Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara - made November 28, 2010

We interrupt this baking blog to post a recipe for “real” food.  Sort of real anyway.  I got this recipe from the coupon section of the Sunday newspaper a couple of weeks ago.  I clipped out just the recipe so I don’t remember the ad but I assume it was for Classico pasta sauce since that’s what’s specified in the recipe.  I love carbonara and simple pasta dishes are one of the few things I can make so this seemed like a good recipe to try.  I did my usual substitutions and modifications though – for one thing, I omitted the shallots because I didn’t know what they were and didn’t want to hunt for them in the produce section.  I assume they’re an onion-like thing so I was fine skipping them since I’m not fond of onions.  I also swapped in turkey bacon for the pancetta.  I like pancetta but bacon is easier to find and I like turkey bacon better than bacon bacon – less fat.  Instead of Parmesan cheese, I substituted a mix of 6 grated cheeses.  For no other reason than the bag of that was cheaper by 50% than the parmesan and cheese is cheese once you melt it into the pasta sauce (I can picture foodies shuddering at my heresy – sorry).  I also used whole wheat thin spaghetti noodles to add a little more fiber in.  Clearly I’m more comfortable making wild substitutions when I’m cooking real food than I am when I’m baking.

Despite all my machinations, the recipe turned out okay.  The trick with carbonara is you have to keep the pasta noodles hot since tossing it with the egg mixture is what cooks the eggs.  But you don’t want to cook the eggs as in scrambled eggs so much as you want to thicken them into a sauce and heat them enough to kill any bacteria.  The eggs/alfredo pasta sauce mixture didn’t have a lot of flavor.  I don’t know whether it was because the jar of pasta sauce didn’t have much flavor to start with or if that’s what I missed out on by not adding the shallots.  For my bland taste buds, this was okay but I have to admit I prefer Donna Hay’s carbonara recipe for real carbonara, even in all its full-fat glory.

1 package (16 ozs) spaghetti pasta
1 jar (15 ozs) Classico Light Cream Alfredo Pasta Sauce, or about 2 cups
4 eggs, beaten
½ lb thinly sliced pancetta, or about 24 slices (I used turkey bacon)
2 large shallots, chopped or about 1 cup
2 teaspoons minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Cook pasta al dente according to package instructions and drain, reserving about ¼ cup of pasta water.  Return pasta to pot and cover to keep warm.  In a medium bowl, whisk together pasta sauce and eggs, and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown pancetta for 3 to 4 minutes, or until crisp, turning occasionally.  Place pancetta on paper towels and coarsely crumble or chop, reserving drippings.
  3. In the same skillet with reserved dripping, over medium high heat, cook shallots and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in wine and cook for another minute.  Remove skillet from heat.
  4. Return pasta pot to stovetop over low heat.  Add shallot mixture to warm pasta and lightly toss with tongs.  Slowly add pasta sauce mixture, a little at a time, tossing pasta frequently to prevent eggs from scrambling.  Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until sauce is cooked through and thickened.  Add reserved hot pasta water if needed to thin sauce to desired consistency.  Add cheese, parsley and pancetta crumbles, and cook for another minute, stirring frequently.  Season with salt and pepper to taste if desired.  Serve immediately.

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