Vegetarian Carbonara

Traditional carbonara uses either bacon or pancetta as well as parmesan cheese. But a skilled cook can create great taste without the use of meat.

In order to compensate for the lack of pork flavoring in my version, I took a cue from pesto sauce and used nuts to add another dimension of flavor. I also added some heat because everything is better with a little heat.

The mushrooms and peppers give up a lot of flavorful liquid as they're cooking. This goes a long way to rounding out the depth of the sauce.

I went with basil instead of the traditional parsley, since it boasts a little more flavor. I switched up the cheese to provolone because I just felt it worked better with the other ingredients I had chosen. The result was a creamy, gooey, rich base embellished with earthy, sweet and herbaceous veggies and greens.

4 eggs
1/4 cup half and half
3 ounces provolone, shredded or chopped small
1/4 cup almonds, ground to a dust
1 tsp crushed pepper flakes
2 tsps each salt and black pepper

1 cup white mushrooms, chopped small
2 cups red, yellow and orange bell peppers, cut into small strips
1 cup frozen green peas
5 small cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 jalapeno, minced
1 bunch fresh basil, chiffonaded

1/2 a box of pasta
1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water
1/4 cup olive oil

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, almonds, cheese, half and half, pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt and pepper. Set aside.

You might be tempted to put this mixture into your fridge for safe keeping while you tend to the pasta and vegetables, but do not do this. You need the egg mixture to sit out on the counter to come up to room temp to insure that when you add your hot pasta to it that the eggs will cook enough.

In a very large skillet, boil pasta according to package directions. Keep 1/2 cup pasta water in the pan. Set pasta aside.

To same pan add oil. Add mushrooms and bell peppers, 1 tsp salt. Cook until mushrooms and peppers begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno. Cook 2 more minutes.

Add pasta back to pan and basil too. Stir to combine. Heat 5 more minutes or until pasta is nice and hot.

Add hot pasta mixture to large bowl with egg mix in it. Stir to coat. Cover bowl. Let sit 8 minutes.

Defrost peas in microwave. About 1 1/2 minutes.

Add into pasta mix.

Serve with more fresh basil and finely chopped cheese. .


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