Put an Egg on It: Veggie Pasta Carbonara

Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever had “real” pasta carbonara, made with guanciale/ pancetta/ bacon and eggs. I’ve been some kind of vegetarian/ pescetarian since I was 15– over half my life, so I have no basis to compare my vegetarian version of the dish to, but I do think that most things taste better with an egg on it, so a veggie pasta carbonara has become one of my weeknight standbys.

Traditionally, the eggs are whisked– sometimes with cream and grated cheese– and then stirred over the hot pasta, thickening its sauce. But there’s nothing traditional about using tempeh bacon, so I ignore tradition entirely, and place poached eggs atop a pasta that’s been tossed with a sauce of olive oil, onions, tempeh bacon, peas and lots of coarse ground black pepper. Pierce the yolk with your fork, and stir it into the pasta before eating. Add more black pepper. Yum.

8643360471_8c6f15c2cb_zVeggie Pasta Carbonara

You can use pre-made tempeh bacon, or flavor your own tempeh to make it bacony (recipe below). For the pasta, I further bucked tradition, and used a whole wheat spaghetti, in the interest of making the dish a little healthier. 


  • Olive oil
  • 4-5 pieces tempeh bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • Splash of white wine (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 box spaghetti, cooked according to instructions (I used whole wheat)
  • Coarse ground pepper
  • 2-4 eggs

While your pasta is cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat, and generously coat with olive oil. Let the oil warm, and add tempeh bacon. Cook a couple minutes, until it starts to crisp. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic, splash of wine, and frozen peas. Make sure all ingredients are evenly coated.

Drain the pasta and add it all to the skillet. (Or use your large pot, if the skillet isn’t big enough.) Add a generous amount of coarse ground pepper and toss to coat.

Meanwhile, add water and 2 teaspoons of white vinegar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Crack one egg into a small cup, and then gently add it to the hot water. Repeat with remaining eggs and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes, and remove with a slotted spoon. Place 1-2 eggs on each serving of pasta. Add additional pepper if desired. Enjoy!

Tempeh Bacon

The liquid smoke is really key to giving the tempeh a bacony flavor. In a pinch, you can sub some of the sauce from chipotle in adobo, or a dash of chipotle powder, but it will have a spicier taste then. 

  •  1 package tempeh
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Dash of cumin
  • Dash or two of liquid smoke
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the tempeh. Combine the other ingredients in a bowl. Add the tempeh, and let marinade for about 5 minutes. Place a medium skillet over high heat. Add some additional olive oil, or some of the marinade. Let it heat, add the tempeh to the skillet. It should not overlap, or be layered, so do it in several batches if necessary. Add a little additional marinade. Cook for one minute, then flip. Cook on other side for 1 minute, or until browned. Lay on paper towel to cook. Season with salt and pepper to taste.