A classic pasta dish made with a bit of greenery. This vegetarian broccolini carbonara is the perfect quick and easy pasta dinner, and the kids will love it.
I love making my own little spins on classic recipes. Sure, the classics are great, but why not add your own unique twist every now and then?
And to any Italians reading this, I am aware of the fact that classic carbonara does not involve cream, mushrooms or any of that jazz, so please don’t butcher me.
The sauce in the carbonara is simply made with eggs, egg yolk, and parmesan cheese, nothing more, nothing less.
No salt in the sauce?
I highly recommend that you DON’T season the sauce with salt, otherwise you’ll overpower it. The parmesan acts as the seasoning, it’s not added to make the dish cheesy.
Much like risotto, I am a firm believer that you should not need to season risotto with salt either as the parmesan is enough. However, pepper is what makes this dish amazing.
Try not to use cheap pepper that has the consistency of powder, try to get the black cracked pepper. They are like little shards of heat in the dish and it makes the pasta so dang good. A great way to make your own cracked black pepper is to put black peppercorns in a pestle mortar and crush them yourself. Don’t crush them too fine, you want the pepper to be fairly coarse.
How to cook the sauce
The sauce is made up of egg, so what would happen if you were to add it to a roasting hot pan? Yep, it would scramble, we want to good the egg in a gentle, silky way. So heat control is crucial here people.
Instead of transferring the sauce to the pan, try transferring the pasta to the bowl with the sauce in it. From this point, you want to quickly coat the pasta and serve it straight away. There should be enough heat from the pasta to cook the egg content in the sauce.
And at this point, you’ll probably notice why the dish doesn’t need any cream. The sauce already gives the pasta a creamy element because egg yolks are very enriching.
If you want to add meat
Go for it! I didn’t add meat to my recipe, I added broccolini instead, but let’s go through what meat to add.
You could add bacon and the dish would be great, you could add pancetta which would be even better but the most traditional carbonara is made with the cured cheek of the pig. It’s super fatty and comforting. Of course, this may not be very easy to find for many people so if you can’t get hold of it, or if you don’t believe it’s worth the effort, use pancetta instead.
Why you should not discard the pasta water?
I almost always keep the water I use to cook my pasta. And the reason it’s so useful is because it helps prevent the pasta from sticking together when you toss it in your pot or pan, or when you mix pasta through any sauce.
Why wouldn’t you just plash in some normal water? Well, because the pasta water is both salty and starchy. Which means it won’t make your dish go bland and the starch helps to loosen up the pasta, whilst also making it go nice and silky.
So, if you are someone that has always had a problem with your pasta sticking together and going all claggy, this is definitely a technique that will help you.
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Broccolini Filled Carbonara
Put 5L of water and the 2 tsp of salt in a pot, then bring to a boil. Then get a large bowl of cold water and fill it with your ice.
Whisk the crème Fraiche, egg, egg yolks, parmesan cheese and a generous pinch of black cracked pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.
Put the broccolini in your salted boiling water, boil for 2 minutes, then use a pair of tongs to transfer it to the ice-cold water (do not discard the boiling water). After about 20-30 seconds, strain the broccolini and set aside.
Add the pasta to the pot of water and boil for 8-9 minutes. Before you drain the pasta, get a large cup and scoop out some of the pasta water, you'll need that water later. Drain the pasta and set aside.
Pre-heat a large pan over medium heat, add some olive oil and then add your garlic. Fry the garlic for about 30-40 seconds and then add your broccolini. Toss the broccolini and the garlic together, then add your pasta.
If the pasta is sticking together, add a splash of the pasta water you scooped out earlier. Toss together for about a minute or 2 and then add the pasta and broccolini to the bowl with the sauce (the egg mixture).
Toss the pasta and the broccolini through the sauce making sure everything is getting well coated. Add some more pasta water if you feel like the pasta needs to be loosened up a bit.
As soon as everything is well combined, put the pasta on a platter and serve.
- You shouldn't need to add salt to the sauce, the parmesan cheese should be enough to season the dish. If you think the dish needs more seasoning, add more parmesan.
- Don't add the sauce to the hot pan with the pasta in it, that can scramble the egg. Instead, transfer the pasta to the bowl with the sauce in it.
- If you want to add meat, use pancetta. Or if you want your carbonara to be as traditional as possible, get your hands on cured pork cheek.
- Don't discard all of your pasta water. Keep some because you can use it to stop your pasta from sticking together.
- I like to drain my pasta 1-2 minutes earlier then the packet instructions tell me to, that way you get a better al dente result.
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