Easy Vegetarian Pasta Amatriciana Recipe

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by Maggie Turansky

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One of the three classic Roman pastas, making a vegetarian pasta amatriciana can seem like an impossible task – especially when you consider that guanciale (a cured pork jowl) is one of the central ingredients.

However, I stumbled upon a great workaround purely by accident. When I was simply browning some shitake mushrooms for another meal altogether, I took a step back and realised that a very browned shitake had a flavour and texture remarkably close to a crisp, cured pork product — something making to guanciale, pancetta or even bacon — especially when well-salted.

And thus, I determined that I could easily make pork-free pasta all’amatriciana that would hit all the same notes as the classic version.

Vegetarian Amatriciana
Vegetarian Amatriciana

How to Make Vegetarian Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta all’amatriciana is one of the three core Roman pastas – the other two being carbonara and pasta alla gricia. All three of these dishes traditionally use a combination of guanciale and pecorino romano cheese.

Pasta alla gricia is the simplest of the three – using simply the guanciale, pecorino and an ample amount of black pepper to the sauce. Carbonara mixes in eggs to add a creamy, rich texture and amatriciana includes tomatoes to make it a bit more lively and vibrant.

Ingredients for Pasta Amatriciana
Ingredients for Pasta Amatriciana

Unlike in my vegetarian carbonara recipe where I omitted a guanciale stand-in altogether, for my vegetarian amatriciana recipe, I opted to use shitake mushrooms as my guanciale-like ingredient.

So the first step of this recipe is to brown your mushrooms. As this is such a simple recipe with very few ingredients, it’s super important that you don’t cut corners on any of the steps. Particularly when it comes to browning the mushrooms!

Browning the mushrooms
Browning the mushrooms

Add a bit of olive oil to a large skillet and set over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add some sliced shitake mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until they have reduced in size and they are very crispy and browned – keep in mind this may take up to fifteen minutes.

Season the mushrooms liberally with salt and then, using a slotted spoon, remove them from the skillet.

Cooked shitake mushrooms
Cooked shitake mushrooms

Now it’s time to put your pasta on and we’ll build the rest of the sauce while your pasta cooks. I like using bucatini, but really any kind of pasta will do here – just use what you have!

Plan to cook the pasta for a couple of minutes fewer than the package suggests and also make sure to hold onto the pasta cooking water – don’t just dump it all down the sink.

While your pasta is cooking, add some chilli flakes and tomato paste to the same skillet in which you cooked the mushrooms. Cook this, stirring constantly, for about two minutes.

Adding tomato paste and chili flakes
Adding tomato paste and chili flakes

Then, pour a bit of dry white wine over the chilli and tomato paste mixture. Stir this until it’s well combined, the wine has reduced significantly and the strong alcoholic smell has dissipated – this will take a few minutes.

Now, add some crushed tomatoes. I like to crush whole, peeled tomatoes by hand so you have better control over the texture.

Adding the crushed tomatoes
Adding the crushed tomatoes

Also, I find that the whole variety are of better quality and when there isn’t much more to this sauce, it’s important to use the best ingredients possible.

Increase the heat to medium-high, bring the sauce to a simmer and let cook just until the pasta is finished cooking.

Then, using tongs, transfer the pasta into the skillet – making sure to reserve the cooking water!

Adding the cooked pasta to the pan
Adding the cooked pasta to the pan

Add a bunch of grated pecorino romano cheese and toss the pasta in the sauce until it is thickened and cohesive – just another minute or two.

Grating in the pecorino
Grating in the pecorino

Add some of the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce, as needed.

Top the pasta with the crisped mushrooms and season generously with black pepper and more salt, if needed.

Adding the mushrooms back to the pan
Adding the mushrooms back to the pan

Toss to incorporate the mushrooms into the pasta and then serve immediately, topping with more cheese if desired.

Vegetarian Pasta Americana

Vegetarian Pasta Amatriciana

This Roman favourite its easily made meat-free by subbing crispy, umami rich shitake mushrooms for traditional guanciale.
5 from 3 votes
Servings 4
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 200 g (2 cups) shitake mushrooms sliced
  • 500 g (1 lb) dried pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini
  • ½ tsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 180 ml (¾ cups) dry white wine
  • 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes crushed with hands
  • 30 g ( cup) pecorino romano cheese grated


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have shrunk considerably, are turning very golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Season the mushrooms generously with salt and remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Set aside for later.
    Cooked shitake mushrooms
  • Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the package suggests
  • While the pasta is cooking, add the chili flakes and tomato paste to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.
    Adding tomato paste and chili flakes
  • Pour the wine over the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has reduced significantly and the strong alcohol scent has dissipated, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the pasta is done cookng.
    Adding the crushed tomatoes
  • As soon as the pasta is finished, transfer it to the skillet using tongs (or drain the pasta, making sure to reserve some of the cooking water beforehand). Add the pecorino and toss the pasta in the sauce until it is thickened and cohesive, another minute or two. Add some of the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency of the sauce, as needed.
    Grating in the pecorino
  • Add the crispy mushrooms to the skillet and toss to incorporate into the pasta. Serve immediately, topping with more pecorino if desired.
    Adding the mushrooms back to the pan



Calories: 670kcal | Carbohydrates: 105g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 424mg | Potassium: 898mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 391IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 177mg | Iron: 4mg

Disclaimer: Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Making a vegetarian version of this iconic Roman pasta is super easy and always delicious. This veggie spin an a classic Roman dish makes for the perfect weeknight meal and is sure to quickly become a favourite!

Are you looking for a vegetarian amatriciana recipe? Have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

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Maggie is the creator behind No Frills Kitchen. She is a world traveller, home cook and recipe developer who loves to experiment with new cuisines and techniques at every chance she gets. No stranger to improvising and making do with the equipment and ingredients she has available, she is passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. Read More

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