Recipe Revamping: Carbonara

“It’s just that it was one of his favorites….”

Most folks ask me to revamp baked recipes since that is what I mostly post about, but I received a request this week from a mom after she saw my roasted garlic bread recipe, asking if I might help with one of her son’s favorite recipes, carbonara. Her son is eight, and the family recently learned that much of his stomach issues were due to eggs, dairy and wheat, all three of which are in carbonara.

For anyone who might not be familiar with carbonara, it is an Italian pasta dish which is essentially a creamy, cheesy sauce over noodles which tends to use cured meat products such as bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, or Italian sausage to flavor the sauce. To make the sauce creamy, recipes usually use cream or half and half and egg yolks with a variety of fancy cheeses and then adds the cured meat and white pasta to the dish. So, as a rule, even if you do not have food allergies, you probably should not make carbonara a regular part of your diet.

Unless, of course, you can find a way to create a healthier, allergy friendly version….

My first order of business was to tackle the cheesy sauce. The beauty of a carbonara sauce is that it clings to the noodles, so the sauce needs to be a thick, heavy sauce, which is why usually cream and egg yolks are utilized. I opted to make a basic white sauce with olive oil, millet flour and dairy free milk. To that I added Daiya cheddar cheese, garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and a tiny bit of red pepper.

The next item to tackle was the cured meat. To make it a tiny bit healthier, I chose to chop just four low fat, reduced salt, no nitrates, sweet Italian style fully cooked chicken sausage links into small pieces. This distributed the flavor without all the extra added fat and sodium and nitrates.

The final decision I made was to nix pasta altogether and use spiral cut veggies. I used a mixture of turnips, yellow squash and zucchini. Because I like my food to have lots of color, I also added diced petite tomatoes, which added a slight flavor twist to the whole dish. The result was quite yummy!

Vegetable “Noodle” Carbonara

(This recipe makes a lot because I wanted to feed a family of five and have leftovers for a second meal. You may want to halve the recipe.)


2 tbsp extra light olive oil (you don’t want a heavy taste)

1/4 cup millet flour (or any other variety you’d like to use)

2 cups dairy free “milk” (I used soy but any variety will work)

8 oz shredded Daiya cheddar cheese

garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and red pepper (to your taste and liking)

16 oz each spiral cut turnip, yellow squash, and zucchini (you can change up the spiral cut noodle veggies as long as you have 48 oz total so the sauce and “noodle” amounts are in a good sauce to noodle clinging ratio)

4 low fat, reduced salt, no nitrates sweet Italian style fully cooked chicken sausage links

garlic, onions, oregano, basil, and red pepper (to your taste and liking)

14 oz can of no salt, no sugar added petite diced tomatoes (optional)

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a shallow sauce pan, heat the olive oil for a minute over medium-low heat, and then stir in the millet flour until well mixed and cook for another 30 seconds.
  2. Slowly add one cup of the milk, stirring until the flour mixture is incorporated into the milk. Let the mixture begin to thicken. Time will vary, depending on how shallow your pan is but shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
  3. Slowly add the second cup of milk, stirring to evenly mix the sauce.
  4. Add the Daiya cheese and stir well. Add the spices, and stir until the cheese is all melted, and turn the heat to low, stirring occasionally.
  5. In a larger shallow nonstick pan (if you aren’t using a nonstick pan, drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil), cook the turnips until softened, usually about 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Dice the sausage links into small bits and add to the turnips. Mix well and cook for a minute.
  7. Add the yellow squash and zucchini with the spices, and cook just until the squash and zucchini begin to soften.
  8. If you are using the tomatoes, add the diced tomatoes to the cheese sauce and stir well. Then add the sauce to the veggie noodles, mix well and serve. (As a garnish, you may sprinkle a mixture of fresh basil and chopped garlic as I did in the picture.)
  9. If you are not using the tomatoes, simply add the cheese sauce to the veggie noodles, mix well, and serve.




Recipe Makeover: Dairy Free Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

“Could you remake your own recipe for me?” I had to chuckle when I opened up an email the other day. Months ago I had posted a baked mac and cheese recipe which was simply a healthier version of a common comfort food. Now someone needed me to remake it so it would be dairy and gluten free. Fortunately, that’s quite easy to do.

The milk: Good baked macaroni and cheese recipes call for evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is simply milk where some of the liquid is evaporated out to concentrate the milk proteins. As such, it’s easy to make your own vegan evaporated milk. One method is to use soymilk powder where you make two times the serving with one serving of liquid. Another method is to start with double the amount of soymilk or flaxmilk or coconut milk you need and slowly cook it down over low heat, stirring frequently, until you have about one half the amount of milk. One can of evaporated milk is equal to 1 1/2 cups so for the mac and cheese you need to make 3 cups of evaporated milk. A third method is to add soymilk powder to a serving of soymilk. All three methods give you the concentrated protein to liquid ratio you need for evaporated milk.

The cheese: Daiya is the vegan cheese easiest for me to get at the grocery store so it’s the brand I use, but I’m not always happy with the flavor. So for a macaroni and cheese, I mix cheddar and mozzarella cheese together and use the onions and garlic and seasonings to flavor the cheese before adding it to the rest of the casserole.

The noodles:  For mac and cheese you want noodles which stand up well when cooking, which have a good flavor, and which will cradle all the yummy cheese sauce. For a gluten free pasta, I like Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Quinoa shells. It has a nice texture and flavor and the bonus is you get extra protein and fiber.

 Gluten Free Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese


one pound Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Quinoa shells

2 links chicken Italian sausages, fully cooked variety

one 16 oz thawed frozen broccoli florets

2 cups Daiya mozzarella shreds

2 cups Daiya cheddar shreds

2 tsp minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped frozen onions (can use fresh, too)

1 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

3 cups homemade vegan evaporated milk

4 eggs plus 1/2 cup liquid egg whites

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees and very lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan. (I normally use a little bit of olive or grapeseed oil.)

2. Prepare the gluten free noodles as directed on the package, but cook it one minute less than indicated. Drained the noodles and put them into a large bowl.

3. In a food processor, chop up the two sausage links into fine pieces and add to the noodles.

4. In a food processor, chop up the thawed broccoli florets into fine pieces and add to the noodles.

5. Mix the two cheeses well with the garlic, onions, black pepper and nutmeg.  Divide out 3 cups and leave the leftover one cup for the topping.

6.  Mix the cheese well with the noodles.

7. Whisk well together the vegan evaporated milk with the eggs and egg whites. Pour into the noodle bowl and combine.

8. Using a ladle, scoop out the mac and cheese into the 9 x 13 pan. When you reach the end of the noodles, pour any leftover milk/egg mixture from the bottom of the bowl onto the noodles in the pan. Gently tap the noodles to make them even in the pan.

9. Sprinkle the leftover shredded cheese over the top of the noodles.

10. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling at the edge and no longer liquidy in the center.

11. Broil the top for a minute or two so the vegan cheeses can “melt”.

12. Remove from the oven, and let the mac and cheese sit for 10 minutes before serving.