Vegetarian carbonara is a variation of the traditional Italian carbonara from Rome that is made with egg, cured pork such as guanciale, pancetta, lardons or smoked bacon, cheeses and black pepper. The cheeses traditionally used is Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano and it’s generally made with spaghetti but can also include fettuccini, rigatoni, linguine or bucatini.
Personally I do love a traditional bacon carbonara made with outdoor reared, organic pork. But as part of a sustainable lifestyle, we are actively reducing meat consumption and we’re avoiding any low welfare animal products, so this Vegetarian Carbonara is a great alternative to the more popular meat-based carbonara.
Please see the recipe notes below the recipe card for further tips on cheeses, ingredient substitutes and cooking your own vegetarian carbonara.
Vegetarian Carbonara with Spinach
- 1 organic onion finely chopped
- 250 g organic spinach washed and roughly chopped
- 4 organic cherry tomatoes quartered
- 50 g finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano style cheese for organic vegetarian cheese, please see notes
- 50 g finely grated Pecorino Romano style cheese for organic vegetarian cheese, please see notes
- 1 egg, from organic pasture-raised hens
- 1 tbsp ground black pepper
- 250 - 300 g organic linguine, spaghetti or other long pasta
- Add the pasta to salted water with a little bit of olive oil and cook on medium to high heat until tender. Once cooked drain the pasta and let it cool for a few minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking. In a medium-sized saucepan, fill the pan with spinach leaves and put the lid on until they?wilt. Occasionally turn the leaves. Add more spinach and repeat the process until all of the spinach is incorporated. Once the leaves have wilted, add the tomatoes and simmer until all the water has evaporated.
- In a separate pan, add the onion with a little bit of oil and simmer slowly until they soften.
- In the meantime. Add the cheeses, pepper and egg into a bowl and mixed until it comes together.
- Once everything has been cooked and is ready, we're going to combine all the ingredients. You can leave everything to cool a little to make sure the egg doesn't cook too quickly and become lumpy. Add the pasta and onions to the spinach and mix together. Then add the cheese mixture to the pasta mix and stir quickly to combine all the ingredients together.
- Divide between bowls and serve with a little bit of parmesan on top.
Vegetarian Italian Cheeses in Carbonara Recipes
To make this recipe a truly vegetarian carbonara, please note that the traditional Italian cheeses are made with animal renett so you will have to look out for vegetarian alternative cheeses as per the recipe notes above. You can replace the full 100g cheese listed with organic Italian hard cheese or if you can find two versions in a veggie option that’s even better.
Animal renett is sourced from the dried and cleaned stomach of a young calve so unless you are buying the traditional cheeses from organic, high-welfare pasture-raised suppliers I would avoid substituting the cheese for cheeper supermarket versions. High volume farmed milk is not good for the environment or for your health so please avoid low welfare cheeses, even the vegetarian options if you can.
Alternative Vegetables for Vegetarian Carbonara
Don’t be shy to substitute the spinach and try other vegetables with this recipe, as listed in the notes Kale or courgette can definitely work as well. Use what is in the fridge and mix it up if you like, it’s a great recipe to help you minimise food waste as it is quite versatile. The rules are definitely yours when it comes to cooking wonderful food at home.