We chatted with Nadia Fragnito of The Vegan Italian Kitchen about the adaptability of Italian food with its emphasis on fresh produce and seasonal eating.

Nadia will be sharing her extensive knowledge in a talk and demonstration at the Healesville Library during Ciao Yarra Valley Ciao this November. You might be surprised how easy it is to ‘veganise’ many classic Italian favourites.

Nadia Fragnito, ciao yarra valley ciao, vegan italian cooking

What do you find most inspiring about vegan Italian?

So many of my favourite Italian dishes are what I like to call 'accidentally vegan.' When you look at the traditional dishes of southern Italy, they're more likely to use olive oil instead of butter or make fresh pasta without eggs. But for those dishes that aren't classically vegan, each one can be veganised using just a dash of creativity. I want people of all backgrounds to know that they can still be vegan and honour their food heritage at the same time. 

How does the "Italian way" shape your life? 

It's about being passionate in all aspects of life, as well as food. It's about loving the ingredients you cook with, and for me, being vegan, I know I'm honouring an animal's life by not eating them; that's the true nature of being loving.

Living the Italian way is about embracing your authentic self and not being afraid to express that. It's about enjoying the little things in life and turning them into feasts and festivities. There really is nothing better than being surrounded by wonderful company, conversation and mountains of delicious food.

What recipe are you most proud of that you've 'veganised' and that we might be surprised about?

There are so many! I just love seeing the 'a-ha!' moment when people realise how achievable vegan Italian really is. 

I have a calamari dish using King Oyster Mushrooms, wakame and vegan fish sauce. It replicates the texture and flavour of seafood. It's quite amazing. You can pan fry it, crumb and deep fry it or add it to your favourite pasta dish for a version of 'spaghetti marinara.'

I also have a soft spot for my latest Tiramisu recipe which takes the traditional egg white and egg yolk custard base and veganises it with chickpea brine, also known as 'aquafaba' for the egg whites and an eggy cornflour custard for the egg yolks. 

But I also love the simplicity of turning firm tofu into ricotta and using thin slices of marinated tofu for crispy bacon in a carbonara sauce.

 More info

Nadia has appeared on SBS' "The Chef's Line" season two, teaches Italian Cooking Classes around Melbourne and writes for her own blog at theveganitaliankitchen.com.