Spaghetti alla carbonara is one of those generous, forgiving dishes that doesn’t require too many ingredients, too much thought, or too much accuracy to be perfect and feel like a treat. In honor of Spring (and some very good Niman Ranch bacon I happened to have that happened to need finishing up), I banged some together with peas.
I love the smell of bacon in the morning
Although the flavor is completely different, anyone who is fond of split pea soup with ham or tortilla torcal or pasta with ham and peas (pasta e piselli) will appreciate the affinity that peas and pork have for each other and that’s why I like this combination. (Click here for another version of carbonara with butter and no peas). I played around with a Tyler Florence recipe for this.
Look at the amazing color on the Restoration Farm eggs…use fresh for this recipe
It also reheats pretty well in the office microwave, which is part of my cooking criteria these days!
I use my cast iron skillet for this dish
Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Peas (serves four)
1 Lb. dry spaghetti
½-1 Cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thick cut bacon, sliced into chunks (a nice smoky bacon adds a lot of personality)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs (as fresh as possible)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano or other grating cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
Handful chopped parsley (optional)
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, while you get the other ingredients ready.
About four minutes before the pasta is done, drop the peas in and stir.
Reserve ½ Cup pasta water before draining. You want to time it so that the eggs are ready to pour when the pasta is still really hot because the heat of the pasta is what is going to cook them.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet at medium heat until Add the bacon saute for about crisp, stirring frequently. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute to soften. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and cheese together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps.
Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss quickly to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta and take it off the heat to avoid scrambled eggs. Stir quickly with a big fork until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble. Thin out the sauce with a little at a time of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency.
Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Serve in warm bowls and garnish with chopped parsley and extra cheese.
Adriana and I love cooking together. Our kids are very close in age and have known each other since the very beginning, so we get together for sleepovers that involve kid activities by day and then massive food in the evening. Then the kids go to bed and we stay up talking all night.
Usually I walk away with excellent bloggable dishes that I can post for days. So I went into this one thinking I had it made.
Then, whether it was the wobbliness of an afternoon spent trudging the Arctic tundra for a sledding excursion, or the fact that the moon was 98.4 percent full (we checked), or that we should have waited until after we’d gotten a lot more things out of the way before having that first glass of wine, or just over-the-top plans that were far too ambitious…everything seemed to go wrong.
We tried to make cheese from a cool kids’ kit that Adriana got (the kids were not at all interested, funnily enough). I ate the 1/4 tablet of rennet thinking it was crumbs from my crackers, but even with a new 1/4 tablet, the milk just wouldn’t curdle. We dumped it.
We followed the instructions to make home-made pasta (another fun-for-the-kids activity that they completely ignored) — we really did — but ended up with a solid hard ball of dough that resisted all attacks with the rolling pin. And I had forgotten to bring my pasta cutting machine anyhow (which annoys the bejeezus out of me because it was a wedding gift for a marriage so disastrous that we were divorced before it ever got used and it still hasn’t been used because well, shit happens and pasta, apparently, doesn’t).
We are drowning in abundance. It happens every August if you garden or belong to a CSA; there are so many tomatoes, so many peppers, so much zucchini….it all gets lost in the fridge faster than you can cook it!
So, with pick-up coming the next day and a fridge full of last week’s haul getting ugly, I took as much as I could and cooked it down into sauce – some for now and some for the freezer, in small containers that will make a fast meal when school starts and dinner needs to be now and lunch needs to be ready the night before. I have freezer-packing panic!
Blanche! (Tennessee Williams moment)
Here is an Everything Must Get Used Before Our Next Pick-Up tomato sauce recipe. I used SunGolds, cherries, paste tomatoes, slicers, heirlooms, anything that had been sitting all week getting sad.
How-to for blanching tomatoes follows the recipe….
Everything Must Go Pasta Sauce
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
(Optional bits and bobs: half a zucchini, a bit of eggplant – bung in anything that will cook down soft and not mess up the overall color too much — chopped small).
6 lbs tomatoes (paste tomatoes preferred, but I used an incredible mix), cored, blanched and peeled*
1 Tbs dried oregano and thyme (2 Tbs if using fresh)
¼ Cup red wine
½ tsp salt (or to taste)
Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium high until liquid and fragrant. Lower heat to medium and add the following vegetables one at a time, stirring to coat before adding the next: onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, celery. Cook at medium (or lower if you have time) until vegetables are soft and translucent, at least five minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add herbs and wine and lower to a lively simmer. Cook down for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The more you cook it, the smoother it will get, but also the more dense. Add water 1/4 Cup at a time as desired.
(Optional step: Using an immersion blender, liquefy the sauce to desired smoothness)
Correct seasoning and serve over pasta/freeze for later! Will keep three months in the freezer.
To blanch, keep reading!
A pile of peels
*To blanch and peel tomatoes: Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, core the tomatoes (take out the stem and white core with a paring knife) and prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the water boils, drop tomatoes in. In two minutes (or less) you will see the skin begin to peel back or split. Remove each tomato as this happens and drop in ice water. When tomatoes have cooled, take them out of the ice water and peel (the skin should come off easily). They are then ready to cook down, or freeze in freezer bags for later use (later can be as long as next spring! and you don’t have to peel them if you are freezing for later use).
When it is crunch time – 5:30 p.m. and nothing planned for dinner, or 10 p.m. and nothing made for Leandro’s lunchbox, I do not despair. As long as there is a bag, or half bag of frozen spinach or chard or kale in the fridge, a box of pasta and some garlic (and there pretty much always is), I am good to go.
Leafy greens are powerhouses in the veggie world. Kale provides calcium, Vitamins A, C, and K, potassium and folate. Chard has vitamins A and D. Spinach has iron. And best of all, my son, who I started on garlicky, cheesy pureed spinach on pasta as one of his first solids, doesn’t really differentiate among them, so I can vary at will. Start your kids on the good stuff early, I am telling you!
Second best of all? They are all terrific from frozen bags.
And third? You can throw the frozen greens right in with the boiling pasta…ladies and gentleman, this is a one-pot convenience meal par excellence.
I have posted a similar recipe before, with options for freezing the sauce for baby food, but this time I am giving you the bare bones with how to handle each green. You can, of course, also use fresh greens, but our spinach and chard isn’t ready for harvest yet, so I am still using bagged.
Pasta with Dark Leafy Greens
(this can be halved for smaller meals)
1 lb. pasta of your choice (the curly short kind or farfalle/bowties grip the greens best)
1 lb bag frozen chopped spinach, kale, or chard
2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and hot red pepper flakes to taste
abundant grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano) or 1/2 cup crumbled feta
Bring abundant salted water to the boil. Add pasta and, if using kale or chard, add that immediately too. If using spinach, add halfway into the pasta cooking time.
Drain the pasta and vegetables and return the empty pot to the stove at medium heat. Let any residual water boil off, then add olive oil, garlic and optional hot red pepper flakes to the pot. Cook garlic gently until browned, then add pasta, greens and cheese to the pot. Combine thoroughly, salt to taste and serve.
creamy, crunchy, stodgy, zesty
I needed some comfort food with attitude (and no trips to the grocery store).
Some of you will remember in the early days of this blog that Leandro and I were in the emergency room twice within a month’s time to get him stitched up. That stress is in the past, but the part about having to pay the equivalent of an entire paycheck to cover what the health insurance doesn’t is a stress that is very much in the present.
So, I was in the mood for something cozy but kicking, something that didn’t call for a whole lot of work or special ingredients. And ideally, it would be something I could also put in Leandro’s lunch box the next day. The solution — after a quick rummage in the fridge — was this invention: Broccoli and chorizo pasta with cheese. I used catanisella pasta (a new shape for me) figuring Leandro would have fun with its long, skinny, tubiness and because I wanted something that the cheese would cling to rather than clog up (think of macaroni shells scooping up clumps of cheese). The broccoli crunch balanced the creaminess and the spice of the chorizo cut through any density. All in all a great success that did the job!
Broccoli and chorizo pasta with cheese (serves 4)
1 lb pasta – preferably medium short
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
½ yellow onion, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
8 oz hot (picante) Spanish-style chorizo (the cured, ready-to-eat kind…NOT Latin American chorizo, which must be cooked through. You may substitute dry Italian sausage or andouille sausage), peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
8 – 16 oz broccoli crowns, washed and separated (blanched if desired. I usually use a strainer and dip them in the boiling pasta water for a minute until they turn bright green)
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano cheese
Boil pasta according to package directions (dipping broccoli into the boiling water to blanche). Reserve a ¼ cup of the pasta water.
Heat olive oil at medium-high in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until fragrant. Add onion, stir to coat, then lower heat to medium and allow to become translucent and soft (at least five minutes). Add chorizo, stirring occasionally, until it begins to release its reddish oil. Add broccoli, stir to coat and cook until beginning to wilt (2 minutes or so). Add ¼ cup reserved pasta water and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in cheese, add to pasta and serve. (It is doubtful that you will need to add salt, as the chorizo and the cheese will provide plenty!)
Chard is one of those leafy greens everyone should eat more of. It’s actually as delicious in winter as in summer and provides calcium and all sorts of other nutrients and has a bit more body than spinach (but can be used in much the same ways with a little extra cook time).
My son loves spinach pasta (which appears in an earlier post “My kids loves spinach” https://hotcheapeasy.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/my-kid-loves-spinach/) and never notices the difference when I serve the chard variation. He especially digs in when I use curly, frilly or curvy pasta that he can get his eager litle fingers all over– I am attributing that to a chromosomal enthusiastic male response to visual stimuli that I have been hearing a lot about lately. That’s hot!
It is also fast and easy and really hearty-comforting.
Chard Pesto for Pasta (serves four)
1 lb. fiore (pinwheel) pasta
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3-5 cloves garlic, chopped
(1/8 tsp hot red pepper flakes, optional)
1 lb. chard, washed, stems removed and chopped fine*
1 Cup broth or water
Salt and pepper to taste
Several Tbs grated cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano or gran padano) or crumbled feta or, why not both?
Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a generous skillet with a cover. Add garlic and stir around for a minute or until turning golden and fragrant. Add hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add chard and stir to coat. Sauté chard until bright and beginning to wilt, then add water or broth. Bring to a simmer and cover, turning occasionally. The idea is for the chard to really soften, which will take 10-15 minutes. If you run out of cooking liquid, add a ladleful of water from the pasta pot. If I want the chard really fine (to encourage more consumption by my toddler, I will spread the cooked chard on a cutting board and chop some more when it is a bit cool.
Drain pasta and mix with sauce and a generous amount of grated cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
*Save the stems, chop and use in another recipe; they are delicious as part of a stir-fry or just sautéed with onions to top burgers.
So we spent another evening in the emergency room and Leandro got another four stitches, this time in the forehead. With that kind of excitement going on, you can be sure that once the chocolate ice cream dinner for brave boys was up, I was STILL going to be too tired for anything elaborate in the kitchen.
Marcella Hazan to the rescue. This queen of the kitchen’s Essentials of Italian Cuisine is a much loved and much soiled recipe book over here. These days I don’t have the resources for some of the more ambitious dishes, but her tomato sauce with onion and butter is simple and perfect: three ingredients resulting in one glorious, sweet, rich sauce that you barely have to stir!
I have adapted it slightly to make it even faster (puree, rather than whole tomatoes, adjusted the butter, for example). The beauty of this one is that it can be done in the time it takes you to boil up the pasta.
Marcella recommends potato gnocchi under the sauce, but the pre-prepared ones are generally yucky and I ain’t making gnocchi myself any time soon (oh for the heavenly days that Fabiola made it for me in Rovereto!).
These days I buy fresh ravioli from Fairway Market (no preservatives and a variety of fillings – $6 for 24) and actually freeze it. It breaks off into convenient serving sizes and takes about 15 minutes to cook after you drop them in the boiling water and the boil comes back. They re-heat pretty nicely, so I make extra for my little guy’s lunch box, just adding a dab of butter to the hot ravioli so it doesn’t stick.
I used cheese ravioli this time. “Mama I really love this!”
Steamed broccoli can be dipped in the sauce
Tomato with Onion and Butter
28 oz. can tomato puree
6 Tbs butter
One onion, peeled and cut in half (I prefer red onion for extra sweetness, but use whatever you have; yellow is fine)
Cook all three ingredients together in a deep pot with a lid at medium to low heat until the fat begins to separate from the tomato (about 20 minutes, or the amount of time you spend boiling the pasta). The longer you cook it, the sweeter it gets, so if you have more time, use it!
Spoon over your favorite pasta and serve with loads of good grated cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano)