Sunday, 20 December 2009
Although the name suggests it, Katie did not cook this dish but I do want to say that Katie is a very good cook (we'll not mention her managing to burn instant noodles once. Not sure how long they were left on the hob to be able to get burnt?!)
The dish is one of her favourites but rarely gets it made well. It's so easy to get right that it's a complete mystery how any restaurant could muck it up.
Carbonara can be made pretty cheaply and can (or can't) be quite healthy.
I found this pasta while hunting for an alternative to spaghetti as I'm not the biggest fan of it. It's called Bucantini and can be found in most big supermarkets. It's just thick spaghetti with a hole running through the middle, which is perfect for carbonara as the sauce fills the holes.
We used double cream but you can certainly use creame fraiche which is something I'm starting to use more of (hitting 30 soon and beginning to take my health more seriously) A couple of small tubs of cubed pancetta are cheaper than a packet of bacon or bacon lardons and they have a slightly less salty, more aged flavour which gives the dish more depth.
Onto the recipe? ok, well don't blink...you might miss it:
cook enough pasta for the amount of diners until it retains a bit of bite (of if you like the life cooked out of it that's fine too) drain and put it back in the pot with a drizzle of olive oil. You can take it off the heat too.
Get a frying pan nice and hot then fry the pancetta, you don't need oil as there will be enough released from the meat.
Cut up some mushrooms, any will do but I like to use some chestnut mushrooms, and set aside.
Mix 1 egg per person, 150 ml cream, as much parmesan as you like (I like mounds of the stuff) and ground pepper. Once you've done that the pancetta should be almost crispy. Once it's to your liking drain the pancetta on some kitchen towel and dispose of the excess fat.
Return the pan to the heat and add the mushrooms that you cut earlier, remember? You don't want them too fried up but just softened as they'll act like little sponges, soaking up the sauce. Put the pancetta back in for a couple of seconds to reheat while you add the cream mixture to the pasta, add the pancetta and mushrooms, mix well and serve in some big bowls. It's important to say that you shouldn't have the heat on at this stage as it will likely turn the mixture to scrambled eggs.
Some hot garlic bread is a must with any pasta dish, we bought a baguette, cut into it and filled it with our own garlic butter. Just crush some garlic and mix it into some butter with a fork.
As I found out, eating this as you would normally...shovelling some into your mouth then sucking and slurping the rest leads to a very, very messy eating area. Remember; the pasta is fully loaded with sauce eager to adorn your table dressing and all it takes is your hungry lips to squeeze it out. This isn't a dish for a first date....or maybe it would be a good ice breaker. There's no pretense with spaghetti, it's a messy meal (if you're not Italian) you can't hide behind a dainty salad or a manly steak. It can be quick comfort food laden with cream and cheese or it can be a healthy fast, mid week dinner with reduced fat creme fraiche and ham as an alternative to bacon or pancetta. Whichever version you opt for there's no reason for you to have a terrible carbonara, it's too easy to get right.