Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Pasta Carbonara and Vegetable Ribbon Saute
Pasta Carbonara, long pasta coated in thick, luxuriously creamy sauce with salty bacon, this is true Italian comfort food! I must admit, before I tried it I was a little unsure. That is because the sauce is made primarily of eggs that are stirred into the pasta while they're still raw. Sounded a bit suspect to me... Don't be afraid though, the heat from the pasta cooks the eggs, and in the process, makes this incredible sauce that reminds me very closely of fettuccini alfredo (one of those dishes that I love--who doesn't?--but feel totally guilty eating because it's as they say "a heart attack on a plate," right?). Good news is this dish is healthier (and easier, in my opinion) than fettuccini alfredo. And, when you top it with ribbons of vegetables sauteed in garlic and olive oil, you have a complete meal that you can rest easy with a full tummy!
Oh, and for those trivia nerds like myself, legend has it that the name "Carbonara" came from all the tiny flecks of black pepper in the pasta--it looked like coal dust.
Vegetable Ribbon Saute
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
1 medium zucchini
1 medium carrot
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced, lengthwise
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
salt and pepper to taste
1 small roma tomato, diced
fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces for garnish
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips from both the zucchini and carrot (rotating if necessary) until you can't peel off anymore and have just a little nubbin left to snack on. Set "ribbons" aside. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Toss in slivers of garlic and saute, stirring frequently to prevent from browning. When garlic is fragrant (30 seconds to 1 minute) add in onions and peppers. Saute until onions are slightly browned and begin to soften. Add in ribbons of zucchini and carrot, season with salt and pepper and continue to saute a couple more minutes or until vegetables are crisp- tender. Remove from heat. Stir in diced tomato. Garnish with basil leaves and Parmesan cheese.
Serve as a side dish or on top of pasta carbonara.
(serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are)
1/2 pound long pasta (spaghetti is most common, I prefer the slightly more substantial fettuccini)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup water reserved from cooking the pasta
1/4 cup half and half, if needed
1/4 pound (four slices, maybe?) thick-cut bacon (feel free to increase this amount as practically everything is better with bacon)
fresh ground pepper (lots of it) and salt to taste
Boil a large pot of water and cook the pasta until it is al dente. When you drain the pasta, make sure to reserve some of the cooking liquid. Return pasta to the pot and keep warm. While the pasta is cooking, cook bacon until it is crispy. Remove from heat, drain on paper towels and once cool enough to handle, crumble into bite-sized pieces. Reserve. Also while pasta is cooking, in a bowl or measuring cup, break eggs and scramble with a fork until thoroughly combined. Stir in cheese and garlic powder. While stirring the egg mixture constantly, slowly add the half cup of hot pasta water. This will help temper the eggs so they don't scramble when added to the pasta. Put the pot of drained pasta on a burner over medium heat. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta, tossing constantly and rapidly, until pasta is completely coated and the sauce becomes creamy (it will happen almost immediately). Remove from heat. If sauce is too thick, add half and half and stir to combine. Season with a lot of fresh ground pepper and a little salt. Toss in bacon pieces, stir one final time and serve immediately. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese or top with vegetable ribbon saute.