Andy Bennett's Creamy Cauliflower Pasta Carbonara

November 29, 2017
14 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

Though this is a pasta hugged by cream sauce—with all the warm, fuzzy feelings such a thing has to offer—it’s made mostly of vegetables, with no cream or egg. You’d counterintuitively call this cream-saucy pasta light—fresh, even. The secret is that cauliflower’s cell walls are naturally abundant in pectin, which helps the cooked vegetable thicken voluptuously when blended. It’s frankly a wonder we hadn’t been pouring it over our pastas (and everything else) before. Adapted from chef Andy Bennett and Rouge Tomate Chelsea. —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • Pasta Carbonara
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) olive oil
  • 1 cup (100g) sliced spring onions or green onions
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 cup (200g) Creamy Cauliflower Sauce (from below)
  • 2 cups dried pasta, (250g) cooked al dente pasta (from about 125g dry pasta—for the rigatoni we used, this was about 2 cups dry pasta)
  • 2/3 cup (90g) fresh or frozen green peas, cooked in salted water
  • 1/2 cup Scant, (10g) chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 tablespoons (12g) finely grated Parmesan
  • Smoked sea salt, to taste (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon (4g) toasted breadcrumbs, or more to taste
  • Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
  • 2 cups (200g) cauliflower florets (in roughly 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 2 1/4 cups (500g) vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 cup (100g) olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Pasta Carbonara
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the onions and garlic are turning light golden. Add the sauce, pasta, and peas and heat everything through, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes.
  3. Once hot, stir in the cheese and parsley, season with smoked salt and black pepper to taste and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and serve immediately.
  1. Creamy Cauliflower Sauce
  2. In a medium saucepan, cover the cauliflower with vegetable stock and simmer, partially covered, until really tender, about 20 minutes. Blend the cauliflower and stock till smooth with a blender or hand blender. While the blender is running, slowly pour in olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Store any leftovers airtight in the refrigerator and use as a creamy sauce, warm or cold.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Peggy Warhola Driehorst
    Peggy Warhola Driehorst
  • eluu
  • Hanna Clarke
    Hanna Clarke
  • Eva
  • janice
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

53 Reviews

Peggy W. November 21, 2022
I was a bit skeptical about the cauliflower carbonara
but I trust Food 52 so gave it a try and loved it. Thank you Food 52!
eluu June 25, 2022
I've only ever made the sauce and followed Eva's recommendation of using just enough broth to cover the cauliflower - the sauce always comes out lusciously, velvety and delicious. I make this for my toddler who's been a little vegetable skimper, but he loves this!
Hanna C. October 16, 2021
This recipe is genius! A friend challenged me to a scallop potato cook off and I used the cauliflower sauce from this recipe and beat the pants off her! Super delicious and very versatile.
Eva March 6, 2021
I can’t attest to how similar this is to carbonara, but I CAN attest to it being delicious and simple. I added some white beans instead of peas (not the same, but tasty). Having read some reviews about the sauce being too watery, I used just enough broth to almost cover the cauliflower (in a deep saucepan) and blended the heck out of the sauce—it turned out rich and creamy. I will happily make this again!
ReneeAR June 1, 2020
My husband LOVES carbonara but I've never made it, for various reasons. I made this last night - it's for two people AND vegetarian. It was amazing. I think if I made enough for more people, he would've eaten that too.

I had to sub a few things because I cannot often get all the ingredients for recipes but it turned out amazing. Imagine if I didn't have to sub things.

The sauce was creamy but I let my cauliflower cook a bit longer. We're going to have the remaining sauce over roasted potatoes. Loved it!!
cospina May 28, 2020
Wow, this was insanely good. Just made it tonight and almost couldn't stop myself from eating the sauce by itself!

Some folks have commented that the sauce was too runny...I didn't strictly follow the amounts so that may have been why my sauce turned out super rich and thick and creamy. I would say that I had a little over 2 cups of cauliflower, and exactly two cups of water (so that the cauliflower was not completely submerged in the pot). I also boiled the cauliflower for a good amount of time (20-25 min), so maybe a good bit of the water had absorbed/evaporated. I also eyeballed the olive oil, though I'm certain it was less than half a cup - maybe around 1/3 of a cup.

Highly recommend!
gideon B. August 18, 2019
what an absolute pleasure to see recipe ingredients expressed in weight. It should be a law; no weights, no recipe!
Macheese October 27, 2018
Oh also I’m currently vegan so no Parmesan and the onion garlic cauliflower water + salt was flavorful enough
Macheese October 27, 2018
So my first time making this (apologize for not following to a t). Put a 1/2 head of cauliflower on the steamer rack of my instantpot draped a 1/2 onion over it and a clove of garlic with 1/2” water and did manual for 2 minutes. With pressure building and release that was probably <10 minutes. Then dumped most of the water since I read comments and immersion blended it (onion and garlic no broth) with olive oil. I’ve eaten 1/2 of it already from the pot. I’m about to make the pasta as suggested! I love it as is and instantpot lets you walk the dog :)
hmcgivney September 24, 2018
How long do you think the sauce would last in the fridge? I made it 4 days ago and plan on using the rest to bind together a casserole.
janice September 22, 2018
I agree the sauce was so watery. I kept reading the recipe over again to make sure I didn't make a mistake.
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
Janice, I'm sorry to hear the sauce was watery and that I missed a few others' prior comments on that note. Many other people in the comments have made it successfully as well, so I don't think it's inherently an issue with the ratios—I wonder if the oil isn't emulsifying in well, if it's not being poured in slowly enough while blending? (Kind of like if you try to make a mayo or aioli and it breaks, it goes from thick and creamy to broken and liquidy.) If so I might try blending more and maybe following the steps for fixing a broken aioli here (but using a little water or stock to start instead of the egg yolk):
Eh444 May 9, 2018
The sauce was so watery?! 400g cauli wth 1L of stock was more watery than soup(I doubled recipe) that right? I wish i had followed my instinct and microplaned the garlic and used less water in the sauce. Anyone else experience this issue?
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
Hi there, I'm sorry I missed your comment! If you ever try again and run into the same issue, see my comment to Janice above.
AlexaM April 6, 2018
Love this! I really like peas but I bet you could sub pretty much any veggie (like mushrooms!) if you'd like. I agree with another commenter about adding a little lemon juice. I didn't have lemon so I added a splash of red wine vinegar towards the end to make the flavors a bit brighter. So yummy!
Cheryl January 29, 2018
Dee-licious! I love the cream sauce. I had time to make the sauce with cream (yes--all of the oil!) and peas ahead, but when I went to assemble, I was out of parsley. I'm sure that would have been good too. I made it vegan with vegan "parmesan". The cauliflower taste is minimal and I think the sauce is a good substitute for cream sauce in many dishes. I'll be freezing the sauce and testing to see how that goes. Thank you!
Cheryl January 29, 2018
Oh...and I doubled the peas.
Valerie G. January 12, 2018
Has anyone tried this using significantly less olive oil?
meg January 4, 2018
Seems kind of loose for sauce and yes, the amount of oil alarms me. What if I cook it down? Has anyone tried that?
Kristen M. September 28, 2018
Hi there, I'm sorry I missed your comment! If you ever try again and run into the same issue, see my comment to Janice above.
Ann December 21, 2017
This is good. But I'm not sure why I'm making it instead of pasta carbonara. It's not vegan or vegetarian, it has quite a lot of fat, and more steps. So it needs to be good on its own terms (not compared to the easier carbonara), which I suppose it is. Vegan-zing it with nutrional yeast and vegetable stock would make it a more useful dish.
LittleMissMuffin January 11, 2018
how is it not vegetarian? I don't see any meat in the recipe
buteo J. September 23, 2018
It is vegetarian, but not vegan because of the Parmesan.
Rona December 3, 2017
Can you freeze the leftover sauce?
Kristen M. December 3, 2017
I haven't tried, but I think it should be fine—if it separates on thawing, just blend or whisk it back together.
John December 3, 2017
John Carafoli
I made what is called "Pasta Cabonara" (maybe should be called in the style). I added sauteed swiss chard with garlic and olive oil, and mushrooms done the same way only with scallions instead of peas. The cream sauce was dull and flat and needed something. I added the zest of a lemon and juice from half of the lemon. It brought everything together!
buteo J. September 23, 2018
Hi John, if I'm not mistaken you and I were next-door neighbors on Sagamore Beach back in the day. If it's you, glad to see you're still cooking!
Tiffany December 1, 2017
Does the recipe for the sauce multiply well? Thanks!
Kristen M. December 1, 2017
Yes it does! But do note that this recipe already makes extra sauce (K Paul noted below that he had half the sauce leftover).