Zucchini Carbonara

by Shawnda on May 19, 2011

in Pasta, Rice, and Grains,Pork,Veggies & Starches,Zucchini

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

Tell me we’re not alone. You know what? You don’t even have to reassure me. I know we’re not alone.

I know we’re not the only ones who became completely enamored by the idea of growing our own produce. With the vision of walking into the backyard, sun shining & birds chirping, with a pair of scissors to snip greens, tomatoes, and herbs for a quick lunch salad.

I know we’re not the only ones who planted an over-ambitious veggie garden. We’re not the only ones who now have zucchini coming out of our ears. In May.

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

And to think, I didn’t think two plants would be enough!

If you forced me to come up with a single word to describe our gardening experience thus far, I could only say “rewarding.” And I still would be selling it short.

What’s not short? The zucchini. From the crook of my elbow to the tip of my middle finger is 14.975268 inches. And the smallest zucchini in our fridge right now is about an inch shy of that. I knew we were in trouble two weeks ago when we grew bored of grilled zucchini planks so we’re trying to be a little more creative when it comes to preparing zucchini. Creative enough to make me happy while still aiming low enough as to not freak out the less adventurous eater in the house. It’s a fine line to walk. We usually all win if we happen to end up on the side that has pasta.

In the vast bookmarked recipe file I keep in my head, the one that has long-since taken over the area where I used to store my ATM PIN number and the place where I left my phone and car keys, I’ve had an idea from Jamie Oliver tucked away for just such an occasion: Squash Carbonara. He whipped up a pot of Fettuccine Carbonara and threw in some squash.

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

We took our very favorite carbonara and paired it with one of the baseball bat-sized zucchini from the garden. We replaced half of the pasta with zucchini. This is a great, great way to healthify dinner, lightening the dish, increasing fiber, and reducing the carbs. Everything gets a wonderful coating of the velvety smooth sauce – that’s cream free!

Penne & Zucchini Carbonara

A deceptively healthier carbonara, replacing half of the pasta with zucchini.


  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 slices of bacon, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 8oz zucchini, cut into pieces the same size as penne
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2/3 - 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 8 oz penne


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining (if you plan to have leftovers, reserve up to 1 cup and add a few Tbsp of pasta water when reheating - it helps bring the creaminess back to the sauce.)
  2. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook bacon pieces to a crisp and remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
  3. Add black pepper and cook for two minutes.
  4. Add zucchini and cook 5-7 minutes, until nicely browned, stirring occasionally.
  5. Whisk egg, yolk, Parmesan, and 1/4 cup pasta water in the bowl with the bacon.
  6. Add drained pasta, scrape the contents from the zucchini pan into the bowl (oil and zucchini), and toss, adding splashes of pasta water to create a creamy sauce.
  7. Serve topped with extra Parmesan.


Yields: 4 servings

Adapted from Fettucine alla Carbonara

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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