5 Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals for Under $3

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Here are 5 Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals that are delicious AND budget-friendly! These meals are perfect for a weeknight dinner or lunch, if made in advance.

Today we’re at it again with another budget-friendly recipe series! Last time we tackled Mexican, but this time we’re taking the Italian route.

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals From My Bowl

Like my last “5 Meals Under $5” series, I went to the grocery store with a $25 budget to create all of these recipes. I went to ALDI and Trader Joe’s this time, and here’s what I got:

Vegan-Inspired Italian Meals FromMyBowl

All of these groceries came to $24.75, so I was right on budget! However, I will say that the most expensive meal only costs $2.68, so technically we can say you’re getting 5 Italian-Inspired Vegan meals for under $3 each 🙂

Be sure to check out my YouTube video (embedded at the end of this post) for more details + instructions, but for now let’s get to cooking!

Recipe 1: Pasta with Veggies and Marinara

Total Cost per Serving: $0.74

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl

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Pasta with Veggies and Marinara

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl
  • Yield: 2 people 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 servings Pasta of Choice (I used Whole Wheat Spaghetti)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Large Zucchini, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cup Eggplant, diced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1/2 cup Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup Marinara Sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning (optional, if your Sauce is not flavored)
  • Nutritional Yeast, to sprinkle on top

Instructions

  1. Rinse and slice all veggies. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta according to package instructions. 
  2. Add a splash of water or vegetable broth to a large pan and add in the Garlic, Zucchini, and Eggplant. Cover and let steam for 5-10 minutes, until tender.
  3. Add the Cannellini Beans, Marinara Sauce, and optional Italian Seasoning to the pan and stir until everything is heated and well-combined.
  4. Drain your Pasta, then add it to the sauté pan and mix it into the sauce (tongs work best for this).
  5. Divide the Pasta and Veggies evenly into two bowls, then top with Nutritional Yeast.

Notes

Cannellini Beans may be substituted for any other bean of choice.

Recipe 2: Spaghetti Alfredo

Total Cost per Serving: $1.27

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl

 

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Spaghetti Alfredo

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 3 people 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 servings Pasta of Choice (I used Whole Wheat Spaghetti)
  • 1 Large Zucchini
  • 1 cup Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • 1/4 19 oz. block Organic Firm Tofu
  • 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 1 cup Baby Bella Mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Peel the Zucchini and chop it into thin slices. Add it to a small pot or pan with a splash of water and cover. Let cook over medium heat until translucent and soft, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook your Pasta according to the package instructions. 
  3. In a blender, combine the cooked Zucchini, Soy Milk, Tofu, Lemon Juice, Nutritional Yeast, and generous amounts of Salt and Pepper. Blend until thick and creamy, then set aside.
  4. In a large pan, add a splash of water or vegetable broth and bring to medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sliced mushrooms to the pan and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid.
  5. Pour the Alfredo Sauce into the pan and bring it up to heat, then add in your (drained) pasta. Stir well until evenly incorporated into the sauce, then serve. 
  6. Top with additional Pepper and Nutritional Yeast, if desired.

Notes

Soy Milk may be substituted for any other plant milk of choice

Recipe 3: Gnocchi with Pink Sauce

Total Cost per Serving: $0.75

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl

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Gnocchi with Pink Sauce

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 80 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 Small Gold Potatoes
  • 1 1/2+ cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Marinara Sauce
  • 2/3 cup Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Frozen Peas
  • Nutritional Yeast, to sprinkle on top

Instructions

  1. Place your potatoes on a lined baking sheet (do not rinse), and bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes, until tender.
  2. Once cool enough to touch, scoop the insides of the potatoes into a large bowl and discard the skins. Mash the potatoes with a fork, until no large clumps remain.
  3. Add in 1/2 cup of Flour and 1/2 tsp of Salt to the bowl and stir well. Continue to add flour to the potato mixture until a smooth and slightly damp dough forms (this will vary based on your potatoes, but you will probably add more than you expect).
  4. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then roll it out into thin logs about 1″ wide. Slice each log into 1/2″ pieces to form your gnocchi (Note: if you have too much gnocchi, store the “raw” dough pieces in the freezer at this point for later use)
  5. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and add the Gnocchi to a pot; they have finished cooking once they rise to the top of the boiling water. I find it easiest to use a slotted spoon to remove the gnocchi for this step, as they will not all cook at the same rate.
  6. Add a splash of water to a large pan over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and peas and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add in the Marinara Sauce and Soy Milk, stirring to combine. Once this mixture is heated, add the cooked Gnocchi to the pan and mix well.
  8. Place your Gnocchi and Pink Sauce into serving bowls, then top with Nutritional Yeast.

Notes

I have not tested this recipe with any other flours, and therefore cannot recommend any substitutions

Soy Milk may be substituted for any other plant milk of choice

Recipe 4: Eggplant Lasagna

Total Cost per Serving: $2.68

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl

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Gluten Free Eggplant Lasagna

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 80 minutes
  • Total Time: 95 minutes
  • Yield: 1 Serving 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Large Eggplant, cut into thin slices
  • 1 Large Zucchini, cut into bite sizes pieces
  • 1/3 cup Frozen Peas, thawed
  • 1/3 cup Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup Marinara Sauce
  • 1/31/2 of the Tofu Ricotta Recipe, see below

For the Tofu Ricotta:

  • 3/4 19 oz. block Organic Firm Tofu
  • 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 34 cloves Garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • Black Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. 
  2. Thinly slice the Eggplant lengthwise and chop the Zucchini. Place on a lined baking tray and cook for 20 minutes at 375F. Keep the oven at 375F to cook the lasagna.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the Tofu Ricotta. Add all of the Ingredients into a blender or Food Processor and combine until thick and creamy.
  4. Once the Eggplant and Zucchini have cooked, prepare the lasagna. In a small oven-safe glass dish, layer the Eggplant (the “pasta”) with the Marinara Sauce, Ricotta, Zucchini, Beans, and Peas. Top the lasagna off with one last layer of Eggplant, plus a thick layer of Marinara Sauce and the Ricotta. Add a sprinkle of Italian Seasoning, if desired
  5. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes covered, then 20 minutes uncovered. Serve and Enjoy.

Notes

Cannellini Beans may be substituted with any other bean of choice.

Recipe 5: Dairy-Free Ricotta & Veggie Pizza

Total Cost per Serving: $2.41

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl

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Dairy Free Ricotta & Veggie Pizza

Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals Budget friendly frommybowl
  • Prep Time: 70 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 85 minutes
  • Yield: 0 servings 1x
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 tsp Coconut Sugar (or other dry sugar of choice)
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water
  • 1 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour, Divided
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2/3 cup Marinara Sauce
  • 1/2 Medium Zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Eggplant, diced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1/2 cup Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 of Tofu Ricotta recipe, see below

For the Tofu Ricotta:

  • 3/4 19 oz. block Organic Firm Tofu
  • 2 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 34 cloves Garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • Salt and Black Pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. First, prepare the pizza dough. In a large non-metal bowl, combine the Yeast, Warm Water, and Coconut Sugar. Stir gently, then let sit for 5-7 minutes, or until the yeast blooms and there is a layer of “foam” on the top of the liquid.
  2. While you are waiting, combine 1 cup of Flour with 1/2 tsp of Salt in a separate bowl and set aside. 
  3. Once the yeast is ready, add in the remaining 1/2 cup of Flour (the flour you did NOT mix with the salt) to the bowl and stir well. Then, add the Flour and Salt mixture to the bowl in small increments. 
  4. Eventually, you will need to transfer the dough to a counter and knead with your hands. Knead for 5-7 minutes, or until the dough is soft, but not sticky. Add any additional flour in 1 tbsp increments, if needed.
  5. Rinse out the large bowl, and return the kneaded dough to it. Cover and let sit in a warm place for 45 – 60 minutes. 
  6. In the meantime, prepare the Tofu Ricotta. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and combine until thick and creamy. Set Aside.
  7. Add a splash of water or veggie broth to a medium pan over medium heat, then add the Zucchini and Eggplant, cooking until translucent. Set Aside. (Note: this step is optional, but will ensure that the Eggplant and Zucchini are thoroughly cooked)
  8. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  9. Once your dough has risen, place it on a flour-dusted surface, and roll it into your desired pizza shape. Place onto a pizza stone or baking tray lined with either a silicone mat or parchment paper, then top with Marinara Sauce, Mushrooms, Eggplant, Zucchini, Nutritional Yeast, and dollops of the Tofu Ricotta.
  10. Bake at 425F for 15-18 minutes, until golden and crispy. Serve, and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes

I have not tested this recipe with any other flours besides Whole Wheat Flour, so that is the only substitution I would recommend.

Finally, if you make any of these recipes, be sure to tag me on Instagram @frommybowl + #frommybowl so I can see your delicious AND budget-friendly recreations! 🙂

If you want to see these Italian-Inspired Vegan Meals in action, check out the full recipe video for them below:

About the Author

Hey there, I’m Caitlin! I make easy-to-follow, wholesome, and budget-friendly vegan recipes that are mostly gluten-free and refined sugar-free. I’m also an avid yogi, love the great outdoors, am chocolate-obsessed, and enjoy eating almond butter straight off of the spoon.

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