Almost Meatless for a Meal: Asparagus Carbonara

April 6th, 2009 by katie

Now before anyone freaks out, this meal isn’t meatless as in vegetarian.  Carbonara uses bacon, eggs, and cheese to create a rich, filling pasta dish without relying on a more expensive protein source.  This was my first time trying it and now I know why this dish is so popular!  It is such an easy and fast meal as well as luxurious and satisfying.

One of the ways to keep grocery costs low is to buy seasonal fruits and vegetables.  Asparagus and strawberries are coming into season and can be gotten for a good price at the grocery store.   The addition of asparagus spears keeps this pasta from feeling too heavy but it still needs a nice light salad as an accompaniment.  I served it with a Strawberry Salad, one of my favorite sweet and tangy salads.

Asparagus Carbonara

serve 6, prep 10 min, cook 10 min
  • 1 lb asparagus spears
  • 1 lb spaghetti noodles
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz bacon, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pasta water
  • fresh ground pepper
  1. Wash and chop the asparagus spears into 1 inch pieces.  Steam or boil for about 5 minutes or until tender.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add several tablespoons of salt.  Add noodles and cook til al dente while preparing sauce.  Do not allow noodles to cool since their heat is needed to cook the egg sauce.
  3. While noodles are cooking, heat oil and saute bacon pieces until crisp.  Add drained asparagus spears and garlic and cook until soft, while noodles finish.
  4. Whisk together the eggs, cheese, and 1/4 cup of water from your pasta pot while stirring constantly to temper (warm up) the eggs without cooking them.
  5. Add hot noodles to hot skillet and coat in bacon fat.
  6. Stirring quickly to coat, add egg mixture to hot noodles.
  7. The eggs and cheese will thin and create a velvety sauce that coats the noodles.  Stir in more pasta water if you want it saucier.
  8. Add fresh ground black pepper to taste and serve fresh and hot.

Cost Analysis:

  • 1 lb asparagus: $0.94
  • 4 oz bacon: $0.75
  • 2 local cage-free eggs: $0.37
  • 1 lb healthy carb spaghetti: $0.25 ($1.25 -$1 coupon)
  • 3 oz Parmesan cheese: $2.02
  • Total cost for 6 servings: $5.43 or 91¢ per serving
  • 6 cups organic lettuce spring mix: $3.99
  • 1/2 sweet Texas onion: $0.13
  • 8 oz strawberries: $0.75
  • 1 oz pecans: $0.56
  • Total cost for 6 servings: $4.33 or 72¢ per serving
  • Total cost for meal: $9.76 or $1.63 per serving

I have submitted this one to Michelle at Thursday Night Smackdown for Hobo Mondays.  Go there for more cheap food!

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Posted in Budget, Easy, Fast, Main Dish

26 Responses

  1. marguerite

    Yum! This looks great!

  2. noble pig

    I love asparagus in salad. This looks delicious!

  3. Nancy

    spaghetti carbonara is a standard dish in our house. we love it. we love asparagus too but i’ve never added it in. you can bet i will next time i make it. i love that strawberry salad too.

  4. Kelly

    I love carbonara, and the asparagus sounds like the perfect addition! Beautiful photos, and I love the cost break-down. Thanks!

  5. Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary

    Yum! Asparagus is my most favorite veggie. I must make this.

  6. Melissa

    Isn’t carbonara the best?? I never thought to add seasonal vegetables to it – great idea. And oh strawberry salad… just discovered that about 6 months ago. Heavenly combo.

  7. RecipeGirl

    Carbonara is our favorite pasta dish. Nice idea to add asparagus!

  8. stephen

    Nice easy spring pasta dish. its fun to make fresh pasta too.

  9. Cate O'Malley

    Love spaghetti carbonara, and it’s a great go-to dish. The addition of asparagus sounds perfect.

  10. Bacon Vegetarian?

    Last I checked, bacon isn’t vegetarian.

  11. Nathan

    It’s not meatless. Bacon is a meat. I know what you meant by it because I read the meaning behind it, but still. Just call it a cheap meal, not a meatless one.

  12. Nana

    Pssst, Nathan…look it up, bacon is a fat, just like butter… Also, where do you find asparagus for .99 a pound? I wanna shop THERE! lol

    Kroger usually has the best produce sale prices around here, that price was the reason I bought it! -Katie

  13. katie

    pssst nana you can see the bacon in the dish look at it

  14. DonQuixote

    Nana, are you really suggesting that bacon is not meat? Think again. Also, perhaps noble pig should read the recipe more carefully (or in the first place) – there is no salad, and the salad with which this dish is served contains no asparagus. That being said, this is a great take on a classic, though it is not a particularly cost-effective plan, despite the objective prices supplied by the author.

  15. Phil E. Drifter

    Vegans are almost as bad as religitards. Almost. For every meat product you refuse to eat, i’ll eat for two.

    There is no god. Get over it. Think for yourself instead.

  16. Lady Chuckles

    I love your site! This recipe sounds delicious! I’m definately going to get back to it :)

    Thanks!

  17. krysta

    rolling eyes*

    katie, good job… i knew what you meant and the salad the salad is one of my favorite things.

    around here the asparagus festival is coming up this weekend. lots of asparagus goodness.mmmm

  18. Kelly

    Did anyone else find the dish way too salty? I thought several tablespoons of salt added to the boiling pasta water was too much.

    How much water did you use to boil your pasta? A few tablespoons in 3-4 qts of boiling water isn’t much in the final dish. -Katie

  19. Sarah

    I love your site but I was very disappointed by this. Carbonara is one of my favourite dishes, but my husband is vegetarian so I’m always on the lookout for vegetarian versions. The bacon is hard to substitute, and despite the title you didn’t do it. This is a fully meat version of carbonara, with a vegetable thrown in.

    I also agree about the salt – I have a habit of putting 1 tsp per 2 or so quarts. But that’s a taste thing I know.

  20. Abs

    This is not meatless in any way, shape or form – bacon is meat. I can’t believe you’d think people would “freak out” at the thought of a meal without meat. What a limiting mindset.

    Phil E. Drifter, meat production is a major cause of global warming. “Thinking for yourself” is not the same thing as blinkering yourself to uncomfortable facts and carrying on doing whatever you want regardless of the consequences.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7600005.stm

  21. Kevin

    Asparagus carbonara is one of my favorite way of enjoying the asparagus. Bring on the zucchini carbonara!

  22. Marty

    This has become one of my go-to recipes! It’s a perfect way to use up leftover bacon.

    I can get asparagus for 99cents a pound quite frequently around here (Kansas). Food is still quite cheap in some parts of the country.

    Thanks for your great blog!

  23. LadyChuckles

    Sounds delicious!
    I’m so going to try make that at home. Mmmmm…

  24. Cynthia

    Just made this…yummy. I couldn’t wait for the salad & bread. I ate it before I could finish the meal.In another carbonara recipe that I make, I use wine to saute the bacon in. I may do that next time just because…

  25. kathy k

    It was simple to make unfortunately I forgot to put in only a half pound of pasta and put in 15 oz. The cheese, egg and pasta mix was smooth. Added it to the pasta and asparagus and it looked like it curdled on each of the noodles. The cheese was fresh. My son said the pasta needed to have a coating of olive oil, then the sauce in. I did have bacon fat and olive oil and it looked like it curdled. It tasted fine, but it did not look great.

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