One thing that I have really been missing since I went dairy free and vegan is Spaghetti Carbonara. This is something that I have grown up on and no one cooks it better then my mum. Marco also loves this dish and when ever he does something for my mum he asks to be rewarded with her Spaghetti Carbonara.
Before I was dairy free I would eat this dish with lots of cream, but after I would just make it with eggs and bacon. Now that I can’t have either I have been thinking about how I could substitute it. Tonight I think that I have actually achieved in making a vegan version of this family favorite. This version is closer to the more traditional version, which has no cream. Now that I have successfully created this recipe, I will try to also make a more creamy version for Marco.
I was really happy how this recipe turned out. I took what I know from making an eggless frittata and tried use that to make an egglike mixture. I also used the last of my Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh to substitute the bacon. On the side I made a Tomato, Shallot & Ajvar ‘Cheesy’ Tart. I think I used a bit too much Notzarella, but it was so good! I think this is the first time my Notzarella has melted so well. Perhaps because usually I grate it after I have frozen it.
Pasta alla carbonara is recipe that only dates back to the middle of the 20th century. It’s origins are debatable, but generally it’s known to be a Rome dish. It is traditionally prepared with Spaghetti, but it is also often made with Fettuccine, Penne, Rigatoni or Bucatini. The essentially ingredients of the Carbonara include Eggs, Cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), Bacon (pork cheek or pancetta), and Black pepper.
The traditional Italian way to make a Carbonara is by first cooking the pork in fat (olive oil, lard or sometimes butter). Then cooking the pasta and adding it straight to a pot (with no heat) into a mixture of raw eggs, cheese, fat (butter or olive oil) and the cooked pork (pork cheek, pancetta or local bacon). The raw eggs should become creamy and saucy due to the heat from the pasta, so it doesn’t need to be cooked. The pasta should be coated in the egg mixture and served immediately.
What you probably know to be a Carbonara is probably alot different to the Italian version. You are probably used to Cream and Garlic as essential ingredients. However these are not commonly used for this dish in Italy. Outside of Italy you will also find other ingredients added such as mushrooms, peas and other vegetables added to this dish. Generally outside Italy a Carbonara is a cream based sauce with eggs, bacon and cheese. The sauce would therefore have to be cooked off before adding the eggs and pasta.
In Australia, in Italian restaurants and homes you will often find the creamy version of the Carbonara. We often add mushrooms as well ours. In saying that last year in Italy we also found the creamy version of this dish in many restaurants. Whether this was because they knew we were foreigners or because of the influence the outside world is having on Italian cuisine, I’m not sure. But as you can see by some of the Carbonara’s Marco ordered all over Italy they were very creamy.
There are many different theories to how the Carbonara sauce was invented. I was intrigued by the different theories that people have come up with to claim this dish, so I listed a few for your own interest.
1. The name carbonaro is derived from the Italian word for charcoal burner. Therefore, many believe that the Pasta alla carbonara was created as a hearty dish for the
Italian charcoal miners. Thus, in some parts of the U.S. it became known as the coal miner’s spaghetti. As these men would of had to camp outdoors for months, it is said they brought ingredients such as cheese, cured pork, olive oil, salt and pepper, which would keep well. They would combine these with eggs, which were available from local farms. This theory is perhaps the only with an eye witness account. Apparently, while Sophia Loren was filming Two Women at the end of the 50s outside of Rome, was introduced to this dish. The crew of the film had met someCarbonai, and made this dish for them. She took notes and recorded this dish in her recipe book Sophia Loren’s Recipes & Memories. In her book she includes cream, which bring this story into doubt, as most variations of this dish don’t use cream.
2. It has also been said that perhaps this dish was invented to pay homage to the Carbonari, the charcoal men, who were apparently secret society during the 1800s Italian unification. Perhaps its name was given due to the heavy handed use of the ground pepper, which remind one of coal flakes.
3. Perhaps the name of the dish was not derived from the charcoal miners, but from the woodcutters, who made the charcoal for fuel, in the Appennine mountains of Abruzzo. It is said that they would cook this hearty dish over a hardwood charcoal fire. They would apparently use Penne pasta, instead of spaghetti, as it was easier to stir through the eggs and cheese.
4. Another theory which supports this is the connection to the Restaurant, La Carbonara, in Campo de’Fiori, in Rome. Apparently the original restaurant was Il Carbonaro was founded in 1912 by a coal salesman, Federico Salomone. He would of had many dealings with the Carbonai. The signature dish of this restaurant was Penne alla carbonara. Roberto Cavezza, a man who was waiter for many years at La Carbonara said that even if this dish was not invented by the Carbonai, the ingredients were typical of the rural area. He said “It’s a dish for people who couldn’t make a meal with primo, secondo, and contorno [courses]—something for those who couldn’t spend much money on food.” Another restauranter nearby, Elio Mariani concers that “It comes from a peasant dish that was called unto e uova [fat and eggs]. Originally it was made with lard and eggs, then, in time, guanciale supplanted the lard. It was a little more flavorful and less greasy.”
American Troops in Rome
5. There are also theories that connect the food shortages after the Liberation of Rome in during the World War Two. It has been said that hunger and rations were the inspired this dish. Apparently the Allied troops were given or gave Italian people powered eggs and bacon, to season their pasta. Apparently, when the American troops returned to the US, they brought this recipe with them and it began appearing in the American restaurants.
6. Another war time theory tells during the German occupation of Rome, many middle class families escaped to the province of Ciociaria (outside Rome, inside Lazio region). It was here that they learned of the Neapolitan style dish that used eggs, lard and pecorino cheese. After the war, Roman cuisine became famous throughout Italy and this dish, renamed the Carbonara, was a typical example.
Now this is my versions of Spaghetti alla carbonara, made completely vegan and guilt free. This is now not just a special occasion dish.
Spaghetti alla carbonara (vegan, gluten free option)
100g firm tofu
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1/2 teaspoon onion flakes or powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoon soy milk
sea salt & black pepper to taste
4-6 Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh (or other vegan bacon)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 serves of spaghetti (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)
3 tablespoons Cashew Parmesan/other vegan parmesan
1. Place the firm tofu into the processor and process until it break downs.
2. Then while it is running add vegan butter, onion flakes, garlic powder turmeric, salt pepper and soy milk. Process until smooth. Adjust seasoning if you need more salt.
3. Bring salty water to a boil for the pasta. Then cook the pasta according to packet instructions.
4. In the meantime, chop the ‘bacon’ into small pieces. Then heat olive oil in a pan and saute the ‘bacon’ until it is golden brown.
5. Place the tofu ‘egg’ mixture from the processor into a large bowl. Then add the vegan parmesan and stir.
6. Add the ‘bacon to the bowl and stir through. Adjust seasoning if you need.
7. The pasta should be ready, so use a tongs to place the spaghetti into the bowl. Also a little bit of pasta water. Stir the pasta well through the sauce. Then serve immediately.
Tomato, Shallot & Ajvar ‘Cheesy’ Tart (vegan, nut free)
1 puff pastry sheet
4 tablespoons ajvar or roasted capscium spread
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, sliced
4 shallots, chopped
fresh basil chopped (optional)
sea salt to taste
grated vegan mozzarella (I used Notzarella)
olive oil to brush pastry
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Place frozen puff pastry on a baking tray and bruss some olive oil on the pastry, then turn it over.
3. Spread ajvar on the puff pastry. Then add tomatoes, shallots, basil and sea salt.
4. Add grated mozzarella. Then fold in the outer sides of the pastry and brush with some olive oil.
5. Bake for 20-25 mins or until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.
* Serves 4