Right now if I asked Tony to pick his favorite meal that I make, it would be a tie between this healthy pasta carbonara and my bbq cheddar stuffed meatloaf paired with mashed potatoes or possibly my healthier sloppy joes.
Tony loves pasta and he loves meat so neither of his answers would surprise me, but I am surprised by just how much he adores and requests this pasta on a weekly basis.
Great news for me (and now you!) because this pasta carbonara takes less than 30 minutes to make, requires minimal ingredients, is inexpensive and incredibly flavorful. We absolutely love this meal because of the creamy sauce in the pasta, protein, and veggies.
Today I’m sharing my lightened up, healthier version of pasta carbonara so you can enjoy it as much as we do. Okay, let’s do this!
What is pasta carbonara?
Pasta carbonara is an Italian dish made with hard cheese such as Pecorino Romano or parmesan, eggs, bacon or pancetta, freshly ground black pepper and pasta. Traditionally, most pasta carbonara recipes are made with spaghetti, but it’s also common to use bucatini, linguine, rigatoni or angel hair pasta.
How to make pasta carbonara healthier
My version of pasta carbonara has a few twists to lighten it up and make it a little more healthy than the traditional version. Instead of regular bacon, I opt to use turkey bacon. I also use less pasta and cheese then typical versions of pasta carbonara. Plus, we add peas to get a serving of veggies in!
Please note: if you aren’t a fan of peas, you can sub 6 -8 cups of spinach and cook it down. I provide instructions for that in the note section of the recipe. You could also do fresh or frozen sweet corn instead. (I know that’s what my mother in law will do!)
Tips for making pasta carbonara:
Tip when buying turkey bacon: if you purchase turkey bacon, please choose a brand without nitrates. I like Applegate and Wellshire Farms brands of turkey bacon best. Look for minimal ingredients on the labels. I always suggest buying organic meat or meat from small family farms, if possible. Not into turkey bacon? You can use regular bacon instead.
Have everything prepared to go and ingredients out before you start cooking: this recipe goes quickly so you’ll just need to make sure you have everything out, measured and ready so you aren’t scrambling.
When you mix your cheese and eggs in, make sure the pan isn’t over direct heat: it can be easily to curdle your eggs if the pan is too hot. My best advice is to cook your bacon first as directed, then once it’s done, take the pan off the heat and move to a different burner while you finish cooking your pasta. Once the pasta is done and drained, add pasta to the pan you cooked the bacon in. The gentle heat from the pasta will be enough to set the eggs to create a nice, creamy sauce.
Add in a little reserved pasta water, but not too much: reserved pasta water will help to make the pasta nice and creamy to your liking. Generally, I only add a tablespoon, maybe two to create a nice consistency.
How to make this pasta carbonara gluten free:
If you want to make this recipe gluten free, you can use gluten free angel hair or spaghetti pasta of choice or Banza chickpea pasta.
There really isn’t a way to make this pasta dairy free with good results unless you trust dairy free parmesan — I’m sorry friends!
I hope you love this healthy pasta carbonara with peas as much as we do! It’s absolutely delicious, easy, perfect for weeknight meals or even date night with your partner. Don’t forget to add lots of freshly ground black pepper, and if you’d like some extra cheese on top. Enjoy!
More 30 minute pasta recipes you might like:
If you make this pasta carbonara, please let me know by leaving a comment and rating the recipe below. I’d love to hear from you and it helps encourage others to make the recipe too! xo.
Healthier Pasta Carbonara
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano or grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 ounces turkey bacon (or regular bacon)
- 10 ounces dry angel hair pasta or spaghetti, feel free to use gluten free or whole grain pasta
- 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
- ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Lots of freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed (add more peas if you like them!)
- Freshly ground salt and black pepper
Add eggs, cheese and garlic powder to a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Set aside.
Add bacon to a large skillet or pan and place over medium heat, cook bacon on both sides until golden brown. If the pan starts to smoke at any point, simply lower the heat. I always cook my bacon on medium to medium low heat.
Once bacon is done, blot with a paper towel to absorb excess grease, then chop into bite sized pieces and set aside. There shouldn’t be any bacon grease in the pan unless you used regular pork bacon. If you used regular bacon, drain bacon grease from pan, leaving only about 1-3 teaspoons grease in the pan. You’ll be using this pan for the pasta so remove it from the heat and the hot burner and set on aside on the stovetop.
While the bacon is cooking, place a large pot of water over high heat and add in a generous amount of salt. Once the water boils, stir in the angel hair pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-8 minutes.
Once pasta is done cooking, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water and set aside, then drain remaining pasta in a colander. IMMEDIATELY transfer pasta to the pan you cooked the bacon in; the pan might still be warm but it should not be over any direct heat.
Slowly stir in the egg and parmesan mixture and use tongs to coat the pasta with the mixture. The warmth of the pasta will help cook the eggs and make them nice and creamy to coat the pasta. The eggs should not be curdled or chunky. Add in a little bit of the reserved pasta water if necessary to make the sauce creamier. I usually only add a tablespoon or two or the reserved pasta water, but it depends on how creamy you like your pasta!
Give the pasta another stir, then add in 1/4 teaspoon salt, LOTS of freshly ground black pepper, the chopped bacon and thawed peas. Stir again to coat. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Add red pepper flakes if you like a little bit of heat. Enjoy! Serves 4. Garnish with extra cheese and dig in!
If you want to use spinach instead of peas, I recommend cooking 6-8 cups of spinach in a skillet with a little olive oil until it's completely wilted. You can do this after you cook the bacon, or you can do this before you start the recipe.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by Eat Love Eats