This easy vegetarian carbonara is a great recipe for a quick lunch or dinner. It's made from ingredients that you are likely to have on hand, and you can have it ready to eat in less than 20 minutes. You can easily make one portion, or scale it up for a whole family. And whilst carbonara sauce is not a super healthy choice, this healthier carbonara recipe does contain a portion of veg and enough protein to keep you full for a few hours. Who doesn't like a comforting dish of pasta with a rich creamy sauce?
Why is easy vegetarian carbonara with peas healthier?
Each helping of this easy carbonara contains a portion of peas. Frozen peas contain all of the health benefits of fresh peas, and are sometimes even better, as the vitamins are preserved by the freezing process. Like most other legumes, peas are a great source of fibre and protein. Fibre is important to keep your gut healthy and your blood sugar levels under control. Peas also contain anti inflammatory ingredients which make them good for your heart. They are also a rich source of minerals, several B vitamins and vitamin C. (See here for more about why peas are so good for you)
Each portion of this healthy carbonara also contains a whole egg. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse. They are a source of high quality protein, and contain important nutrients such as choline and selenium which are relatively scarce in other foods. Some carbonara sauce recipes use just the yolks, but adding a whole egg provides more protein and is also more convenient as you won't be stuck with an extra egg white. This recipe contains far more protein than you will get from a ready made carbonara sauce, which means that you'll feel satisfied for much longer.
Some carbonara sauce recipes are made with cream. However, it really isn't necessary. The combination of whole egg, cheese and pasta water makes for a delicious, rich, creamy sauce which coats the pasta perfectly.
Of course, easy vegetarian carbonara is even better for you if you make it with wholemeal pasta. Wholegrains (such as wholemeal flour) contain more vitamins and minerals than their white counterparts. They are also much richer in fibre, and help to stabilise your blood sugar levels. At the time of writing (and photographing), pasta is in short supply in the supermarkets, so I had to use what I could get which was white penne. I've also successfully made the recipe with gluten free pasta.
Why is this healthy carbonara sauce recipe so easy?
All of the ingredients for this recipe are things that you are already likely to have in the cupboard or fridge. You can use most kinds of pasta (except sheets) - white or wholemeal, penne, fusille, spaghetti, tagliatelle etc.
Most of us tend to have a packet of frozen peas on hand as they are so convenient. There's no preparation required, and they take just just minutes to cook. You could also try adding other vegetables such as spinach or courgettes, which will cook easily in the heat of the sauce.
Cheddar is one of the most common types of cheese, but of course you can use whatever you have. Parmesan would be lovely, but any hard cheese could work perfectly well. If you are trying to cut down on the amount of fat that you eat, try a lower fat cheddar. The recipe also works well without the cheese if you'd rather omit it altogether.
How to make easy vegetarian carbonara?
This quick carbonara takes less than 20 minutes.
I find the easiest way to cook pasta which stops it boiling over is to bring it up to the boil, put a lid on the pan, and then turn off the heat. The pasta will continue to cook in the heat of the water. When you add the frozen peas, turn the heat back on to bring it back up to the boil again. If you are using wholemeal pasta, it will take a little longer to cook. Check the packet instructions and adjust accordingly.
Whilst the pasta and peas are cooking, beat the egg and grated cheese together.
When you drain the pasta, reserve some of the pasta water, as the starchy liquid really is the secret ingredient for the sauce. Add a tablespoon of the water to the egg mixture, then stir the eggs through the pasta. It's important to keep the pasta off the heat at this stage as you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs. Loosen the sauce with a little more of the cooking water if necessary.
I've included ingredients for 1 person, so that it is easy to scale the recipe for as many people as you need. If you have any questions, please do get in touch.
You will need to serve this easy vegetarian carbonara straight away as otherwise it will spoil. Enjoy with a green salad, or this quick and easy courgette ribbon salad.
You might also enjoy this vegetarian sweet potato and kale lasagne
And if you are looking for other ways to add more vegetables to your diet, please try reading 12 easy (and delicious) ways to eat more veg
Frequently asked questions
Carbonara sauce is made from a mix of egg and the starchy pasta water. The eggs cook in the residual heat of the pasta. In this recipe, the cheese also melts into the sauce.
If you buy a tub of carbonara sauce from the supermarket, it may well contain cream. But a classic Italian carbonara is made without cream. The sauce is still tastes deliciously creamy:)
The secret to a smooth silky carbonara sauce to beat the eggs well, some pasta water, and mix them into the pasta off the heat. The residual heat of the pasta will cook the eggs, but if you leave the mix on the heat, you'll end up with lumpy scrambled eggs.
Easy Vegetarian Carbonara
- 75 g pasta
- 75 g frozen peas
- 25 g cheddar, grated
- 1 egg
- Bring a pan of water to the boil, and add the pasta. Bring back up to the boil, put a lid on the pan, and turn off the heat. Leave to cook in the residual heat for 5 minutes. Add the frozen peas, bring back up to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes.
- In the meanwhile, beat the egg with the grated cheese.
- Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta water. Add a tablespoon of the pasta water to the eggs and mix well. Then add the egg mixture to the pasta and peas away from the heat, and quickly stir through. Add 1-2 tablespoon of extra pasta water if necessary to make the sauce the desired consistency. Season to taste and enjoy!