Crispy Gnocchi and Eggplant Carbonara: Improv Blog


Everyone, it’s confession time.  Please don’t judge me, don’t shun me, don’t imprison me in a church tower and force me to ring the church bells for the rest of my days.

I hate bacon.

There.  I’ve said it.  The secret is out.

I want to like bacon (eh, not really), and in fact in the past I used to like bacon.  But  I just don’t like it  anymore.  It’s not even that I just don’t care for it, it is I actively dislike it and avoid it at all costs.  Like if I see a dish with bacon on it at a restaurant, I will tell them to keep that bacon away from my plate.  And restaurants put bacon on everything nowadays.  Discrimination to my non-bacon liking people.  But let’s not get political today.

Really, you all should be happy that I don’t eat bacon since it means more bacon for the rest of you.  But my dislike of bacon presented a problem for this month’s Improv Challenge.  We were tasked with making a dish with a classic ingredient pairing: bacon and eggs.  I could not bring myself to buy an entire package bacon, so I figured instead I would choose a recipe that could easily include bacon  but could also easily exclude bacon.

But then I got a craving for carbonara (even though I have never really eaten it before).  Often if a recipe includes bacon, I just leave it out.  Easy enough.  But then there are dishes like carbonara, where bacon is such a crucial, defining ingredient.  After a little brainstorming, I decided to be a rebel and make a carbonara without bacon.  A vegetarain (if you still eat eggs) no less!  And I used gnocchi and eggplant instead of the traditional pasta.  Really, I changed enough from the traditional carbonara recipe, I’m not sure if you should even call this dish carbonara.  But I am anway, so there we are.

This dish is delicious and nontraditional.  Gnocchi are lightly fried so that they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  And of course coating them in butter never hurt anyone.  Then they are coated in a rich, cheesy, eggy sauce. Eggplant is roasted and added to the gnocchi so that it breaks down slightly to contribute even more to the richness of the sauce.  This dish tastes decadent but won’t do horrible damage to your waistline.  Perfection.  And completely worth burning your tongue eating straight from the pan.

And sometimes really good tasting food just doesn’t look pretty.  Eat it anyway.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting the Improv Blog Challenge.  Make sure to check out the rest of this month’s entries.

From Cinnamon Freud
1 large eggplant, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided*
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups dried gnocchi
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
For serving: freshly cracked black pepper, grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Spread eggplant in a single layer on top of paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Let stand at least 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  Toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Season with salt. Spread in single layer on baking sheet.  Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender.  Set aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and onions.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Remove from pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter to pan and let melt.  Add gnocchi and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Flip and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, making sure they are cooked through.  Add eggplant and onion mixture to pan.  Remove from heat.

In a small bowl whisk egg and cottage cheese together.  Add to pan and quickly toss to coat pasta mixture.  Stir until cheese melts and egg cooks through.  Top with freshly cracked black pepper or grated Parmesan if desired.

Serves 3-4.

*If you want to use bacon, I would fry up 4-5 pieces before cooking the onion.  Cool and crumble the bacon and set aside.  Cook the onions, garlic, and gnocchi in the bacon grease in the place of butter.  Stir in bacon bits at the end of the recipe.

10 thoughts on “Crispy Gnocchi and Eggplant Carbonara: Improv Blog

  1. Joanne says:

    Everyone always asks me if, as a vegetarian, I miss bacon…but really I don’t. I guess I just never liked it that much in the first place! Love this veg version of carbonara!

  2. Melody♪♫ says:

    Anathema! 🙂 Yes, more bacon for those of us who worship it! 😉

    And yes, your dish did not photograph as “pretty,” but my mouth is watering as I am imagining that eggplant all up in the gnocchi’s business! Thanks for posting such an inventive recipe.

  3. msginge says:

    I worked as a breakfast cook for three years in high school, so even the smell of bacon turned my stomach. Took a long time for me to sort of like it. Love that you went the non traditional route with this challenge!

  4. Minnie@thelady8home says:

    Oh sweeet!! Terrific recipe!!! And trust me, you are not alone in hating bacon. I like them enough, but am not crazy about them. But my younger son positively hates them. We recently went to Denny’s for breakfast, and he was so very upset at seeing an all bacon menu. So there. My savory French toast taste super without bacon, and that is how I most often make them.

  5. Kate | Food Babbles says:

    HA!! I love how you call it carbonara and totally changed it, making it all your own. This dish is truly lovely and I don’t think I would miss the bacon at all, despite being a bacon lover. This is bookmarked and I will be making it. It sounds just wonderful!

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