Mixing naughty and nice: vegetable carbonara
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.
- 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!