Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonara

Summer-like weather has finally arrived in Colorado, seemingly for good.  It's fitting enough, given that Memorial Day Weekend is behind us, and the official start of summer on June 21 is less than two weeks away.  Usually, this summery weather would have me grilling dinner almost every night.  What's funny, though, is that I've instead had intense cravings for Italian and Italian-American food.  Meatballs.  Pizza.  Stromboli.  Chicken Parm.  And last, but certainly not least, Spaghetti Carbonara.  Don't ask me why, because I can't explain it.

What I can explain is Carbonara.  For the uninitiated, it's an Italian dish (with many American and international variations) based on four major components: pasta, cheese, cured fatty pork, and black pepper.  Usually, the pasta is spaghetti, though fettuccine or linguine may also be used.  The cheese if often Pecorino Romano or Parmesan.  The cured fatty pork is frequently pancetta or prosciutto, though in the U.S., bacon is also a common option.  The black pepper speaks for itself.

Our version is fairly true to types found in Italy, though we use only half as much cheese as might be considered "normal" and we use bacon for the pork.  It's an easy and quick dish often prepared table-side in restaurants.  (In fact, at my aunt's favorite Long Island Italian restaurant, they toss the pasta in a giant hollowed-out wheel of Pecorino Romano cheese!)  The dish has a little sweet from onion and a little smokiness from bacon.  Generally, it tastes rich (thanks to eggs and cheese), and as such pairs well with salad, which serves to lighten the overall disposition of the meal.

Here's the recipe:  (makes 6-8 servings)

1 lb gluten-free pasta
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus a little extra for garnish)
Fresh cracked black pepper

1. Bring the pasta to a boil, cook until al dente and strain.  Meanwhile...
2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cheese.  Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, sauté the bacon until done.  Set the bacon aside, but reserve about 3 tbsp of the drippings in the pan.
4. Sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and translucent.
5. Add the wine and cooked bacon, and cook for about 2 minutes.
6. Add the cooked pasta and toss to mix in the bacon, onion and garlic.
7. Add the eggs and cheese.  Immediately remove from the heat and vigorously toss for several minutes.  (The heat from the pasta and residual heat from the pan melt the cheese and cook the raw eggs.)
8. Add plenty of fresh cracked black pepper and serve.


When we made this dish recently, we used Tinkada GF brown rice spaghetti, though you could substitute your favorite store-bought GF pasta or make your own from scratch at home.

- Pete


Marilyn said...

Thanks for the reminder to make this soon! I also like Tinkyada pasta but find it a little gooey if it isn't rinsed well in cold water after draining. Did you rinse yours for this recipe? I'm a little concerned about the pasta not being hot enough to cook the eggs. Thanks.

peterbronski said...

Hi Marilyn... Definitely DON'T rinse your pasta in cold water. You want full heat to ensure that you cook the eggs. Just cook the pasta until it's al dente - that will make sure it doesn't get too gooey or gummy. In my experience, GF pasta only gets gooey if it's boiled for too long.

Cheers, Pete

Amanda on Maui said...

I like the trick from the Tinkyada package that says to bring it to a boil, add the pasta, cover the pot and turn the burner off. You'll definitely want to give it a few stirs so it doesn't clump, but it doesn't get gooey this way.

Anonymous said...

I'm having trouble imagining what happens to those 4 eggs when tossed with the hot spaghetti. You don't get bits of scrambled egg, do you? Do you have a photo?
(Yes - I agree with using the front-of-the-package directions for cooking Tinkyada pasta!)
I enjoy your blog.

theMom said...

Even though you made your Carbonara with bacon, perhaps you or Kelli might be able to answer a prociutto question that's been nagging at me and has made me apprehensive to buy prosciutto until I find an answer. And so far, an answer has not been easy to find.

I think it was on Lynne Rossetto Kasper's show, The Splendid Table, that I had first heard that real prociutto is made by dredging the brined meat in flour before aging it, and then also several times during the aging process. This coating is then scraped off and the meat is sliced thinly.
With that in mind, I can't seem to find out with regular phone calls and e-mails to American distributors if the prociutto I buy at the grocery store deli or pre-packaged in smaller portions is made by some non-traditional method. Or is it made traditionally somehow the flour does not penetrate or is just scraped very thoroughly? Or is it not GF? Most people I've heard replies from say it is GF, but when I ask more specific questions about the processing, I can't get the answers I need.

Do you know? Or can you find out with your more "official" sources?

peterbronski said...

Hi Amanda... Thanks for the tip about Tinkyada pasta! I sometimes do the same thing with rice noodles in my Asian dishes, and you have to do the same thing - stir it occasionally - so it doesn't clump.

Hi Anonymous... Imagine the cheese and eggs melting to become a rich, creamy sauce. Your concern about "scrambled eggs" is why it's so important to remove the pan from the heat. It's enough heat to raise the temp of the eggs to safely cook them, without "flash" cooking them and causing the scrambled egg effect.

Hi theMom... Here's what you need to know: true Italian Prosciutto (Prosciutto di Parma) is a highly regulated product. The only ingredient allowed to make it is salt (aside from the pork, of course). (If you'd like more information, you can browse the website of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, I suppose there's room for more variability with "American" prosciutto, though I highly doubt they'd dredge their hams in flour. Boar's Head prosciutto is gluten-free, as are many others.

Cheers, Pete

peterbronski said...

Hi again, the Mom... I wanted to share an update to my previous response about Prosciutto. In some regions of Italy, after the Prosciutto is cured with salt, it is prepared for aging. During this process, it is greased with a coating of lard. Sometimes, that lard incorporates some flour (as well as salt and often, pepper). Depending on the type of flour used, this would obviously introduce a concern about its gluten-free status.

Cheers, Pete

OptoMum said...

Peter - thanks for the photo and egg advice. I don't know why I showed up as "anonymous" last time.

peterbronski said...

Hi OptoMum... You're welcome!

Cheers, Pete