What is amazing about being here in Italy is discovering how different foods here are, compared to what you thought they were, before. And I had a pretty decent background in Italian food. This was one of my earlier discoveries. It is also known as Spaghetti alla Carbonara Vegetariana.
I was fascinated by the idea that there were other versions of Carbonara that could be considered authentic and traditional. I was also, to my shame, surprised to discover that Italians almost never add cream to the sauce... Or never even to anything savoury that is..
This is not entirely true, but almost.
This is a popular dish in the Lazio region. Where the more famous Carbonara also orginates. Back in the day the area north of Rome had many coal mines. And carbone, carbon is also Italian for coal. And so this was the dish of the coalminers.
Regardless, instead of Pancetta or the even more authentic Guanciale (similar to Pancetta bacon but made from the pork cheeks (la guancia = cheek), families would often use zucchini as it is more far more economical.
When making this pasta allow the onions (also the zucchini) to brown. Browning onions or garlic is generally a big no no in Italy (another surprise!), they should generally just be softened to release far gentler flavours. But in this case the browning gives off a smokiness similar to that of the smoked Pancetta. Make sure to use ample black pepper.