Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE meat! Just the thought of sinking my teeth into a juicy Italian sausage or a hearty sirloin steak drenched in garlic butter, makes my mouth water uncontrollably. It wasn't like I intentionally decided to become vegetarian. It actually was almost entirely out of my control!
My junior and senior years of college I lived off-campus with several of my friends. I had never thought about how living with other people might effect my eating habits, but when we moved into our house I happened to find myself surrounded by vegetarians. I guess, it didn't make sense to me, as a college student who didn't have a steady income, to buy chicken or steak if I was the only one in the house who would be eating it. So, the natural thing to do was conform. That's how I became an accidental "vegetarian"!
This wasn't a big deal to me, really. I didn't really care if I had meat on a regular basis or anything like that. As long as the food tasted good and I could eat it, I enjoyed it. Of course, I would still have meat if it was available, like if I went home or went out to eat, but having it as less of an option most of the time gave me the opportunity to try things I had never tried before. It forced me to become more creative in the kitchen and made me think outside of the box I had grown up in.
To this day I still live my life mostly as a "vegetarian" (with the occasional meat if I'm feeling indulgent). In all actuality, I think my experience as a "vegetarian" has made me a more well-rounded chef. If meat isn't available I can still make something that is delicious and hearty, with ease. I know how to make traditionally meaty dishes without any meat and have them taste just as good (if not better).
This is where the Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara recipe comes into play. Typcially, carbonara has bacon or pancetta in it, but I took the dish and made it vegetarian to fit my friends' dietary choices. Adding the mushrooms gives it an earthy and hearty flavor without the addition of meat, and the peas add some greens to the dish, making it healthier as well.
For this dish I used fresh pasta (see the previous blog post for that recipe) but any long pasta will work. The only difference would be the duration it takes to cook the pasta. I hope you enjoy!
Vegetarian Pasta Carbonara
1 lb. Pasta (Spaghetti or Linguine)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup green peas
4 Tbs. butter, melted
Salt & Black Pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt and then add your pasta. Cook until al dente.
In a separate bowl add the eggs, cheese and pepper, mixing well.
Saute the mushrooms in a hot pan with a little bit of olive oil until they are a lightly browned on all sides.
Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
Add the egg mixture to the pasta, stirring constantly on low heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce thickens slightly.
Add in the peas and mushrooms, and butter.
Stir to combine. Add more salt or pepper if necessary.
Serve with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and black pepper on top.