Mar 9, 2009

Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonara

We first discovered spaghetti carbonara years ago, before the kids were even born. My favorite was a recipe from the LA Times magazine (which hasn't been published for a while now). I've lost the recipe, and can't find it online, but it's a fairly simple dish. The best part is that I made it last week as the beginning of my renewed commitment to cook more and Alex loved it. It took some coaxing to get him to try it, but once he'd tasted it, he ate everything on his plate except the bacon. ("I don't like the meat, Mommy.") Tyler wouldn't taste it, though he did push it around his plate for a few minutes.

A note about the eggs: As I mentioned when I posted the Chocolate Mousse recipe, I don't let the kids have raw eggs because of their age. But I was okay with them having this dish because not only were the eggs fresh, but they get "cooked" by the heat of the other ingredients.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 4

1/2 pound dried whole wheat spaghetti
6 slices bacon, chopped (I love Trader Joe's applewood smoked bacon, but use your favorite here)
salt & pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, optional

1. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. Drain the pasta, reserving 2/3 cup of the cooking water. (Try to remember to do this - I usually forget - but the starch in the water really does help the sauce thicken.) Set the pasta aside and keep warm.

2. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for five to ten minutes until browned, stirring frequently. Remove the bacon from the pan to a plate covered with a paper towel. Drain off all but one tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat.

3. Add the pasta, and reserved cooking liquid to the bacon fat, stir and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the eggs. Stir in the pasta, bacon and parsley, if using. Serve immediately.

  • I have a nonstick stockpot, so I leave the pasta in the colander in the sink, cover with the stockpot lid, and use the stockpot for the rest of my cooking – that way I only have to clean one pot.
  • The parsley is optional, but makes the dish look really pretty. When I made this last week, I didn't have any fresh parsley and in retrospect that was probably a good thing – I think Alex would have objected to the "green stuff."
  • While I left out the parsley, I did add about a half pound of asparagus when I made this last week. I cut the spears into 1-inch pieces, and added them to the pasta during the last two minutes of cooking. You can do the same with frozen peas, although you might want to add them a minute or two earlier.
  • When I served the pasta to the boys, I decided to take things slow and avoided the asparagus. I also cut the spaghetti into smaller pieces, although Alex still asked me why they were so big.

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