Carluccio’s Cucina Verde in Covent Garden, London

From 23 October, for four consecutive Mondays, Carluccio’s Covent Garden gets a green makeover, with its first ever exclusively vegetarian pop-up, featuring over 20 Italian veggie and vegan dishes from Antonio Carluccio. Rupert Parker tries a range of them

Verdure

Verdure

Crostini

Crostini

Polpette di Pane

Polpette di Pane

Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Arancini

Arancini

Antonio Carluccio

Antonio Carluccio

Taking vegetables from humble sides to the stars of the show, the entire first floor of the Covent Garden restaurant will be converted into a meatless dining experience, with colourful displays of key ingredients reflecting the quality and provenance of the produce. I get a chance to sample some of the dishes, in the presence of the famous man himself. He tells me that the key to his cooking is simplicity, with the emphasis on quality of ingredients and the focus of highlighting flavours.

Although this is a popup to highlight vegan and vegetarian dishes, these will also make their way onto Carluccio’s Autumn/Winter menu. I start with a sharing verdure board – the selection includes roasted peppers with garlic, tomato and onion, poponcini peppers with pesto, red onion marmalade with goat’s cheese bruschetta, marinated artichokes, balsamic onions, caponata, mint & garlic marinated green beans, mixed olives, caper berries and homemade focaccia.

Next is crostini al funghi – sautéed mushrooms and kale in garlic and chilli on toasted ciabatta. It’s followed by the traditional Puglian dish polpette di pane – meatless bread balls of semi-dried tomatoes, garlic, capers and rustica olives in a tomato sauce on spaghetti. There’s pasta e fagioli, a traditional thick soup of pasta, borlotti beans and tomatoes from northern Italy, and also a porcini mushroom soup.

Pasta dishes include orecchiette al cavoflore with cauliflower purée, sautéed kale, chilli and roasted turmeric cauliflower florets plus penne giardiniera, giant Pugliese penne with crispy spinach balls. It’s worth trying zucca con verdure arrostite – roasted butternut squash and vegetables with pine nuts (served with or without goat’s cheese) and garlic herb breadcrumbs. An old favourite is Antonio’s famous mushroom risotto with a hint of chilli and truffle oil.

The pop-up runs for four Mondays from 23rd October at Carluccio’s 2a Garrick Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9BH. Book online from Friday 13th October or call the restaurant on 020 7836 0990 quoting ‘Cucina Verde’. Otherwise pop into any branch of Carluccio’s and sample their Autumn/Winter menu. You can also cook the dishes yourself with the help of Antonio’s Vegetables book.

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