Ultimate veggie carbonara

by | Oct 18, 2022


Serves 4


  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 300g dried bucatini, or other long noodle pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon Smoked Water
  • 60g finely grated vegetarian hard Italian grated cheese (or Parmesan, see note in intro), plus extra to serve
  • Pure White Sea Salt and pepper

For the crispy capers

  • 2 tablespoons rapeseed oil, or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons baby capers in brine

Creamy carbonara traditionally uses guanciale (cured pork) or bacon, but this vegetarian version uses our Smoked Water to a deeply rich and umami effect. The luscious sauce is made by beating raw egg yolks into hot pasta, which can sometimes lead to an unpleasantly curdled sauce, but this method avoids that by whisking the hot pasta cooking water into the egg yolks first to create a deliciously silky emulsified sauce.

A note on Parmesan: this named cheese is not vegetarian, as it is made with animal rennet. If you’re cooking for vegetarians, take care to look for an alternative, which is easy to find nowadays. We like this one. 

RECIPE: Anna Shepherd

Start by caramelising the leeks. Melt the butter in a large frying pan, then add the oil. When the mixture is sizzling noisily, add the leeks and ½.a teaspoon of finer flaked salt. Season generously with pepper. Cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly for 15 minutes, until the leeks are softened all over and have turned a darker shade of green. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more until fragrant.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of well-salted boiling water for 3 minutes less than packet instructions. While the pasta is cooking, place the egg yolks in a bowl with the smoked water. Measure out 100ml of the pasta cooking water as it’s boiling and whisk into the egg yolk mixture.

Drain the pasta, reserving 250ml more of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta and saucepan to the heat. Working quickly, pour in half of the egg yolk mixture, a handful of the cheese and 100ml of the pasta water and use tongs to mix continuously. Stir in the leeks and the remaining egg yolk mixture, parmesan and pasta water. Continue to mix over a low heat for about 4 minutes until a very thick glossy sauce coats every piece of pasta. Taste and adjust the seasoning – it will probably benefit from another decent crack of pepper. Keep the pasta warm while you cook the capers.

Wipe out the pan you used to cook the leeks using a piece of clean kitchen towel, then heat the oil over a medium heat. Meanwhile, drain the capers on a piece of kitchen paper to remove as much brine as possible, as this will spit as soon as the capers hit the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the capers to the pan and cook, stirring with a slotted spoon or spatula until the capers have opened up like a tulip. Use the slotted spoon to lift the capers onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain off the excess oil.

Divide the pasta between warm bowls and top with the crispy capers, and more cheese.


Your basket