Vegetarian ‘Carbonara’ With Spinach
This spinach-laden carbonara deviates from the standard by nixing two of its leading ingredients: custardy egg yolks, which create its silky texture, and cured meat, which delivers its salty punch. This egg-free version uses a combination of butter and starchy pasta cooking water to give the sauce body. A sprinkle of grated smoked Provolone or Gouda adds a bit of the earthy flavor that traditionally comes from guanciale or pancetta. The final coup? Adding greens: One entire pound of baby spinach may look like a gargantuan amount, but it wilts right into the pasta. Most importantly, don’t be shy with the black pepper: It adds a necessary dose of spice and heat.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 3tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1cup finely chopped onion
- 5cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1pound spaghetti
- Salt and pepper
- 2tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1pound fresh baby spinach
- Red-pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
- ¾cup grated Parmesan (2 1/2 ounces)
- 1tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½cup grated smoked Provolone or Gouda (1 1/2 ounces)
Step 1Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 5 minutes.
Step 2Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain the pasta. Return the pasta and reserved cooking water to the pot and heat over low. Add the butter and onion-garlic mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid is absorbed and sauce is slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the spinach, season with salt, plenty of pepper and red-pepper flakes, if using, and stir until spinach is wilted. Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.
Step 3Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top each with 2 tablespoons smoked cheese. Finish with more black pepper, if desired.