cabbage carbonara with shrimp

Cabbage Carbonara (low carb, keto)

Cabbage noodles are slathered in a silky cheesy sauce with shrimp, crispy prosciutto, and asparagus for a low carb alternative to pasta. Cabbage Carbonara is everything you love about pasta without the actual pasta.

When I was in Rome last month, I was able to try cacio e pepe, one of the local pasta specialties. I’ve never had such intense Parmesan cheese in my life. Unlike anything we have here in the States, believe me. Wait a minute, Allyson, you said you were gluten-free. Isn’t that line even in the title of this blog? Yes, yes it is. But, when you go to Italy, you eat the pasta, even if you are gluten-free. Alright, if you have Celiac’s maybe don’t eat the pasta, but my decision to avoid wheat is purely a personal choice tied to digestive issues and bloating.

When I was told that Italian pasta products were made from a different strain of wheat than what was used in the United States, I was curious. Luckily, I had no reaction. I figured one little plate would be perfectly fine and fit into my lifestyle. I’m glad I wasn’t tempted to consume more and have learned self-control through my health journey. The old me would have gone on some kind of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde rampage eating all the pasta in site for miles. I can see myself now: turning over cafe tables, double-fisting carafes of Italian wines, carb lust in my eyes. Terrifying to behold.

Crazy imagination moment over. Snap out of it, Cagney.

cabbage carbonara
Extreme cabbage pasta close-up.

I loved pasta. I really did. We ate it several times a week. Multiple portions per meal. Way more than what I was served at that tiny osteria in Trastavere. Now that I’m back home, I find myself tiring of zoodles and spaghetti squash. They just don’t hold a sauce the same way that traditional noodles could. What to do? What to do? After some reading and Internet scouring, I found a new idea. Keto guru, Maria Emmerich turned me on to the idea cabbage pasta. At first, I was a tad skeptical. However, when paired with a white sauce, cabbage absolutely works as an alternative. I have yet to try cabbage noodles with red sauce. Let me know your thoughts if you go that route. I can’t quite wrap my head around marinara or bolognese with cabbage just yet.

cabbage pasta
Cook your cabbage noodles so that they are translucent and soft, but still have a little bite to them. Overcooked noodles will not be very reminiscent of pasta.

Cabbage Carbonara is an easy week night dinner and can quickly be on the table in less than 30 minutes. It’s not a true carbonara. Forgive me, pasta traditionalists! I add garlic, shallots, and heavy cream.The addition of a secondary protein does go a bit rogue from the traditional guanciale, but I’m fresh out of cured pork jowl in the suburbs, so crispy proscuitto will have to serve as a stand-in. Though if you can find guanciale, by all means, buy it. Yum. However, this carbonara will do the trick every time.

cabbage carbonara with shrimp
Yield: 4

Cabbage Carbonara

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Cabbage noodles accompanied by shrimp, crispy prosciutto, and asparagus covered in a silky cream sauce. Low carb, gluten-free, and keto friendly.


  • 4 oz diced prosciutto
  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large` shallot, diced
  • 1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp fresh parmesan, shredded
  • 2 egg yolks

Cabbage Pasta

  • 1/2 medium head of cabbage, cut into pasta sized ribbons
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter


  1. Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a large heavy saute pan over medium low heat. Add prosciutto to crisp. Remove with slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside. Add shrimp and 1 clove of garlic, pressed. Cook until shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a second large saute pan over medium low heat. Add cabbage ribbons. Cook until translucent and soft, about 5-8 minutes. Add salt to taste. Turn off heat source and leave "pasta" in the pan.
  3. Heat remaining 1 tbsp of butter in the empty pan. Add shallot. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add second clove of pressed garlic and asparagus. Cook an additional 3 minutes until vibrant green in color. Add heavy cream to the pan and bring to a low simmer. Add parmesan and stir to melt in. Reduce heat to low.
  4. Crack eggs and place yolks in small dish. Whisk slightly to break yolks. Whisk yolks into cream sauce, keeping the sauce moving to incorporate the yolks thoroughly. *see note below
  5. Return shrimp and prosciutto to the sauce. Mix to combine. Pour over cabbage ribbons and toss. Serve immediately. Garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired.


*Do not add yolks to boiling sauce. Make sure you have reduced the heat to a low simmer otherwise the yolks will scramble. Whisk constantly until incorporated and sauce thickens.

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