Vegetarian Carbonara with Spinach

This healthy carbonara was unbelievably creamy. It was also absolutely loaded with fresh spinach. Amazing!

The purpose of the smoked gouda topping was to mimic the smokiness of the missing pancetta or bacon in this lighter, vegetarian version of “carbonara.” I thought is was equally delicious with and without it.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Kay Chun. I used whole wheat spaghetti and increased the garlic. It was a quick and delicious weeknight dish.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 7-8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh baby spinach
  • red-pepper flakes, to taste, optional
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup grated smoked Provolone or Gouda (1 1/2 ounces)
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve 2 cups cooking water and drain the pasta.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the spinach, season with salt, plenty of pepper and red-pepper flakes, if using, and stir until spinach is wilted.
  5. Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.
  6. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top each with 2 tablespoons smoked cheese. Finish with more black pepper, if desired.

Sheet Pan Crispy Mushroom-Parmesan Sandwiches

I must confess that we’ve eaten these delicious sandwiches on a couple of occasions already. They are a fabulous variation of the more common vegetarian alternative “parm” sandwich, eggplant parmesan. Worth using the oven in the summer! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. I served them with both challah and potato rolls, on different occasions. The original recipe recommends sub rolls. I modified the proportions, used part-skim mozzarella, and substituted fontina for the provolone cheese. Fabulous!

Yield: 4 sandwiches

  • 8 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp plus a pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup grated low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina or provolone cheese
  • 6 T finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 large or 6 medium portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine), or more, as desired
  • 4 rolls, such as challah, potato, or sub rolls
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a microwave safe bowl, and warm in the microwave at high power until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds.
  3. Pour 3 T garlic oil into a small bowl and add the panko bread crumbs and a pinch of kosher salt. Rub together with your fingers to combine and set aside, reserving the remaining garlic oil. (Add up to an additional tablespoon of garlic oil, as needed.)
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the mozzarella, fontina (or provolone), and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses.
  5. Place the mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl and toss with 2 T garlic oil and the remaining 1 tsp kosher salt.
  6. Transfer the mushrooms to a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan and roast until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not flip them. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
  7. Line a second sheet pan with aluminum foil (or the same pan if it is cool enough to handle). Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the broiler to high.
  8. Open the rolls and lightly brush the interior of each with some of the remaining garlic oil.
  9. Place the rolls, face up, on the prepared sheet pan and broil until the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully! Remove the rolls from the oven, keeping the broiler on, and divide the tops of the rolls among 4 plates. Leave the bottom of the rolls on the sheet pan.
  10. Arrange the mushrooms over the bottom halves of the rolls and top each with 2 (or more) T marinara, spreading it out a bit.
  11. Divide the cheese over each mound of vegetables and return the sheet pan to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 3 minutes, watching carefully.
  12. Sprinkle the reserved panko bread crumbs evenly over the cheese and return to the broiler until the crumbs are golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.
  13. Transfer each portion to a plate and top with reserved roll top. Serve hot.

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