Favorite Weeknight Meal: No-Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
For three weeks in a row, this has been our Tuesday night dinner: pasta tossed with a sautéed onion, a ton of greens, and carbonara sauce: 2 eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup parmesan, and 1/4 cup pasta cooking water.
Why Tuesday? Tuesday is CSA pick-up day, and recent deliveries have been loaded with spinach, tatsoi, broccoli rabe and various other greens. After unpacking our CSA, instead of stashing the greens in the fridge, I plunge them into a bowl of water to soak, set a large pot of water on to boil, slice an onion, and whisk together the sauce. The whole dish comes together in about 20 minutes.
I love the addition of bacon found in classic carbonara recipes (as here, here, and here), but it’s not missed in this version. And though the heap of greens wilts down to seemingly nothing, I know it’s there, doing all the good things a heap of greens ought to be doing.
Happy Friday, Everyone. Have a wonderful weekend.
Here’s how you make this weeknight, no-bacon, greens-loaded pasta carbonara: Gather all of your greens and …
soak them in water.
Meanwhile, put on a large pot of water and salt it generously. Find a box or bag of pasta in your pantry:
Meanwhile, gather your sauce ingredients:
Whisk together 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, and, when the pasta is almost finished cooking, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid:
Sauté an onion:
Add your drained greens:
Wilt them down:
Add the pasta:
Toss with carbonara sauce:
Serve immediately with lots of fresh cracked pepper:
Weeknight Carbonara: No Bacon, Loaded with Greens
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
Adapted from a favorite carbonara recipe seen previously here three times:
- Pasta Carbonara with Leeks and Lemon
- Orecchiette Carbonara with Asparagus
- Bucatini Carbonara with Leeks and Lemon
It’s pictured here with pappardelle egg noodles only because that’s what I had on hand when I decided to make/photograph this. I like this equally with linguini or bucatini.
Note: I give a range of pasta amounts because depending on how many people you’re cooking for you may want more or less pasta. And same for the greens — it’s pictured here with 1 lb. of greens, but as you can see from the photos, the greens wilt down to nothing, so 2 lbs of greens would be fine. You may have to add them incrementally if you use 2 lbs.
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 to 2 pounds greens, soaked in water to allow dirt to settle
- 1/2 to ¾ pound bucatini, linguini, or pappardelle
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice plus more to taste
- Set a large pot of salted water (I use 1 tablespoon kosher salt) to boil. In a large skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, immediately turn the heat down to medium, season with a pinch of kosher salt, and sauté stirring occasionally, until soft and just turning to color, 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, transfer greens to a colander to drain—it’s OK if some of the water clings to the greens.
- Add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the onions and stir for 30 seconds. Add all of the greens. (Note: If you are using 2 lbs. of greens, you may have to add them incrementally to the pan.) Cook over medium to medium-high heat until greens shrink way down—use tongs to flip the greens around and help them wilt. Season with a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat.
- Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup (or more) of the pasta cooking liquid. In a medium bowl or liquid measure, whisk together eggs, parmesan, and juice. Whisk ¼ cup pasta water into egg mixture.
- Drain pasta and immediately add to the pan with the onions and greens. Pour egg mixture into pan and toss with tongs to combine, turning heat to low or medium if greens have cooled way down. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Taste. Add more lemon or more of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to taste. Sprinkle pasta with more cheese if desired and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American, Italian
Keywords: pasta, carbonara, vegetarian, greens, lemon, eggs, parmesan
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
35 Comments on “Favorite Weeknight Meal: No-Bacon Pasta Carbonara Loaded with Greens”
i’M WONDERING ABOUT THE ADDITION OF RAW EGGS WHICH DON’T SEEM TO BE COOKED FOR VERY LONG. IS THIS A HEALTH ISSUE?
Good question! The eggs get whisked first with hot pasta cooking liquid, then briefly in the pan with the hot pasta and hot greens, and, though I am no health expert, I think this is enough time/heat to cook them (or at least kill any potential bacteria). I’ve never had an issue, and I’ve been making some variation of this pasta for years. I also always buy good eggs from my local co-op (the Niskayuna Co-op), which carries a ton of local good-quality eggs. All of this said, again, I am no expert in this field, and I would hate to lead you astray.
I’ve always heard the acid from lemon/lime juice will help ‘cook’ eggs.
This is my kind of pasta dinner: simple and fast to make AND loaded with greens! YUM!
🙂 🙂 🙂 xoxo
Ali, I ate pasta carbonara all the time when I pregnant the first time and I miss it and crave it so much now! I love carbonara! I may try this version…with a little bacon 🙂 I haven’t been successful making carbonara in the past – I always end up scrambling the eggs. I’ll give it another go. Sending you lots of aloha hugs and love!
Oh, Dana, you’ve got to try this recipe! It’s so good and there’s nothing to it. Try the original version first: https://alexandracooks.com/2011/11/28/pasta-carbonara-easiest-weeknight-dinner/
Big hugs!! xo
wondering about the amount of moisture that comes out of greens when they are cooked down. do you try to drain it off?
Hi Larry, I haven’t ever drained off any of the liquid — it hasn’t ever been enough for me to feel it might dilute the flavor. I would just see how it goes. If you find a pool of liquid in the sauté pan, you can pour some of it off, but if it doesn’t seem to be to substantial, I would just as soon leave it in. Hope that helps!
I almost didn’t get past the words “no bacon”….but I trusted you and read on…and I am not disappointed!! Making this over the weekend…even though it is a weeknight meal. ?
Thank you for trusting me 🙂 🙂 🙂 Rosa, I hope you like it …. we’ve been loving it, no bacon and all 🙂
Made this last night for dinner and it was a hit! I love carbonara but this was my first time making it myself. Will definitely keep this in the regular meal rotation! Thanks!!
Yay! So happy to hear this Brianna!
This looks delicious! I’m trying to back off pasta … what would you recommend for a pasta substitute? Or does that not work in this recipe?
Made this for the family last night – I’m the only vegetarian of the bunch. Everyone loved it! Thanks, Alexandra, all your recipes are keepers.
Made this with a lime, lasagna noodles that I cut in half, and a mix of greens from our little farm: bok choy, turnip greens, radish greens, and some mystery greens. It is *so* good! I’ve never had carbonara (not a big pork eater) so I have nothing to compare it to, but I am a fan of this version. Thank you thank you!
I have made this a few times, delicious, but not in the mood for pasta so I tried it with quinoa. Worked great!
Great to hear this! Love this idea.
When I read the recipe my first thought was, it was too simple to be delicious, right? Well I’ve made this 3 times this past month and I’ve actually dreamed about it. It is fabulous!!! Super easy, super delicious means WIN-WIN!!! Thanks, Alexandra for another family hit!
Looks amazing! What kind of greens do you suggest?
Hi! Chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens, beet greens, turnip greens — really any dark leafy greens will work here.
How many does it serve?
I’d say 4 tops.
I’ve made this probably a dozen times over the past 2 years and its always delicious. I don’t usually stray from the recipe, but this time I added some shitake mushrooms and it was fabulous. Great spring/summer pasta meal!
YAY! So happy to hear this, Lauren. This is a staple for me as well. LOVE the idea of adding mushrooms.
This looks amazing and Tuesday is my CSA night as well! Can’t wait to try it.
I made a half portion of this for lunch, with additions of chopped tomato with the greens (it’s August. Even chocolate cake might end up with chopped tomato in it.) I also had some basil at hand so that ended up in there, too. I’d call this a first-class way to use the massive amount of chard in our garden right now.
So happy to hear this, Sharon! And I hear you … tomatoes in everything!
I made this with pappardelle noodles and replaced the spinach with Suzanne Goin’s Slow-Cooked Kale recipe, which I made with kale and swiss chard (which freezes nicely). It was delicious, and a great way to use up a pound of greens.
Awesome! I absolutely love Suzanne Goin’s slow-cooked recipe …so good. Have never tried with chard. Great to know it works!
So simple and quick. The most delicious way to use up greens! Thank you for another wonderful recipe!
So happy to hear this, Bea!
In the midst of an unusual week with the coronavirus scare, we made this for dinner one evening, wanting quick and comforting food. Oh my goodness, this is easy and so delicious. Cannot thank you enough, Alexandra!
Oh yay! Hina, this is one of my all-time favorites … it’s such a staple around here. Makes me happy you made it.