Monday, June 29, 2015

Date Night Pasta Carbonara

Carbonara is a great date night food – particularly when trying to make an early… *impression*.  It’s silky, rich, opulent, sensuous, and satiating.  I made this early on for my husband while we were dating; I’m pretty sure it was what sealed the deal for us.  My husband has been cooking professionally in restaurants for more than 20 years, so I knew I couldn’t just slap together any old pasta dish on a plate and bat my eyelashes (although this had worked on dates in times past).  I need something downright luxurious.  So, carbonara seemed to be a really good option for my Midwestern, pork-loving guy.  It has bacon – an aphrodisiac in and of itself.  Then add the egg, cheese and some fresh black pepper and you have a little piece of heaven on your plate.  Carbonara is a really classic dish and it seems like almost everyone has their own way.  I have tried a thousand different recipes, and had pretty well settled on Nigella Lawson’s recipe, that incorporates dry vermouth (or white wine) that is cooked down with rendered pancetta.  It adds an extra depth to the dish. My version uses bacon ends cut into pieces (that I talked about in my Lentils and Rice post), which works just as well.

I made the dish during one of my first, ahem, “weekend” dates with my husband.  He loved it.  Since it fared really well, I have added this into our dinner rotation every few months for a nice date night dinner.  However, being from the Midwest, my husband finally confessed that the carbonara seemed incomplete without peas.  As a California girl, I had never heard of such a thing.  Peas in carbonara?!?!?!  Apparently this is a very essential Midwest regional addition that I was unaware of.  But, to appease my husband’s tastes for comfort food, I have since added peas to my recipe, as well some fresh parsley.  This has strayed from the simplicity of Nigella’s original recipe, but it is still a luxurious and sensuous date night dish.

The eggs in this recipe are cooked through residual heat of the pasta, so use good eggs.

Carbonara with Peas

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or vermouth)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
  • black pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • Fill a large pan with salted water and bring to a boil. 
  • Cut the bacon into ½ inch cubes.  Coat a large pan that will fit the pasta later with oil and heat over medium low heat until the oil starts to shimmer.  Cook the bacon in the oil until crispy but not crunchy.  Add the white wine or vermouth and reduce by almost half until the wine bacon mixture is syrupy. Take the pan off the heat.
  • In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream and some pepper. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, but start to check it 2 minutes before the indicated cooking time and drain when al dente, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat. Add a little of the reserved pasta water to lubricate if necessary.
  • Remove the pan from the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, quickly tossing everything to mix.  Add the peas and grind more pepper to taste.  Toss and cover pan with a lid and let sauce thicken and peas warm through with the residual heat from the pasta.
  • Add parsley and grate fresh nutmeg over the pasta just before serving. 

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