Alejandra Ramos shares creative and flavorful pasta carbonara recipe swaps, interview

Alejandra Ramos shares creative and flavorful pasta carbonara recipe swaps, photo provided by Barilla
Alejandra Ramos shares creative and flavorful pasta carbonara recipe swaps, photo provided by Barilla /

From waking up with her smiling face on Today or enjoying her vivacious personality on The Great American Recipe, Alejandra Ramos appreciates that classic recipes can get some flavorful updates. Even though traditional recipes can be a type of family archive, sometimes those dishes need to be modified for dietary reasons. These flavorful pasta carbonara recipe swaps give more people the opportunity to enjoy another serving.

In many homes, that iconic blue Barilla pasta box is featured prominently in the pantry. Beyond being a staple, it can also be a cost effective food option when trying to stretch the budget. Luckily, there are many recipes that can feature a box of spaghetti, penne, or even one of the new vegetable pasta varieties.

Recently, Alejandra Ramos partnered with Barilla to showcase how some simple pasta carbonara recipe swaps can turn the classic dish into a dairy free, egg free, or plant-based option. For those unfamiliar with pasta carbonara, it is generally spaghetti with guanciale (or -sometimes bacon), an egg-based sauce, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. While the simple pasta dish is quite tasty, it is not always allergen friendly.

During a conversation with FoodSided, Ramos commented that pasta carbonara is “such a satisfying, rich creamy dishes. It is what I love about Italian food; it’s simple but so flavorful. It’s just like love in a bowl.”

While those sentiments draw many people to enjoy that dish, dietary restrictions can leave them holding their fork. Ramos shared, “what Barilla is tapping into is a dish loved by so many folks but giving them a twist to make it so everyone can enjoy. The Open Carbonara recipe is that little twist on the classic.”

pasta carbonara recipe swaps from Alejandra Ramos and Barilla
Alejandra Ramos shares creative and flavorful pasta carbonara recipe swaps, photo provided by Barilla /

Ramos went on to explain how the Open Carbonara recipe can skip the dairy, egg, or meat while keeping the eating satisfaction. She said, “for this recipe, we have the coolest hack ever. By using mashed potatoes and pasta water, the dish has a silky rich sauce that is so creamy and luscious. You don’t even realize that the dairy or the egg is missing.”

Thinking about this simple swap, it makes sense. Potato can be used as a thickener in many recipes. In this case, the well-blended mashed potatoes become that replacement for an egg-based sauce. For people who prefer a creamier based to pasta carbonara, this swap might be preferable even if there is not an allergy concern.

In addition to eliminating the egg and dairy, the Open Carbonara swaps the meat for root-based vegetables. Ramos commented, “root vegetables, like rutabaga or celery root work well. They crisp up nicely in the oven and offer a complex flavor, like a punch of umami that people expect from the bacon or guanciale. Plus, the crispness adds to eating satisfaction since everyone loves a little something crispy on their pasta.”

For the final swap, Ramos said that cooks can use the Barilla Gluten free pasta. It eliminates another potential allergen and makes the dish even more inclusive.

Open Carbonara recipe
Open Carbonara recipe, photo provided by Barilla /

Here’s the Open Carbonara recipe.


  • 1 box Barilla Gluten Free Spaghetti
  • 4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled
  • 10 oz of fresh celeriac (celery root) or rutabaga
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1 cup of crispy soybeans flakes
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste


Step #1

  • Boil the peeled potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until tender, then mash them in a bowl with a fork or potato masher.

Step #2

  • Peel celeriac and cut into ½ inch cubes, then bake at 250° for 20 minutes, until dried and slightly toasted.

Step #3

  • Put the saffron in a small container with ½ cup water and wait for the water to obtain a yellow color. Pour into the bowl with the mashed potatoes. Add black pepper to taste, and whisk, creating a smooth and homogeneous “sauce”.

Step #4

  • In a nonstick pan, toast the soybean flakes with olive oil on medium heat for 5 minutes, until golden. Meanwhile, blend the celeriac cubes in a food processor until crumbled.

Step #5

  • Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and pour into the bowl. Stir pasta with the saffron and potato mixture, stirring gently to heat it up.

Step #6

  • Plate and top with the crispy soybeans flakes, the celery root crumbs and grated pepper to taste.

While the Open Carbonara is a great idea, Ramos believes that it can lead to more pasta carbonara recipe swaps or even other creative culinary ideas. Ramos said, “Barilla isn’t saying don’t make the traditional pasta carbonara recipe. This idea is an addition and gives cooks a blueprint when cooking for folks with dietary restrictions. It can be a starting point which can be tailored to friends and family.

Since pasta is often an approachable, versatile dish for many home cooks, one consideration is important when making any pasta recipe, al dente pasta. Ramos shared her tried and true technique learned from the Barilla chefs.

To make al dente pasta, Ramos recommends “cook the pasta a minute or two less than the time listed on the blue box. Then, finish the pasta in the sauce. By finishing the pasta this way, you’re going to get maximum flavor.”

Although pasta carbonara usually uses spaghetti, Ramos shared her favorite pasta shape. She said that her favorite pasta shape is orecchiette. Those little pastas can bring smiles to everyone’s faces around the table.

The next time that a meal has to be inclusive for all the food preferences, try some of these pasta carbonara recipe swaps. It will get a robust “mangia” around the table.