Easy Vegetarian Carbonara: Swapping traditional ingredients like guanciale and pancetta for vegetable-based umami bombs (hello, garlic and smoked paprika) isn’t the only thing to consider when making a vegetarian carbonara. Many hard cheeses (including Parmigiano-Reggiano) use animal rennet, so if you want to seek an alternative, ask your cheesemonger or check out this list.
- 12 oz. fettuccine or other long pasta
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2″ –3″ pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ tsp. smoked paprika
- 3 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup pre-grated vegetarian Parmesan, plus more for serving
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling generously salted water, stirring occasionally and adding asparagus when pasta has 1 minute left to go, until pasta is very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.
Meanwhile, combine garlic and oil in a medium Dutch oven or other high-sided pot and set over medium heat; season very generously with pepper. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is light golden, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in paprika; set aside.
Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Scoop out 1 cup cooking liquid from pasta and, whisking constantly, gradually add to egg yolks to temper. Season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Drain pasta and asparagus, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid; transfer pasta and asparagus to pot with reserved garlic oil. Set back over medium heat and toss to coat. Tossing constantly, add 1 cup pasta cooking liquid, followed by reserved yolk mixture, then ¾ cup Parmesan. Cook, tossing constantly and reducing heat as needed to keep mixture below a simmer, until cheese is melted and liquid thickens enough to coat pasta in a glossy, silky sauce, about 5 minutes. (This might be easier on your hands if you use 2 wooden spoons, as though you were tossing a salad, rather than trying to do it with 1 hand and a pair of tongs.) Add more reserved pasta cooking liquid if needed to loosen.
Divide pasta among shallow bowls and top with more Parmesan and a few grinds of pepper.