When you travel to Rome, eating a traditional Carbonara is an absolute must. In fact, this classical dish from central Italy is one of the most rich and mouth-watering pasta recipes you might ever taste. The recipe is so famous that you can now count endless variations of it all around the world. No one knows who actually invented this amazing combination of flavors, what is certain is just the origin of the name: carbonara simply means coal worker’s style.
The original version of this dish uses just a handful of high-quality ingredients, and its lovely simplicity is hard to match. The downside however, is that traditional Carbonara calls for a good amount of guanciale, an Italian cured meat similar to bacon but way fattier. Therefore, it’s not something you should eat on a daily basis.
The good news is that you can use zucchini and cherry tomatoes in place of guanciale. You will get a dish that is just as tasty and satisfactory to eat but definitely healthier and more suited for your well-being. Moreover, this vegetarian version is also a nice variation for whoever follows a meatless diet.
Zucchini and cherry tomatoes apart, the rest of the ingredients and the cooking process are exactly the same as the traditional version of the dish. I hope you will like it as much as I do!
The only important thing in the preparation of this dish is that when the pasta is ready to drain, you should work as quickly as possible. The residual heat from the pasta in fact, should be enough to finish the cooking of the eggs without the need of putting it back on the stove. The final result will be a silky, smooth and bright yellow sauce.
On the other end, if your pan is too hot or you forget to turn off the heat before adding the yolks, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs’ pasta, that maybe is just as good, but it’s definitely not Carbonara.
1tbspextra virgin olive oil plus one more for drizzling at the end
1/2cupPecorino cheese, grated
3tbsppasta water (add more if needed)
1tbsppine nuts, toasted (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add pasta.
At the same time, cut zucchini into sticks around 1/3 inch thick.
In a large frying pan, sauté zucchini in olive oil on medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until zucchini are browned on both sides. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and a pinch of salt and turn off the heat.
To create the sauce, put egg yolks, Pecorino cheese, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper into a large bowl. Whisk everything together for a few seconds. The result should be a pretty thick compound.
Once the pasta is almost ready, take 3 tablespoons of boiling pasta water and add them to the bowl with the cheese and eggs. The hot boiling water will pasteurize the yolks making them safe to eat while the starchiness released from the pasta will help to create a creamy sauce.
When the pasta is ready drain it and add it to the frying pan with the zucchini and tomatoes. Toss for 1 minute on medium heat.
Finally, turn off the heat and add your eggs and Pecorino mixture to the pan. Gently toss everything together. If the sauce is too thick you can add some more pasta water.
Garnish with freshly ground black pepper and, if you like, some toasted pine nuts and drizzled olive oil.
Giorgia was born in a small town on the Italian Riviera, half the way between Genova and the Cinque Terre, just a few miles away from where pesto was invented. She has a background in psychology and neuroscience and is now completing her training to become a licensed psychologist while working as a web writer. As most of the time happens in Italy, it was her lovely grandmother that taught her how to cook and enjoy every bite of simple and genuine food. Giorgia loves preparing meals for family and friends and her specialty are authentic Sicilian and Ligurian dishes. Other than cooking, her greatest passions are traveling and trekking. Her biggest dream is to be able to see (and taste!) as much of the word as possible.