Andrea is a vegetarian domestic cook who is passionate about the power of plants.
Spaghetti carbonara is a simple yet delicious dish that any domestic cook can whip up in a matter of minutes. Over time, the recipe for this classic Italian dish has occasionally migrated away from its origins. Certain ingredients have been added and replaced—and not necessarily for convenience or taste. By keeping things minimal and simple you can prepare an authentic version of this dish in less than 15 minutes.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
2 big portions
- 300 grams spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 100 grams plant-based bacon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 3 eggs
- Handful mozzarella, shredded
- Paprika, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- Boil water in a large pan. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of olive oil. Throw in your choice of pasta and leave to cook until it's al dente. (Note: This dish works very well with spaghetti. It's even better with the thicker pasta variants such as linguine or spaghettoni.)
- Heat up a frying pan to medium-high heat. Dice your meat-free bacon/pancetta substitute. Begin frying the "meat," then splash with olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and bay leaf to the pan. To enhance the smokey flavour further, season with a dash of paprika.
- Be sure to reduce the heat throughout the cooking of your meat-free substitute. You do not want the pan to be hot at all when adding the next few steps. Once the "meat" has become cooked, remove the garlic cloves and bay leaf from the pan. Take the pan off the heat completely.
- For the sauce, crack in 2 eggs into a bowl then add in an extra yolk to make it extra creamy. Add in a handful of mozzarella, grind in a generous amount of black pepper, then whisk together just like you're making an omelette.
- Before draining your al dente spaghetti, reserve some of the starchy water in a glass or measuring jug. Once the spaghetti is drained, add it into the pan with the "meat" then stir together to ensure the "meat" is evenly distributed.
- Gently poor in the sauce over the spaghetti. To reiterate, if your pan was hot then you would have ended up with scrambled eggs at this stage. The mozzarella may surface so simply stir the pan then sporadically add in some of the starchy water. Be sure not to add in too much water, you just want to make the sauce that little bit creamier.
- Garnish with black pepper.
Vegan Parmigiano vs Pecorino Romano
It may come to a shock to some readers that not all cheeses are vegetarian friendly. Sadly, one of them is Parmigiano-Reggiano due to its inclusion of animal rennet. The truly traditional cheese to use for this dish is Pecorino Romano. Although it is vegetarian friendly, it's not for everyone's taste and it can be a little difficult to find in the store.
Another product that is hard to come by is vegan Parmigiano. There are some great recipes available online that utilise crushed cashews and nutritional yeast to replicate the texture and flavour of Parmigiano. In all honesty though, there's always just a sense that it's not quite the same as the original. For my UK readers there is a fantastic coconut-based product available in Lidl. The only downside to it is that it's so good and so similar to the original cheese that it's very rarely in stock.
This recipe uses mozzarella simply because it's widely available, and it's hard to find someone who doesn't enjoy mozzarella. If your paths do cross vegan Parmigiano or pecorino, I highly advise you include it in this recipe along with a handful of mozzarella. You will not regret it.
- This is meant to be a hassle-free recipe. Keep it simple!
- Forget cream! Using the traditional egg method is simpler and more flavoursome when seasoned perfectly.
- Choose a smoky meat substitute. Stay clear of anything that has "bacon flavouring" in it as it will completely offset the flavour of the dish. If you can't find the perfect product, ham substitutes are usually more widely available for us plant-based eaters. Simply season with some extra smoky paprika.
- Choose a thick pasta. This dish works great with thicker varients of linguini and spaghetti. The large surface area allows the sauce to evenly coat the dish.
- Heat management is key. Be sure to take your frying pan completely off the heat before adding in the pasta and the sauce.
© 2021 Andrea Sciambarella
Andrea Sciambarella (author) from Manchester, UK on March 12, 2021:
Definitely give it a go Liza. Let me know how you get on!
As always, thanks for your comments!
Liza from USA on February 23, 2021:
As usual, I use a cream every time I cook carbonara. However, the recipe you've shared seems easy to follow, and of course, it looks delicious! I have yet to find plant-based bacon at the store. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I'll have to try it!