Zucchini Carbonara

zucchini carbonara topped with fresh basil leaves
Photo: Marcus Nilsson
Prep Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
35 mins

Sautéed zucchini is a delicious way to make a rich dish like carbonara a little healthier—this recipe uses two parts vegetable to one part pasta. Another trick: Don't skimp on the extra egg yolk; the addition helps emulsify the sauce, so it reaches optimum creaminess and renders a flawless carbonara copy.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 4 ounces pancetta, cubed

  • 2 large or 3 small zucchini (about 1 pound), julienned (see cook's note)

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large yolk

  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano, finely grated (1 cup), plus more for serving

  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine

  • ½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves


  1. In a large skillet or braiser, heat oil, garlic, and pancetta over medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is just crisp, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini; season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, whisk together egg, yolk, cheese, and lemon zest. Season with a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. Cook spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente (about 1 minute shy of package instructions). Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain.

  3. Slowly whisk 2 tablespoons hot pasta water into egg mixture, then transfer pasta and egg mixture to skillet. Cook over medium heat, tossing vigorously and adding more pasta water as needed, 1/4 cup at a time, until sauce is silky and thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in basil; season to taste. Serve, topped with more cheese.

Cook's Notes

Cut the zucchini into long matchsticks to mimic the shape of the noodles. You can easily do it by hand, or enlist a mandoline or julienne peeler. To julienne by hand, cut each zucchini in half crosswise (if large), then slice lengthwise into planks. Stack a few together, and slice into thin strips.

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