Carbonara. Need I say more? Just one word and my mouth immediately begins to water thinking of the creamy goodness. With this Spaghetti Squash Carbonara, you can have the same rich and all-around mmmmm flavor with a healthy, low-carb, and veggie-packed twist.
Few dishes stack up to the allure of this pure Italian comfort food.
If I see it on a restaurant menu, it’s always a finalist.
If it’s served at a family gathering, I say a prayer in thanksgiving that I have Italian in-laws.
Traditional Pasta Carbonara
Traditional carbonara is usually an Italian pasta dish with a decadent sauce made from cream, egg yolks, and garlic. It’s topped with cooked pancetta (cured pork), lots of black pepper, and Parmesan.
If you can’t tell from the description above, carbonara is delicious. (I’ll grab a towel for your drool too ;-) ).
Enjoying such richness is special. As a regular weeknight dinner habit, however, it isn’t the healthiest of ideas.
Thankfully, with this spaghetti squash carbonara, you can still have Italian nirvana in a vegetable-packed, low-carb option.
Remember when we covered how to make perfect Roasted Spaghetti Squash noodles? Time to use those skills!
Spaghetti squash is perfect for the keto diet and a very healthy alternative to pasta noodles generally because it is very low in carbohydrates and calories. That’s one reason why my Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan and Mushrooms and Spaghetti Squash Lasagna are so popular.
It’s also full of fiber and vitamins B6 and C. That’s why I love making meals based on spaghetti squash, like this.
And for our purposes today, it is IDEAL for making a lighter carbonara!
Today’s Healthy Carbonara
Here are the sneaky swaps that make this spaghetti squash carbonara a dish you can feel good enjoying on the reg:
- Spaghetti Squash Noodles. In lieu of using dried or fresh pasta noodles for carbonara, I swapped our low carb, nutrient-packed spaghetti squash noodles.
- Add Peas. Peas are not always traditionally part of carbonara, but I’ve still eaten a number of versions that include them. Peas are such a simple way to add more nutrients, like protein and vitamin A.
- Fewer Eggs and Cheese. Carbonara sauce is made from eggs and cheese traditionally. No way you want to stray from that in this recipe! I did find, however, that I could get away with a bit less cheese, and thanks to the eggs, I was able to skip the cream entirely and still had great results.
How to Make Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
- Quality Bacon. Using good quality ingredients matters. Getting thick, fresh-cut bacon from the butcher counter can’t be matched. You only need a few slices here, so it’s not expensive. (And any leftover is perfect for my Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts and any of my other favorite bacon recipes that you can find here.)
- Quality Parmesan. Not all grated cheese is created equal. I recommend buying a block of Parmesan and grating it in your food processor, or buy it in the refrigerated section already grated. Shelf-stable Parmesan in that green can just doesn’t melt into the sauce as nicely, and it doesn’t have that warm, nutty flavor that quality Parmesan has.
- Eggs. It’s okay to put a raw egg in carbonara because the egg cooks with the sauce. It’s the secret to the perfect creamy and rich sauce.
- Frozen Peas. My easy addition for a little extra nutrition and texture.
- Salt + Pepper. The iconic duo adds a final oomph to our flavorful dish. Be sure to add some extra black pepper at the end.
- Roast the spaghetti squash at 400 degrees F, then fluff the strands. =
- Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain onto a paper towel-lined plate. Leave some drippings in the pan.
- Whisk the eggs and Parmesan together. Keep these handy.
- Cook the squash noodles with garlic over low heat.
- Pour the egg mixture over the noodles (let the noodles cool first if they’re very hot). Stir to coat. Cook over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens. Just keep stirring.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the salt, pepper, bacon, and peas. DIG IN!
To make the carbonara of your dreams, following these recipe tips makes the world of difference.
- Use Good Quality Ingredients. I can’t say this enough! Carbonara has so few, that each one really matters.
- Don’t Overcook Spaghetti Squash. Yes, you can overcook spaghetti squash in the oven, and if you do, you’ll have soggy, mushy noodles in your carbonara. No grazie! Since the noodles will be cooked again in the pan with the eggs and Parm, you want the squash to be al dente before you start. (Usually, 35 to 40 minutes is the right amount of time for a 2-pound squash.)
- Be Patient. When you pour the egg and Parmesan mixture on the squash noodles to create the carbonara sauce, it will seem excessively liquidy. Since spaghetti squash is low-carb, it doesn’t have the starches that help bind it with the eggs the way pasta does. Plus, additional water is being released from the squash. Don’t expedite the cooking by turning up the heat though, as that will scramble the eggs. Just be patient and have faith. The few extra minutes of cooking will make it right!
Pair this carbonara with a bright Chardonnay, crisp Pinot Grigio, or dry Rosé. Red wine lovers, try a light Chianti Classico or Syrah.
Storage and Reheating Tips
- To Store. Refrigerate carbonara in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or gently in the microwave.
- To Freeze. I do not recommend freezing this dish, as it will become soggy once thawed and the sauce won’t freeze well.
Meal Plan Tip
Roast the spaghetti squash up to 2 days in advance, and refrigerate it in an airtight storage container.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Cast Iron Skillet. A must-have in every chef’s kitchen.
- Whisk. The smaller size helps you keep ingredients from splashing.
- Food Processor. Try my trick to easily grate your cheese in a food processor. Plus, it has so many other uses.
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
- 2 medium spaghetti squash about 2 pounds each
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 4 strips bacon cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
- 5 cloves garlic minced (about 1 ½ tablespoons)
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus additional to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus additional to taste
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roast the spaghetti squash according to this recipe for Roasted Spaghetti Squash. When the squash has finished cooking, fluff the squash strands to make “noodles.”
- Measure and set out the frozen peas (they don’t need to completely thaw; just let them warm up at room temp while you make the rest of the recipe).
- While the squash roasts, place the bacon pieces in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven. Cook over medium, until the bacon is crisp and the fat has rendered, about 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t rush it—crispy bacon takes patience and you don’t want it to burn. With a slotted spoon, scoop the bacon onto a paper towel-lined plate and blot away any extra grease. Discard all but 1 tablespoon drippings from the pan.
- While the bacon cooks, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and Parmesan.
- Return the pan to the stove and turn the heat to low. Add the squash noodles to the pan and sprinkle with the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, just long enough to coat the noodles with the bacon drippings and to allow the garlic to become fragrant.
- If your squash is super hot for any reason, let it cool for a few minutes before proceeding; you want it warm enough to cook the eggs, but not so hot the scramble. Add the egg/Parm mixture to the noodles. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, so that you evenly coat the squash with the eggs and Parmesan. The mixture will be very liquidy at first, but just keep stirring. You want the eggs to slowly cook.
- After about 8 minutes, you'll notice the mixture has thickened and is looking creamy, but there will be some liquid in the pan—this is moisture being released by the noodles. At this point, increase the heat to medium low and continue cooking until most of the liquid evaporates. 100% won't cook off—this is a fact of life when cooking with spaghetti squash—but the mixture should continue to thicken somewhat and look nice and creamy.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, bacon, and peas. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Enjoy immediately, sprinkled with additional Parmesan and an extra pinch of black pepper.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate carbonara in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
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