I watched the first season of Master of None in one day because of course I did, and besides being thrilled to have Aziz back on my TV, it was a refreshing and realistic yet funny look at millennial life in New York. Obviously it was also amazing for those who are into food and the restaurant scene and plenty of work was put in by journalists to find where they ate on the show. Of course I loved that focus, but when I had the idea for this blog, I remembered a scene that prompted a "challenge accepted" moment from this show. In "Mornings," when Dev uses his spaghetti maker to make a vegetarian version of carbonara for his girlfriend, Rachel, my mind went into overdrive thinking about how I could make that a reality. Part of carbonara's trademark is the smoky meat used in the sauce, so I did a bunch of research to figure out how to replicate it and combined a few recipes that would help make the absence of meat a little more exciting while still resembling the source material. Now, I'm determined to make the real thing (technically in the show he makes both!).
I found a few recipes with ideas, but one of them seemed more approachable than the others. The only drawback (to me) was the absence of using the dairy + eggs to make the sauce. It tasted fine (and the base of this version is actually vegan if you don't use normal pasta), but I think preserving those elements of the classic sauce would have made it a better copy. I also used half real pasta and half spaghetti squash, which I wouldn't recommend. Either do all pasta or, as I unsuccessfully adapted from the geniuses behind Double Thyme, half spiralized zucchini or yellow squash, which provides a better texture and is more substational with this type of sauce.
Rachel's Vegetarian Carbonara
inspired by Master of None season 1, episode 9
- 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp liquid smoke (I just learned that this is a thing!)
- 1/4 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 lb spaghetti or linguine homemade or the fancy fresh kind you don't have to cook as long if possible (or 1/2 lb of pasta and equivalent amount of spiralized veggie)
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp cold water
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 small head cauliflower (any color!), cut into small florets
- 8oz package of white mushrooms, quartered
- juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 onion, chopped into slices or however you like
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, taken out of freezer when you start cooking
- 2 bubbles of burrata (optional)
- parmesan for topping (optional)
- salt and pepper
Let the tomatoes "smoke" while you prepare the rest of the meal. Combine sun dried tomatoes, warm water, vinegar, soy sauce, liquid smoke and garlic powder in a small bowl, covering the tomatoes as completely as you can. Set aside.
Now, cook the veggies. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Toss cauliflower and mushrooms in olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until cauliflower is soft and browned and a fork goes through the stem of the floret easily. Remove from oven and set aside to cool (you'll be in the middle of other prep by then).
Make your pasta according to the instructions on the package. I used the fresh-ish kind so it only had to cook for about 2-3 minutes. When you drain the water, reserve a cup of it for the sauce.
In a small glass, mix cornstarch and cold water together until the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Add the reserved starch pasta water to the mixture along with the nutritional yeast and whisk until everything is mixed together with no chunks. Set aside.
In your emptied pasta pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and let cook for 30 seconds to a minute. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until soft. Remove garlic and onion from pot, add a little more oil and heat again over medium heat. Drain sun dried tomato mixture and add the tomatoes only (no juice) to the pot to cook for about 2 minutes. Now, add pasta to tomatoes and fold in cornstarch mixture. Stir for 30 seconds and it will start to thicken and grab onto the noodles. Remove from heat and fold in Panko, veggies (peas, onions and garlic, cauliflower and mushrooms), lemon juice and zest (but no seeds!) until well-combined.
Plate and add burrata to individual servings or cut it open and let it mix in too. Add parmesan on top (and in the middle, honestly) to taste. Pretend to live in the world of Master of None.
[made while watching The Great British Baking Show]