Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Not so Traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Who doesn't love pasta?  (Okay, don't answer that...rhetorical question.)  My family loves it, and that includes me.  And what better than a pasta that includes three of my favorite foods!  Sorry butter, you were left out this time.  Catch you later.

So what is Spaghetti Carbonara?  It's referred to as bacon and eggs pasta, which are two main components of the dish.  Interesting fact:  Carbonara actually means coal miner's wife!  Nice lady she was, fixed such a hearty meal for her hard-working man after a long, dirty day's work.  They must have raised and slaughtered their own pigs...have you seen the price of bacon???  If I had a pet pig, I would name it Bacon.  I know, that's not very nice.  I'm just saying.

The traditional version of carbonara is made with pancetta (a bacon that is cured with spices and peppercorns but is not smoked), pasta, egg yolks, and parmesan cheese.  It is definitely not a highly-sauced creamy dish that one would expect.  Rather, it is a sticky, gooey dish meant to focus on the individually lovely flavors of the meaty bacon, salty cheese, and golden tender egg yolks.  If you're looking for an alfredo-type cream sauce, you're barking at the wrong fence.  (I know the saying is barking up the wrong tree.  My dogs just like to bark at the fence.)

"So, do pray tell, Cindy, why your Spaghetti alla Carbonara isn't traditional."  Glad you asked!  Number one, I'm not Italian.  And, B, (ha ha) my kitchen is my own private wonderland and artist studio and laboratory where I can create and cook, quite frankly, whatever the heck I want to.  No rules here.  I like to make carbonara with smoked bacon. (No offense, pancetta, I love you too and promise to play nice with you later.)  I also like yummy browned mushrooms and sweet green peas and a little splash of cream (not too much; this isn't alfredo).  Top it off with some sliced green onions and more cheese and, voila, a star is born!!

Now, before I share this tasty treat with you, there are a couple of things I need to divulge about my style of cooking.  I see recipes as guidelines, open for interpretation.  Change or add what you like.  You're the one eating it, not me.  It's your moment to shine.  Additionally, I never ever measure unless I'm baking.  The measurements I give are approximate.  Use more cheese if you like, less garlic, more bacon, whatever.  Just understand the basics of my recipes and wing it your way.  Lastly, I have an abusive relationship with salt.  Therefore, unless it's absolutely necessary, I will just tell you to season with salt and pepper to taste.  That way, your faces don't swell up from the sodium overload.  My family is going to soon institute a salt intervention, I just know it.

So, without further delay and chatty nonsense, here goes nothing!  

1 lb spaghetti
8 ounce-package of button mushrooms
1/2 C heavy cream
1 C frozen peas
1 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 slices of bacon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Start the spaghetti boiling.  

Fry the bacon up crisp and brown, then drain.  Drain all but about 1/4 C of the bacon grease and add the mushrooms to the bacon grease.  Cook them over medium high heat. Don't salt them yet!  The browning process comes to a screeching halt as the salt draws out moisture in the mushrooms.  You'll end up with gray ones instead of pretty browned mushrooms.

Then add the garlic and the peas and cook until peas are heated through.  Turn the heat off and stir in the cream. Add in the bacon and parsley.  Season with some salt and black pepper.

Drain the spaghetti and then immediately put it back in the hot pot.  Working quickly, pour the eggs yolks into the pasta while at the same time using tongs to stir it around.  The eggs will cook from the carried-over heat and stick to the pasta.

Stir the bacon and mushroom mixture into the noodles along with the Cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Garnish with the green onions.

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