Fake Bacon.....Or How I Made Vegetarian Carbonara Sauce

Yes, your heard me, (or you read that right) I have crossed over to the fake bacon realm.

I'm not sure I've mentioned this, but I've given up meat for the next few months. Oh, believe you me, it's not easy, especially since I would be happy to eat half of an entire roast beef for breakfast every day. Oh, but I digress.

So far, I have learned to make quite a few interesting full vegetarian dishes without missing the meat. Many eggs, fish and much cheese and beans have been consumed over these past 3 weeks. I even managed to avoid meat at our Chinese New Year Dim Sum luncheon (albeit, *that* event did make me a little sad, what with the roast duck and all).

Then, I saw this post for Spaghetti alla Carbonara on the blog A Chow Life. I was sunk. The need for bacon (which, I will have you know, I passed up at a brunch last weekend) reared its ugly head. There was no way around, it I needed to make this....fast.

I turned to my friend Ms. A, a long-time vegetarian. We headed to our fabulous organic veggie emporium, Rainbow Grocery, and she schooled me in the non-meat bacon options. We settled on Smart Bacon. Though still skeptical, I knew this was my only option.

When I returned home, I readied the ingredients and reviewed the recipe. The Smart Bacon was not at all like *real* bacon. When I opened the package, the tell-tale hickory smoke smell did not assault my nose. Nor, when I touched it, was the texture at all what I had anticipated. Since it is so thin and without the grooves of real bacon, I decided I would chop it up really small into a dice. Also, I realize now, that I did this as much to keep myself from feeling the weird texture in my mouth as for presentation.

I fried it up (had to use quite a bit of oil to make up for the missing fat), followed the instructions and sat down to eat. What a fabulous surprise I had, upon that first bite, of the bacon essence mixing in just-so with the egg, cheese and spices.

The apologies I owe to everyone and their brother (not my brother mind you, the biggest bacon eater of us all) for putting down their fake bacon are vast and cover years. Accept my apologies, and this recipe as a thank you for putting up with me.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
serves 4


  • 5 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pkg meat-free Bacon (like Smart Bacon), diced
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 and 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, add 2 tablespoons salt.
  • In a saute pan or skillet, combine oil, red pepper flakes, and meat-free bacon over medium heat.
  • Heat the meat-free bacon through, and long enough to get the red pepper flakes to pop.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside. Do not drain the oil.
  • Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until just al dente.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside, then drain the pasta.
  • Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the meat-free bacon.
  • Add the pasta and heat, shaking the pan, for 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add 1 cup of the cheese, the egg whites, and pepper to taste, and toss until thoroughly mixed.
  • Divide pasta among 4 warm bowls.
  • Make a well in the center of each one, and gently drop an egg yolk into each well.
  • Season the eggs with more pepper and sprinkle tops with remaining cheese.
Adapted from A Chow Life