italians around the world will be cursing me but I hate al dente pasta. Squidgy for the win!

I’ve tried all the dry pastas from the major supermarkets here in the UK and there’s not much difference to be honest. They all have similar flavours and texture. I do prefer brown pasta over the white but I can’t always find it.

I have tried the spaghetti, tagliatelle, penne, fusilli, ravioli, cannelloni and tortelli all are lovely additions to any Italian dish. The filled pasta’s tends to be branded names rather that supermarkets own but supermarkets do have some and are slowly bringing in more. Unfortunately the all seem to contain meat or dairy so are normally off my radar.

The Classic….

You think Italian as a British person what do you think

Spaghetti bolognaise.

That luscious bowl of tangley pasta covered in a warming tomato sauce with or without a meaty option added, with it all just waiting to be flicked into your mouth, up your nose, in your eye and basically anywhere above your boobs!

It’s a British/Italian household classic and why shouldn’t it be. We are a multi-cultural land and so should our pallet.

I love spaghetti bolognaise but as of yet I haven’t not found a gluten free vegetarian option in a restaurant. I’ve seen gluten free but they contain meat. So I make my own or a adaptation of the classic.

I tend to make my own sauces, one because it easy and two because I know what I’m putting in it then. I always start with tomato passata; add some tomato puree and seasoning lots and lots of seasoning. I use any old passata and puree normally the cheapest I can find and it always tastes good. Then I add my browned off onions and garlic mixture to it, done.

For the main fluff normally you would add minced meat, yuk!

I have added a multitude of items in the past; all give it a different taste and texture. These have included Quorn mince, chickpeas, butter beans, baked beans, and variety of veggies depending what’s in my fridge or cupboard and the best ingredient puy lentils.

Puy lentils have been send here by the whoever the heck sends us good food! They are so versatile; they make a brilliant base for most meals and work perfectly in Italian dishes.

I’ve only found one type of pre-cooked puy by Merchant. These can be a little costly I think ranging from £2 to £3 per packet depending where you buy them from. However, if you shop savvy like me when you see them on offer you snap up a ton of them! The other week Asda had them in for 75p so I brought about 6 packets!

If lots of veggies or Quorn is not up your street, get yourself to a Ikea for some allemansrätten. These guys have made the most delicious veggie balls I have ever tasted.

And there small so you can fit millions on your plate!

They come in a big bag so there’s plenty to keep you going and at less than £5 for the big bag a bit of a bargain.

Now there isn’t any information on the bag saying they are gluten free but I checked all the ingredients and they are all safe for consumption so I presume they cannot guarantee no cross contamination. Their website says they do not contain gluten, soy, nut, egg or lactose but still no gluten free classification. I have been eating these for a few weeks now however, and are symptom free. But just be careful.


The creamy goodness….

Another firm favourite of mine is carbonara.

I love stodgy food and I find carbonara really stodgy and its beautiful. Now I’m not sure if it is meant to be stodge but that’s how I make it.

I use Alpro soya cream as a base and add my brown onions and garlic mix and season very well. To the sauce I also add cooked mushrooms and cooked Quorn facon which I cut into strips. Plopped on top of my chosen pasta a quick and totally delish meal. For an extra creamy mixture you can add in some soft cheese or your soft cheese equivalent, but this is a super cream fully of flavour calorie fest.


Dinner for two….

Nothing beats food you don’t have to cook yourself. I love dining out as you know and I’ve found that Italian restaurants are a brilliant source of gluten free and/or vegan meals. I have tried many if not all of the big brand restaurants in the UK and all provide gluten free meals but I’ve not tried all the options available. There not all totally gluten free many are non- gluten containing meals which can cause issues for some and those restaurants I’ve visited that cannot provide totally gluten free do state that before I’ve ordered.

Two of my go to restaurants that I know I can walk in and get food are Frankie and Benny’s and Pizza Express.

Frankie and Benny has recently re-vamped their menus and now provide a larger gluten free menu consisting of pasta, pizza, burgers, starters and desserts. The one thing these guys don’t do gluten free is chips.

My staple food source!

However, there menu is so full you don’t really need them.

I chose to go Frankie and Benny’s for my birthday this year after staring at the menu for several hours it seemed I settled on their gluten free vegan fusilli arrabita.

It’s a spicy tomato based dish, which was really nice. Spicy yes but not knock your socks off spicy just a little warmth.

I’ve chosen this dish a few times now as it’s lovely, however each time I’ve had it I just feel there’s something missing. It’s definitely not the flavour or size but there’s just something it needs to make it 10/10. I think it’s because it’s just one flavour. The flavour is good but there’s no dips in and out of different flavours, so after a while it’s just one note.

Maybe I do need them chips!

Pizza Express is another good and safe restaurant for gluten free meals.

And if your with O² you can often get vouchers for meals including £5 mains! Winner!

Normally I will have the dough balls for starters and a pizza for main. There are several different choices of topping you can have all served on a gluten free base.

Pizza bases lack in stability for me, one restaurant you go and their bases are crispy and doughy another you go and it’s like eating cardboard. Pizza Express bases are lovely. Doughy but not soggy and no cardboard in sight.

These guys also do vegan cheese!

And at Christmas they do there dough balls but with a festive twist, they add cinnamon and icing sugar with a warm sweet dip on the side, Christmas cannot come soon enough for my mouth with this restaurant.

If your eating in, home baking or treating yourself to a night out Italian is always a good choice.

Buon Appetito!

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