Smoky Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara

Smoky Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara

In the previous post on traditional spaghetti carbonara (which can be found here) I said just about everything I have to say about the dish and its origins, so this post will be a bit more personal.

When I was first learning to cook, I thought of spaghetti carbonara as the pinnacle of difficulty. A dish in which the sauce is made with raw egg–how bizarre it seemed to me. How would the egg cook? Wasn’t I risking the dreaded salmonella?

At the time, I was learning to cook primarily by consuming absurd amounts of the Food Network with a friend of mine. We watched the good ones like Iron Chef, but were equally influenced by shows like Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals and Bobby Flay’s Throwdown. I aspired to cook the amazing dishes that I saw on the better shows, but I was living on the budget of a college student, so I tended to cook more on the Rachel Ray side of things.

One weekend, that friend, who had a bit more experience in the kitchen than I did, invited me over to her dorm for spaghetti carbonara (cooked in that awful dorm kitchen) and changed my world. Back then I knew very little about cooking, and that creamy sauce made with just cheese, eggs, and pasta water blew my mind. For me it was the absolute height of class and technique.⁠

If you are coming to this blog at my college-aged skill level, welcome! I promise you that it is all a lot easier than it seems. And spaghetti carbonara is much easier and cheaper than I believed back then–and no less delicious. It is still one of my favorite pasta dishes, and one that now I feel I could whip up pretty easily just about any night of the week. How times have changed!

This recipe obviously eschews the pork, instead using smoked paprika to add a smoky depth of flavor to the sauce. The smokiness that is often lost in traditional carbonara really shines in this dish, complemented by a bit of sweetness from onions and bell pepper. It is certainly not traditional, and might drive some Italian folks to pull their hair out, but it is damn delicious.


vegetarian spaghetti carbonara


Smoky Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara

1 lb. Spaghetti
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
¼ cup olive oil
4 eggs
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt, to taste

In one pot, boil your spaghetti in well-salted water until al dente.

In another pot, sauté the red bell pepper, garlic, and onion in ¼ cup good olive oil. When fragrant and mostly softened, turn off heat.

Beat 4 eggs and add the cup of grated parmesan as well as 1 tsp smoked paprika and ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper. Set aside for now.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Add the pasta to the pot with the vegetables and cook over medium heat until the water is mostly cooked off. Remove from heat.

Whisk ¼ cup of the pasta water into your egg and cheese mixture. Pour this over the pasta slowly, in batches, while stirring. It should make a beautiful creamy sauce.

If the egg in the sauce cooks, your pasta is too hot, allow it to cool more before adding the sauce. If your sauce is too thick, you can further thin it with the reserved pasta water.

Garnish with additional parmesan cheese, smoked paprika, black pepper, finely chopped parsley, and additional salt, if desired.



Related Recipes:

Tomato Bruschetta

Italian-Style Greens

Fennel and Orange Salad

Chicken Piccata

Spaghetti Carbonara

Three Pepper Bruschetta

Limoncello Agrodolce Cod

Rigatoni alla Vodka


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