Smoky lentil carbonara

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Smoky lentil carbonara - with tasty sun-dried tomatoes and puy lentils. An easy, vegetarian version of a spaghetti carbonara!

I’m a big, big fan of ridiculously quick pasta recipes – pasta is always my go to dinner when I’m pushed for time. If the sauce can be made in the time the pasta takes to cook, it’s a winner. This smoky lentil carbonara ticks all the boxes – it’s quick to make, doesn’t require much prep or chopping, and tastes deeelish.

Smoky lentil carbonara - with tasty sun-dried tomatoes and puy lentils. An easy, vegetarian version of a spaghetti carbonara!

Before anyone tells me off, I am well aware that this isn’t a true carbonara. Spaghetti carbonara is usually made with bacon and eggs, and this smoky lentil carbonara has neither. But it’s definitely inspired by the traditional dish – the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked paprika replace the smoky pancetta, and a dollop of creme fraiche and some hard cheese are used to make the creamy sauce instead of raw eggs. It’s an easy alternative that’s less likely to go wrong if you’re not an experienced cook (I’m always somewhat afraid that I’ll end up with scrambled eggs in my carbonara…).

Smoky lentil carbonara - with tasty sun-dried tomatoes and puy lentils. An easy, vegetarian version of a spaghetti carbonara!

I used a sachet of pre-cooked puy lentils to keep this recipe quick and light on the prep. They’re readily available in the UK (in fact they’re much easier to find than dried puy lentils, weirdly), but if you’re in a country where you can’t find them, just cook your puy lentils from scratch instead. Boil them up in some veggie stock with a bay leaf, and they’ll be really tasty.

Then you just need to sprinkle a little more cheese over the top, and serve it with some crusty garlic bread and a big salad (and maybe a glass of wine or seven).

Smoky lentil carbonara - with tasty sun-dried tomatoes and puy lentils. An easy, vegetarian version of a spaghetti carbonara!

What’s your go to quick dinner? With a newborn baby in tow, I’m in need of some more quick ideas!

Smoky lentil carbonara - with tasty sun-dried tomatoes and puy lentils. An easy, vegetarian version of a spaghetti carbonara!

Smoky lentil carbonara

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5 from 7 votes
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 3 people
Author: Becca Heyes


  • 220 g (~ 7 1/2 oz) spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 60 g gruyere cheese (or vegetarian parmesan-style cheese), finely grated (~ 1 cup when grated)
  • 4 large pieces sun-dried tomato, finely chopped
  • 150 g (~ 3/4 cup) cooked puy lentils
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tbsp water (you can use the pasta cooking water)
  • Fresh basil, chopped, to serve (optional)


  • Boil the spaghetti in plenty of water until almost cooked, then drain.
  • Add the creme fraiche and grated cheese to the pasta over a low heat, along with the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, cooked puy lentils, and smoked paprika. Season with plenty of salt and pepper, and stir gently until the creme fraiche and cheese have melted to give a silky sauce. You can add a dash of water if you feel it’s necessary.
  • Serve topped with fresh basil, if desired.

Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.

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Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.

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  1. Absolutely delicious! I used tagliatelle and a bit extra creme fraiche. I will make it again and will throw some mushrooms in too.
    Thank you5 stars

  2. That looks really good – I love lentils and pasta (in fact this is much nicer than a trad carbonara).

    Congrats on the baby (such a cute name for her) and good luck with finding some quick meals – I find noodles and veg are some of my quickest options – this lo mein is great – – and I made miso soup with lots of vegies and noodles and preseasoned tofu because this week is a little crazy.

  3. Do you use dried or oil-packed sundried tomatoes, Becca?

    Have you tried Tesco’s Italian-style hard cheese from their Everyday Value range? Very tasty. It says it’s suitable for vegetarians on the back but oddly, not on the front of the pack!

  4. That does look good. Won’t be part of my family’s repertoire, alas, as he doesn’t like puy lentils, and I don’t like smoked paprika! Mind you, one could adapt it….

    My go-to recipe isn’t necessarily quick, but does cook itself – a shedload of vegetables (onions, courgettes, aubergines, mushrooms, cabbage, parsnips, carrots, whatever – onions are a must but apart from that it’s very flexible) which you chop and shove in a large sauté dish with some oil, and let cook on a low heat until the veg are cooked. If it needs some “gravy” stir a spoonful of hummus through it.

    Or, for a really quick dinner, bought tortellini (Lidl’s are very nice and their spinach and ricotta ones are veggie) with a cherry tomato sauce: 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 crushed clove garlic, 1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes. Pierce the tomatoes and shove everything on the stove, shaking the pan from time to time. When the juices run, mash the tomatoes with a potato masher (or, if you don’t like the skins, run through a food processor), and serve with pesto if you have any or parmesan if you don’t.

      1. It depends on what vegetables I’m using! If it’s mostly root vegetables, or includes potatoes, then on its own (I was thinking this morning that one of those £1 casserole packs they sell in Tesco would make a fabulous root vegetable curry, not exactly expensive, either). If it’s mostly things like mushrooms and aubergines and so on, then with rice or pasta.

        I do also use cream cheese instead of hummus, perhaps more often, but hummus is good if you want to make it vegan. Plus it lends itself to some interesting spicing!

  5. I might be biased, since I’m really hungry at the moment, but this looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it :)