Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara

The suggestion for adapting this recipe comes from one of my readers, and it seemed like a great one post-Passover.   (Please note the hint to send me ideas!)  Traditional pasta carbonara has an egg and cheese sauce and is flavored with bacon or pancetta—a double no-go on the kosher front.  Rather than lose the cheese in the dish by going with turkey bacon, I decided to look for a vegetarian substitute.  I settled on smoked tofu.  It’s precooked, so it’s denser than uncooked tofu, and works as a good substitute for pancetta.  To up the smokiness in the dish a little bit, I added a few dashes of liquid smoke.  I also added a little bit more oil, since you can’t render fat from tofu.

The one execution trick to this dish is adding the egg mixture while the pasta is hot enough to cook it but avoiding scrambling the eggs.  I will admit that I was not entirely successful in this.  I recommend making sure there is a cook surface onto which you can move the pan readily available and stirring quickly as you add the mixture to the pan.  The original recipe is courtesy of Tyler Florence.

Recipe

© Courtney Weiner.  All Rights Reserved.

Total time: 25 min.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Level: Intermediate

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces smoked tofu, diced into 1/4” pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
  • 3-4 dashes liquid smoke
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  • Dried red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for about 1 minute less than the package directions indicate, or until al dente.  Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

While the pasta is cooking, beat the eggs, cheese, and liquid smoke in a bowl until well blended and there are no lumps.  Set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and saute for about 3 minutes, until the tofu is crisp. Add the garlic and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the oil.   Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir the egg mixture again briefly and pour into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble.  Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with chopped parsley, red pepper flakes, and additional cheese.