Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara, When Only Pasta Will Do

When I get home from a long day, making dinner is usually the last thing on my mind. Food, yes. But cooking? Fuhgettaboutit. But if I haven't been diligent over the weekend and planned ahead (I try to pre-plan and even prep or pre-cook our meals for the week), I have generally two options: flirt with my husband until he is under my spell, therefore tricking him into cooking; or, forage. Neither are exactly ideal. Don't get me wrong - I love it when Randall cooks for me, but if you've seen some of his Hubby Helpings on this blog, you know I could wind up with something not exactly from the health food aisle. As for foraging, apple slices smeared with peanut butter is often as good as it gets.

It's times like these when a comfort food of my youth comes to the rescue. A simple spaghetti carbonara is a breeze to prepare, comforting after one of "those days," and perfectly satisfying. It's a dish my single mom would make for us three kids after her own long, harried days (job 1/job 2/job 3) - let alone ours (school/sports/ballet/music/homework/chores/horseplay). The fact that she could get dinner on the table at all astounds me now that I look back on it, but it was the one thing we did with scheduled regularity as a family. So this dish makes sense to me in that context - it's quick, filling, and an economical way to feed a crowd.

Of course, I've given it my own spin over the years. I don't eat pasta too much, but sometimes, you just gotta have it. I've gotten in the habit of using whole wheat pasta for starters, and tend to load up the dish with herbs as well as steamed or sauteed vegetables (great way to sneak in the veggie servings!). So I guess my version is a cross between a carbonara and a primavera. But call it what you want - I just call it good.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara
  • 1/2 pound of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 pound of pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Olive oil - be your own judge on the quantity
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: fresh herbs (I like basil), fresh tomatoes, sauteed or steamed veggies (use what's in season, and load it up! My favorites to toss in with the pasta are asparagus, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, artichoke hearts and mushrooms).
Cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure to properly salt the cooking water. As the pasta is cooking, brown the pancetta or bacon in a saute pan to the crispiness of your preference. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. When the pasta is done, drain and quickly return to the still-warm cooking pot (the heat can be turned off or keep on very low). Immediately toss the pasta with olive oil - enough to coat it lightly. Add the pancetta, eggs and Parmesan; toss to thoroughly coat the noodles. The residual heat will cook the eggs. Add any optional herbs or vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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