Cookbook Review: Vegan Italiano, Donna Klein (2006)

April 22nd, 2013 12:29 pm by Kelly Garbato

Why hello, never ending vegan pasta bowl!

five out of five stars

I received a copy of Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano for Christmas – and in the few short months that I’ve owned it, I’ve managed to tear through nearly three dozen recipes. This is unprecedented for me, cookbook hoarder and master procrastinator that I am. But I also love, love, LOVE pasta, and since the dishes all sound so incredible, my biggest challenge was choosing just one to start.

(As it turns out, the inaugural recipe was Frying-Pan Pizza, and it was a game changer. Hearty, doughy pizza! In less than 20 minutes! MAGIC!)

Among the recipes I tried:

* Italian-Style Butter Bean Dip (page 4)
* Sicilian-Style Tomato Spread (page 13)
* Cauliflower Soup with Parsley (page 16)
* Baked Vegetable Soup (page 21)
* Tomato and Bread Stew with Pasta (page 27)
* Olive Croutons (page 34)
* Farfalle with Sundried Tomato-Mint Pesto and a side of Fresh Broccoli Marinara (pages 53 and 99)
* Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds (page 54)
* Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala and a side of Roasted Carrots with Rosemary and Sage (pages 55 and 101)
* Fusilli with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts with a side of Green Beans with Walnut Sauce (pages 56 and 103)
* Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon (page 58)
* Linguine with Broccoli Sauce and Garlic (page 59)
* Linguine with Caper and Green Olive Marinara Sauce (page 60)
* Linguine with Potatoes, Green Beans, and Spinach-Walnut Pesto (page 62)
* Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce (page 64)
* Potato Gnocchi with Sundried Tomato-Almond Pesto (page 73)
* Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie (page 76)
* Spaghetti with Red Wine and Rosemary Marinara Sauce and Skillet Garlic Bread (pages 78 and 138)
* Baked Herbed Rice (page 83)
* Lemon-Pine Nut Rice (page 84)
* Microwave Risotto with Saffron (page 86)
* Risotto with Zucchini and Sundried Tomatoes (page 89)
* Baked Mixed Vegetable Casserole (page 125)
* Pesto Pizza with a Semolina Crust (pages 132 and 130)
* Frying-Pan Pizza (page 134)
* Baked Garlic Bread (page 138)
* Spinach Pesto Pasta with a side of Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic (pages 144 and 102)
* Lemon-Basil Pesto Sauce (page 145; paired with angel hair and sweet corn)

I blogged each dish as I went, so I won’t bother rehashing each one here – but you can click through the recipe titles to see photos and read more about any given recipe.

Vegan Italiano Mosaic

As was expected (did I mention my carb addiction?), there were very few dishes that I didn’t absolutely love. Growing up my mom made pasta on a weekly basis, but my experiences were mostly limited to spaghetti and meat sauce. Klein introduced me to a number of new vegan favorites: the ‘Linguine with Roasted Pepper, Tomato, and Garlic Sauce’ is out of this world, as is the ‘Sicilian Skillet Pasta Pie’ – and the ‘Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Marsala’ and ‘Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds’ aren’t too shabby either. And the ‘Linguine with Breadcrumbs and Lemon’? AH-MAY-ZING. I never would have thought to mix breadcrumbs with pasta, but now I’m putting them on all the things.

(Adding quotes because the recipe titles seem to bleed together otherwise.)

The vegetable sides are nothing to scoff at, either. The ‘Fresh Broccoli Marinara’ and ‘Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic’ are both melt-in-your mouth good, and I can’t wait to try the walnut sauce from the ‘Green Beans with Walnut Sauce’ on foods other than beans (not that the beans aren’t delicious): pasta, pizza, baked potatoes.

Lest you think the majority of the book involves pasta, Klein divvies it up pretty evenly between appetizers, soups, salads, pasta, rice, vegetables and beans, pizzas and sandwiches, and desserts. All in all, the chapter on pasta weighs in at just over 40 pages.

Klein sticks to authentic Italian ingredients, eschewing vegan meat and cheese alternatives such as tofu, seitan, soy meat, and soy- and nut-based cheeses. While many reviewers count this as a positive, I’m torn: I’m not always thrilled when cookbook authors rely too heavily on name-brand, prepackaged vegan meats and cheese, but in avoiding meat-and dairy-heavy dishes altogether, Klein’s cookbook seems incomplete.

For example, there’s not an Alfredo sauce to be found, even though this cheesy sauce can easily be replicated through the use of tofu or even cashews. (Pro tip: Lane Gold’s Vegan Junk Food, The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe by Mark Reinfeld, and Tami Noyes’s American Vegan Kitchen all contain some pretty awesome versions.) Also, while I love the ‘Skillet Pasta Pie,’ it’s not nearly as good as the ‘Spaghetti Pie’ from American Vegan Kitchen, which includes a cheesy tofu ricotta (-ish) layer. Vegan parmesan is ridiculously easy to make at home, with just a few simple ingredients (almonds or walnuts, nutritional yeast, salt, and olive oil – nothing weird about that!).

While I found the lack of cheesy dishes disappointing, it’s incredibly simple to introduce vegan meats into some of the recipes, if you’re so inclined. A half a package of Yves ground round took the ‘Spaghetti with Red Wine and Rosemary Marinara Sauce’ to the next level, and it’s easy enough to toss some vegan pepperoni on top of the ‘Frying-Pan Pizza.’ If you don’t have ready access to the store-bought stuff, search around online for some do it yourself recipes. (American Vegan Kitchen and Vegan Brunch both contain some excellent vegan meat recipes.)

If you prefer veganized versions of your favorite meat- and dairy-based Italian dishes, check out Nonna’s Italian Kitchen by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I recently purchased a copy and, while I haven’t yet had a chance to experiment with any of the recipes, a quick perusal reveals that the author doesn’t shy away from “fake” meats and cheeses.

Another complaint I’ve seen is that many of the recipes aren’t recipes at all; for example, jarred marinara sauce is a common “ingredient.” While it’s true that there aren’t nearly as many recipes for pasta sauce as I expected, most of the dishes do involve original recipes. (Happily, there are a number of variations on pesto!) I’m a little bummed that there isn’t at least one recipe for basic Italian bread, but on the plus side, there are instructions for making foccacia dough from scratch.

Aside from the cover, there aren’t any photos to be found in Vegan Italiano. I know that some people prefer lots of glossy food photography in their cookbooks, but a lack of photos doesn’t really bother me. At least for main dishes, I tend to rely on the recipe vs. pictures when choosing which dishes to try. (Desserts are another matter!)

If nutrition is your thing, you’ll be happy to know that Klein includes nutritional info for each recipe: calories, fat, sodium, etc. On my review of her 2012 release, The Chinese Vegan Kitchen, one reader inquired about her use of oil (moderate). Here I’d say that it’s kept to a reasonable minimum and mostly consists of olive oil used to saute veggies – the garlic bread being one notable exception (but so deliciously worth it!).

All in all, a strong 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 on Amazon.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , ,

One Response to “Cookbook Review: Vegan Italiano, Donna Klein (2006)”

  1. Roasted Carrot and Potato Soup & Sicilian Bread Pie with Broccoli » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] just for vegetarians!) and Sicilian Bread Pie with Broccoli from Vegan Italiano, by Donna Klein. (Reviewed yesterday, in point o’ […]

Leave a Reply