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Vegetarian Giro d’Italia: Pasta alla Carbonara


The Giro brings us into the Lazio region, which is dominated by Roman influence. Roman cooking features cheap, simply prepared, no frills food as, historically, eating was out of necessity.  The cuisine features influences from various cultures, customs and traditions brought together through Rome’s history. But, one thing is for sure,  this region loves its pasta…from fresh egg pasta to hard pastas from the south.

One famous dish, pasta alla carbonara, has its roots in the Lazio region. The development of this recipe is a bit murky and has been linked to charcoal miners (i.e., “coal worker style”), the black pepper that is used in the dish, a restaurant in Rome named “Carbonara” and even the the rumor that black squid ink was a common ingredient. Another theory is that the dish was invented during World War II during ingredient shortages. The American GIs stationed there took the recipe home with them. Quite possibly, it was the Roman version of creating a classic American breakfast for the soldiers, bacon and eggs with pasta, of course!

Regardless of its origins, this recipe has taken on a life of its own and the ingredients vary by region and by country. However,  the basic step remains – adding the egg at the end and letting the hot pasta cook it.

This is my vegetarian version of pasta alla carbonara which uses the classic recipe as a guide. (Obviously, the original recipe did not involve using a toaster oven to cook fake bacon.) I like making this when I’m looking for a quick and hearty meal. Saute onions if you so desire as it adds a little more depth to the dish, but I usually don’t miss the taste and the effort required to chop onions and clean a saute pan.

Megabeth’s Pasta alla Carbonara

– 1 box (8 oz) of whole wheat pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, etc.)
– 5 – 6 strips of vegetarian bacon
– two eggs (egg substitute equivalent to two eggs)
– two tablespoons capers
– grated parmesean cheese

Prepare pasta per package instructions until al dente. Meanwhile, pre-heat toaster oven (or oven) to 450 degrees. (Note: you can also use a saute pan to cook the bacon until crisp, if preferred.) Spray toaster tray or cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Then spray lightly the top of the “bacon”. Cook each side for about 3 minutes until desired crispiness is achieved. When cooked, cut “bacon” into small bite size pieces.

Crack two eggs in small bowl. Then whisk or beat with fork until blended.

When pasta is done cooking, drain and put in large bowl. Add beaten eggs to bowl and distribute through pasta. Add bacon pieces and capers. (Make sure pasta is still hot when adding the eggs. This is key to ensure the eggs are cooked thoroughly.) Sprinkle parmesean cheese into the pasta until it is coated with it.

Serve with lots of freshly ground pepper and enjoy.