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Mixing naughty and nice: vegetable carbonara

March 8, 2011

So many recipes I see for carbonara make egg yolks, cream and cheese sound like the devil’s food. I’ll admit I wouldn’t want to eat carbonara sauce everyday – but that’s the point, I don’t. Plus, with this vegetable version, you can have your carbonara and eat it too. I suppose if you really wanted you could sneak some bacon, pancetta or guanciale in there too, since that’s sort of traditional. What’s best is that your carbonara will only be improved, because let’s face it – serious carbonara is a bit rich, and what better way to cut through that richness than with a few florets of broccoli, or cauliflower, or peas? Mushrooms are another wonderful possibility, especially if you fry them on one layer in batches, not crowding them so they go all golden brown around the edges. Let your mood guide you.

I wanted a nice crunchy nutty contrast to the silky pasta, and what better vegetables go with cheese than cauliflower and broccoli? I got the purple stuff from the farmers market, and it was truly lovely. I threw in a few stray yellow cherry tomatoes too, just because I had them lying around and I knew they’d up the sweetness of the dish a little. I also used a little truffle salt but didn’t really taste it in the end product, so I’d try it with mushrooms next time so it’s actually detectable.

This recipe is much more of a per-person guide, partly because it suits the quick and easy nature of this classic comfort dish, and partly because I’ve never followed a recipe when making it. The per person amounts end up making quite a small sort of dish, but since the dish is still quite rich I’ve kept things minimal, since this can’t be “leftover.” If you’re still not full afterwards, that’s just excuse for dessert, right?

A quick note also to say that I’ll be heading off to Queenstown for a few days, so won’t be responding very quickly to online contact. We kindly got offered some very affordable accomodation so are getting away from the helicopters constantly dominating the sound-scape in Christchurch, often at night. I’m not complaining (especially being so lucky!), but it will be nice to be able to relax a little before Uni hits.

Vegetable carbonara pasta

Thanks to Fritos & Foie Gras for the basic guide to carbonara…and apologies for bastardising it further, haha.

per person:

  • 1 egg yolk (freeze the whites for another use)
  • about 2 Tbs cream
  • about 20g, or half a handful finely grated, pecorino or parmesan
  • a stunning amount of freshly ground black pepper, and salt to taste
  • a large handful of veges, cut into bite size pieces (broccoli, cauliflower, peas, sliced mushrooms, finely diced carrots, finely diced onion – if using last three, you also need cooking oil)
  • optional: fried bacon, or guanciale, or pancetta
  • a large handful of pasta or a 1″ thick bundle of spaghetti

Whisk cream, egg yolks, black pepper and salt in a small container or bowl, set aside.

Cook pasta in unsalted boiling water, with no oil. When it has started to soften but the inside is still quite raw, add your veges (if using first three listed). Otherwise, while the pasta is cooking, cook the mushrooms/carrot/onion in oil until golden brown flecks appear (use medium heat). If using, fry mushroom in batches on a single layer, or blitz on medium high heat. Cook your meats with the veges if using.

Keep cooking pasta and veges until the veges are just cooked, a tiny bit underdone (they will continue to cook as you mix in the other ingredients). Remove from heat, drain (you can use the cooled cooking water, heavily diluted, to water your garden). Reserve some of the cooking water. Quickly and vigorously stir the egg yolks/cream into the cooked pasta, and once coated, add the finely grated cheese, and stir to coat. Add a little cooking water if things are a bit dry. Taste, and stir in more salt if necessary. Serve immediately, sprinkled with more freshly ground black pepper or truffle salt or some cherry tomatoes for extra pretty colour. If you fried your veges, add those on top, or stir them through the pasta before dishing up. Enjoy!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 9:25 pm

    Yuuuuummmm. Last week I made courgette carbonara, but I could imagine it being so good with broccoli or anything else as well. I mean, if you put some veggies in there it’s pretty much health food, right? And the purple, man. Wish I shopped at your farmers’ market!

    Hope you have a lovely time in Queenstown away from all the aftershocks :)

  2. March 12, 2011 12:04 am

    M: So a health food ;) Especially if you used whole-grain pasta or something. The purple cauli was obtained from Christchurch Farmers Market in Riccarton Bush but I know the growers sell at the Lyttelton one too. Just not sure when that one will be back up, but will head to the Bush tomorrow for more vege goodies! Will be so nice to get my veges from a market again, as nice as Queenstown was!

  3. March 15, 2011 2:53 pm

    Thanks for using my recipe as inspiration!! As you know, I just love any sort of carbonara, so I say, GO FOR IT! As a huge mushroom fan, I can’t wait to add ‘shrooms to MY next pasta!

  4. March 16, 2011 12:58 pm

    S: Hey, thanks for making it look so easy! I also cannot wait to try this with some seriously caramelised onions and browned mushrooms.

  5. josashimi permalink
    March 19, 2011 6:52 pm

    This sounds and looks great. I’m always on the look out for good vegetarian recipes-although..not to eat but to post so I don’t neglect my vegetarian readers!

  6. March 19, 2011 9:27 pm

    J: Well I hope you try one of the recipes one day!

  7. March 20, 2011 1:39 am

    Aha, another use for egg yolks I hadn’t thought of and I have so many recipes for carbonara, bastardized and otherwise. (This one looks great.)

  8. March 20, 2011 11:36 am

    R: There’s a lime tart in the works that also uses 2 egg yolks in the filling. Also have you checked out Irina’s post abut storing yolks in the freezer? Apparently you whisk them up with a pinch of salt and then freeze, and then you defrost them and use them as normal (unless you want an unbroken yolk…but this isn’t often the case.

  9. March 20, 2011 7:56 pm

    I love the colours of your carbonara, that looks so yummy! Glad to find someone blogging in NZ as well.

  10. March 20, 2011 8:21 pm

    R: Likewise! Thanks for commenting and letting me know.

  11. March 21, 2011 9:35 am

    Sounds like yumm yumm yuuum:)

  12. March 21, 2011 10:50 am

    Ah, a carbonara I can feel good about. Thank you.

  13. March 21, 2011 11:31 am

    TWC: It suuure is! :D

    RL: My tastebuds and I concur.

  14. March 23, 2011 9:44 am

    Loving your blog, and your amazing recipes. This one is a bookmark worthy one. Keep up the good work !

  15. March 23, 2011 8:13 pm

    TCC: Thanks :D

  16. September 25, 2011 12:59 am

    I found you via Rufus’ Guide – and I love your version of this dish! I also try to make healthy, vegetarian versions of meals – with varying degrees of success. ;) I think I can learn a lot from you. Thank you for sharing your skills and talents!

    Stef, at

  17. September 25, 2011 2:56 pm

    S: Cheers, I assure you success is not always guaranteed – I only share the successes! :D I think we can learn a lot from eachother!

  18. December 21, 2013 7:07 pm

    it’s Look yum and fantastic
    Thanks for great recipe :)


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