As I said before, the charming Fussellette braved icy streets and our own half-assed driveway-shoveling job to make it to our house on Friday for a gluten-free extravaganza. I decided to make pasta carbonara, not only because it’s freaking amazing, but also for another, rather peculiar reason.
Chel (she of the wedding cake), back before she married Invis, was dating this other fella who was from England. And when she went to the UK to meet his parents, the fella’s mum made a pasta with a white sauce that Chel (who hates cheese and most things creamy) absolutely adored. Problem is, of course, that the breakup didn’t go so well and she has since married someone else, someone who doesn’t know anything about this recipe.
So for the past year or so she has been puzzling this out. She knew it wasn’t an alfredo, and she pooh-poohed my suggestion of a béchamel. Last week she suggested it might be a carbonara. Now, despite the fact that this woman is a tech genius, it didn’t occur to her to look on the internet herself and experiment with the various recipes. Instead, she comes and asks me. Silly girl (love you squishee!). So it’s up to me to see if what I cobble together tastes like the heaven that SHE ate some time ago. Also remember that she lives in Toronto, so it’s not like she can pop over for a bite.
So here goes. I pulled inspiration from a bunch of different carbonara recipes, so I think you can be pretty flexible with your ingredients.
This is a pasta that you toss before serving, so it’s recommended that you use something like a penne, or that which is easy to stir around. We had our fresh gluten-free linguini, so we just had to suck it up for this occasion. This is also a recipe that you make on the fly — aside from cutting up the vegetables ahead of time, you pretty much have to do this all as you cook and then serve it immediately.
So let’s start with what prep work we can get out of the way.
Take 12 or so slices of bacon and cut them into little bits. You can also use pancetta or prosciutto, or any other strongly flavoured cured pork.
Dice up an onion, a handful of mushrooms, and the florets from one head of broccoli. You could also use zucchini, sweet peppers, any number of vegetable. Go with what you’ve got in your fridge. Don’t try to be too fancy.
Finely grate up about two hefty handfuls of parmesan cheese. Because I have tiny munchkin hands, I got the Pie to do this part (also because I hate grating cheese and I’d already skinned off part of my finger). His hands are sizeable. He can cover my whole face with part of one hand.
Put one handful of cheese in a pretty serving dish and put it on the table for garnish. Take the other handful and dump it in a measuring cup with 1 cup whipping cream and 4 egg yolks.
Give that a good stir and set it aside.
Set a pot of slightly salted water to boil (if you’re using fresh pasta, add a few drops of olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking together). Cook your pasta. You need to time it so that the vegetables are ready at the same time the noodles are.
In a very large, deep frying pan, heat up about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Chuck in your bacon and fry until it’s crispy.
Chuck in the onions and stir for a few minutes until they start to become translucent.
Then add the rest of your vegetables, and cook, stirring often, until they are all tender and bacon-flavoured. I also sprinkled on some herbes de provence for extra flavour. Thyme or oregano would also work well.
When you drain your pasta, reserve about half a cup of the cooking water. Toss the pasta in with the vegetables and add a bit of the water. Use only as much as you need to help coat the pasta with sauce. If you like your sauce thick, add a few tablespoons. If you like your sauce thin, add the full half cup.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour in your cream/egg/cheese sauce. Toss to coat the pasta and then serve immediately.
Garnish with the extra parmesan, and go back for seconds. Serves 4 generously.