Spaghetti Carbonara with Portabella Mushrooms and Smoked Mozzarella
Traditional spaghetti carbonara goes meatless with caramelized portabella mushrooms and a generous amount of smoked mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It’s so delicious, I promise you no one will miss the bacon.
Quick disclaimer: This version of spaghetti carbonara does not include meat, but it does include eggs and cheese. If you’re looking for a recipe that does not contain any animal products, I’ve listed a few suggestions before the recipe for vegan cheese and egg substitutions.
Spaghetti Carbonara is without a doubt one of my favorite pasta dishes. You just can’t go wrong with eggs, bacon, and cheese.
While you could set a plate of spaghetti carbonara in front of me any day and I’d be a very happy camper, I wondered if it might be possible to get the same smoky deliciousness without the bacon. While we are not vegetarians in this house, we also don’t eat a tremendous amount of meat. At most, you’ll find meat-based meals on our table only a couple times a week. As such, I’m always trying to find ways of cooking vegetarian versions of favorite dishes that traditionally contain meat.
Traditional spaghetti carbonara contains only has a handful of ingredients and bacon is one of the most important, adding meatiness and smoky flavor to this super simple dish. For this vegetarian version, I wanted to find a way to retain the smokey flavor and substitute something for the bacon that might provide some semblance of meatiness.
I found that caramelized portabella mushrooms did a great job adding meatiness to the pasta, and even contributed a bit of smoky flavor. But, the addition of smoked mozzarella is what takes this dish from a vegetarian “knock off” to something that deserves its own category.
What is Smoked Mozzarella?
Smoking fresh mozzarella adds amazing depth of flavor. The process of smoking mozzarella varies, but traditional involves either suspending balls of cheese directly over wood chips or placing the cheese in a container or smoker that allows smoke to waft through.
For mozzarella that’s smoked with wood chips, hickory, chestnut, alder, pecan, cherry, and apple are the most common varieties, and the intensity of the smoky flavor varies with each brand. If you have the opportunity to taste before you buy, choose a brand with an intensely smoky flavor for this dish.
Daiya Vegan Mozzarella Cheese is a good substitute for traditional cow’s milk cheese, although it won’t contain any of the smoky flavor of smoked mozzarella. To compensate, you could add a bit of Liquid Smoke, or use some hickory smoked sea salt.
For the parmesan cheese, Nooch It! Cashew Grated Cheese works well, but any vegan parmesan cheese should be fine, so if you have a favorite brand, use that.
Instead of the eggs, soak 1/2 cup raw cashews overnight. Then, put them in the food processor with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt (preferably hickory smoked sea salt), 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, and a dash of ground black pepper.
Meal Plans that Include Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara:
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Traditional spaghetti carbonara goes meatless with caramelized portabella mushrooms and a generous amount of smoked mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I promise. No one will miss the bacon.
*Vegan substitutions are listed above this recipe.
- 10 oz spaghetti noodles (*see note)
- 2 tbsp salt (for the pasta water)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped shallot
- 1/2 – 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you prefer)
- 8 oz portabella mushrooms – chopped if large, sliced if using baby portabellas
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 4 large eggs + 1 large egg yolk
- 7 oz smoked mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 5 oz grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Fill a large saucepan with water and 2 tablespoons of salt. Set it over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just slightly underdone. (If using fresh pasta, cook for only 60 – 90 seconds.) Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta’s cooking water.
- Pour the olive oil into a large skillet or saucepan and set over medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, until the shallots are just beginning to brown. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are a deep brown. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss to combine. Remove from the heat.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk with the smoked mozzarella to combine. Slowly whisk in the reserved pasta cooking water.
- Set the pan with the pasta back on the burner, with the heat set to medium-low. Pour in the egg and cheese mixture, stirring constantly to melt the cheese and cook the eggs. Stir in the grated parmesan and cook, stirring constantly until melted.
- Remove from the heat, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve.
- Whenever possible, I prefer to make pasta from scratch. If you’ve never made homemade pasta but want to try your hand at it, here’s a pasta making picture tutorial that will take you through the process, step-by-step.
- Have some leftover pasta that you’re not sure what to do with? Use it to make a simple Pasta Frittata!