Long before I went vegan, I had a love-hate relationship with eggs. I loved foods that had eggs incorporated into them (egg noodles, brioche, crème brûlée), but hated stand-alone eggs (hard boiled/fried). The one exception was scrambled, but only if they were dry as tinder and loaded with veggies. I’ve since become a thrice-a-week tofu scrambler, a pinch of sulphurous black salt at the ready to give them that little extra bit of oomph.
When I received a complimentary packet of Vegg in the mail a few months ago, I was excited to test out this new product. It smelled like egg! The fingertip dip test revealed that it tasted like egg! But … what if it actually resembled egg yolk? My enthusiasm was waning.
So. I could take the easy way out and hide Vegg in something like egg noodles, brioche, crème brûlée . . . or I could give myself over to the magic of kitchen alchemy and see what happened. The challenge I put to myself: make a traditional dish that features egg yolks prominently, but my former self still would have eaten. I am not exaggerating when I say it took me a month; runny egg yolks were the stuff of childhood nightmares.
I’m so glad I held out, though.
I turned to my culinary confidante regarding all things Italian, Marcella Hazan, and her recipe for this failproof dish. It’s carbonara in its simplest form – no messing about with distracting add-ins like peas, mint or cream. Just spaghetti, salt, pepper, pancetta, grated cheese, parsley and egg yolks. Or in my case: fake pancetta, cheese, and egg yolks. Even with vegan ingredients, though, my (non vegan) Italian husband said this was the best carbonara he’s had in ages.
Spaghetti alla carbonara + vegan parmesan
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan
1/2 pound best quality spaghetti
1 1/2 teaspoons Vegg powder + 6 tablespoons water
4 slices bacon substitute – I’ve been playing around with this recipe
a few generous pinches of vegan parmesan (scroll down for recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
a few sprigs of parsley, minced
Put on a large, deep pot of liberally salted water to boil. Get your skillet ready to heat up your bacon, be it tempeh, tofu, or the adzuki bean/buckwheat version I’ve fallen in love with. Mince your parsley and grind your parm, then set both aside for later.
Make your Vegg: It’s very important to blend the powder and water well for several seconds, with an actual blender of some sort. Whisking will not suffice! I used my immersion blender, on high for about 30 seconds. If you don’t have an immersion blender, there are directions on the package for mixing up the entire packet in a stand blender, as well as how to store it.
Make your veg bacon: Time this so that your bacon is finished cooking right before you drain the pasta. Cut each strip of cooked bacon into half-inch pieces and leave in the skillet to stay warm.
Compose your dish: Drain your pasta and immediately transfer to a large bowl (if using gluten free pasta, rinse with hot water first so that it does not stick). Drizzle with Vegg and toss to coat evenly. Add some vegan parm, salt, and a few generous turns of the pepper mill; toss again. Taste and season as needed. Add the bacon and gently toss one more time. Plate out the individual portions and top each with an additional pinch of vegan parm and minced parsley.
There are myriad vegan parmesan recipes floating around the ether, and I suspect many of them came into being as mine did — based on what was in the pantry. This is my contribution: simple, protein-packed, and quite satisfying.
Use this simple ratio and make as much – or as little – as you want.
1 part pine nuts : 2 parts hemp hearts : 2 parts nutritional yeast + 1 large pinch Himalayan (or another large grain) sea salt
Put all of the ingredients in your grinder or food processor, pulse briefly a few times, and sprinkle liberally on anything that could use a bit of umami.