I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love pasta. I never used to be a huge pasta fan. Actually, as a kid, I detested it (along with most foods) and penne (the shape of it) and lasagne were the scariest thing. Yes, I know, that sounds weird. Most of the pasta dishes I make are far from proper Italian style which are usually more simple. But I find pasta is one dish that you can load with veg either added after or blended into a sauce and it makes it taste so yum. This super creamy (cream-free), butternut carbonara pasta with coconut bacon is no exception and is another favourite of mine.
Firstly, if you haven’t tried coconut bacon, try it. I am not vegetarian or vegan, and I love bacon. I could eat it every day. But as bacon is processed and contains nitrates and a lot of salt (unless you go for a more “natural” nitrate-free bacon which is a healthier option), it’s not the healthiest protein choice around. But man, is the flavour good. Coconut bacon tries to mimic bacon, and it might not as good to some of you, but I think it certainly adds loads of flavour and is a good vegetarian option for those not wanting to have meat. The coconut flakes give it the texture and size of chopped up bacon while the smoked paprika and soy give it the smokiness and saltiness. If you want to skip this, this pasta works well with bacon, grilled chicken breast, or roasted red onion.
As for pasta – yes it is a carb. And your problem is? Carbs get such a bad reputation when it comes to healthy eating and weight gain. But like with a lot of food, the key is moderation, and carbs do play an important role, their main role being they are the main source of energy. Of course if you eat too many carbs it can be hard to lose weight or you may gain weight. Treat carbs like petrol in your car. If you aren’t moving in your car, you aren’t going to be burning through much fuel. If you drive across the country, you will need a lot more. So if you are sitting at a desk all day and hardly walking, moving around or exercising, then you don’t need to be eating large amounts of carbs. But small portions are ideal. Additionally, when you can, opt for high fibre carbs (in this case, you could pick wholegrain pasta), as the fibre will help keep you more satisfied (among other benefits).
Recipe for creamy butternut carbonara pasta with coconut bacon
Serving size: Serves 2
Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-40 minutes (depending on method)
- 1 1/2 cups wholegrain penne pasta (or pasta of your choice)
- 1/2 a butternut (approx 300g)
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup oat, almond, soy or cashew milk
- 1/4 macadamia or cashew nuts (pine nuts, walnuts or silken tofu work well too)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes
- 2 tsp soya sauce (or Tamari sauce for gluten/wheat free)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp rapeseed oil (or another neutral-tasting oil)
- 1/2 tsp maple syrup (optional)
- Small pinch salt and pepper
Bacon and grilled chicken breast work well with this dish too!
Step 1: Turn on your oven to 200 °C (400 °F). While this heats up, start to prepare your butternut – chop up the butternut into small cubes or approx. 1cm slices (it doesn’t matter which way as these will be blended up). Toss these in a very small amount of olive oil (optional) and spread out on a roasting pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through. I use an air fryer for roasting everything, as it’s much quicker and don’t tend to use any oil, so this is another option (or you can steam it).
Step 2: While the butternut is cooking, you will need to prepare your coconut bacon (or real bacon if you prefer). Mix your soya sauce, olive oil, and smoked paprika in a bowl and toss your coconut flakes around briefly. Then scoop these out and place on a roasting tray ready to roast away. Put these in the oven while the butternut continues to cook for approximately 8-10 minutes. You may want to check on it so it doesn’t burn.
Step 3: During this time, you can also start cooking your pasta for 12-15 minutes while the butternut and coconut bacon finish off cooking.
Step 4: Once your butternut is tender, place this into a blender along with nuts (or silken tofu), garlic, paprika and milk. Blend until thick, smooth and creamy. You can always add a little extra milk or water from the pasta pot to make this thinner if you prefer.
Step 5: Drain your pasta once done, place this back in the pot and pour over your butternut sauce. Stir and heat a little longer if needed. Add your coconut or regular bacon, stir in and enjoy.