Pasta carbonara is an Italian dish made with egg, cheese, and pancetta. Outside of Italy, it’s usually made with a cream sauce and bacon. Peas, broccoli, and leeks are often added. The pasta is usually spaghetti, fettuccini, or linguine.
There are different theories as to where the name carbonara came from. It could be that it is derived from the Italian word carbonaro, which means charcoal burner. Some believe that the dish was originally created so charcoal workers could have a hearty meal while they worked. It’s also possible that the name is derived from the word carbonada, which is the the word for bacon in central Italy’s dialect.
Since meals were never very adventurous in my family when I was growing up, I never had pasta carbonara in my pre-vegetarian days. I do remember a college friend making it for dinner one night, and I had some without the bacon.
I first made pasta carbonara at home while taking the Rouxbe Plant-Based Professional course a few years ago. The dish was made with penne pasta, a cashew cream sauce, peas, and smoked tofu. Of course, it was absolutely delicious, and it’s a dish that I always look forward to making.
I recently found myself craving pasta carbonara. I didn’t want to use all of the cashews that the Rouxbe recipe called for. While cashews can make a really creamy sauce, it’s possible to make cream sauces with blended boiled veggies, too. In this case, I decided to use cauliflower. Since it’s autumn and pumpkin is everywhere, I thought it would be fun to add pumpkin to the sauce, as well.
Even though it’s all the rage this season, pumpkin on its own doesn’t have too much flavor. It is loaded with nutrients, though. Pumpkin is:
- Rich in vitamins A, C, and E,
- High in minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and potassium
- Anti-inflammatory due to its high beta carotene content
- High in fiber, which is helpful for digestive issues
- Full of L-triptophan, which can trigger feelings of happiness and well-being
Carbonara is traditionally made with long noodles, such as spaghetti or fettuccini, but I like to use smaller types of pasta, such as penne or shells. Shells are my favorite type of pasta for this vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara, because they hold sauce really well. I like to use whole grain pasta such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice pasta. If you follow a gluten-free diet, be sure to use gluten-free pasta.
This dish might look a little daunting, but it’s not very difficult. Since most of the preparation just involves boiling water, you can make the pasta, boil the veggies, and sauté the leeks all at the same time. Once the vegetables are fork-tender, drain them and save the cooking water. Then blend them together with some the water, nutritional yeast, garlic, and a little salt in a high-speed blender or food processor. The sauce blends up super creamy in a matter of seconds in my Blendtec. Once the sauce has been blended, you can heat it in the pan with the leeks, tempeh bacon, and peas. Then toss it all together with the pasta. Garnish with fresh sage, and dinner is served!
This recipe is for vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara, but hearty winter squash, such as butternut, can be used as well. I like to make my own tempeh bacon, but you can use store-bought if you prefer. The sauce can be made in advance, if you know you’re going to be pressed for time before dinner.
Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara one of my favorite comfort food dishes for chilly autumn evenings. I like to make extra so that I know I will have for meals throughout the week.
Vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara
Creamy vegan Pumpkin Pasta Carbonara is the ultimate fall dinner. No one will guess that’s full of hidden veggies!
For the Sauce
- 2 cups chopped sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
- 2 cups chopped cauliflower
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ¼ cup chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For the Pasta
- 1 leek, coarsely chopped
- Sea salt
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup peas, thawed if frozen
- 8 ounces cooked tempeh bacon, chopped
- 1 8-ounce package your favorite pasta, cooked according to the package directions
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- A few chopped fresh sage leaves, for serving
Place the pumpkin, cauliflower, onion, and cashews in a large pot. Fill it with enough water to cover the vegetables plus about two inches.
Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
Drain the vegetables and save the water. Allow the vegetables to cool slightly and then place them in a high-speed blender or food processor along with the nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, and salt. Add 2 cups of the reserved cooking water and blend until smooth and creamy. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick. Keep in mind that it will thicken when it’s heated.
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped leek a pinch of salt, and cook until it begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the white wine to the pan and cook until it reduces slightly, about 2 or 3 minutes.
Add the peas and tempeh bacon and stir to combine. Then pour the blended sauce into the pan and cook until it begins to simmer. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if it becomes too thick.
Remove from the heat and toss with the cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among 4 plates and top with the fresh sage. Serve hot.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like:
- Pumpkin Baked Ziti
- Creamy Baked Fusilli with Butternut Squash
- Pasta with Creamy Cashew Sauce
- Vegan Lasagna Tart