Best of Bistro Food: Pasta Carbonara

When I’m thinking quick off-the-cuff meals, one of the first that comes to mind is Pasta Carbonara.  This is the best of bistro cuisine:  simple, unpretentious and delicious.

For that particular reason, I like to stock a package of good bacon in the freezer so I can pull it out on a moment’s notice, slice a little off, and return the rest, still frozen.   If you happen to have a bit of guanciale or pancetta knocking around, this would be the time to pull that out instead.

Carbonara

This superb dish would just not be the same without the miracle of eggs and their ability to create an effortless sauce by a quick toss at the last minute with a batch of steaming hot pasta—off of the heat.

The residual heat of the pasta is just enough to bind the eggs into a glorious, creamy-cheesy, garlic-bacon infused sauce.  With too much heat, the eggs run the risk of becoming a scrambled mess.  Not pretty.

In the spirit of streamlining meals, it’s also easy to add more vegetables to your Carbonara. 

IMG_0165

Recently, I used not only spinach, but also threw in a few stray mushrooms as well as a small bunch of curly kale.  

When I do this, I need to remind myself that it will also extend the outcome substantially.  Instead of serving four, there was easily enough for six! 

Now, that is a win-win situation… since the leftovers are just as good the next day.

Pasta Carbonara Florentine

  • 10 slices bacon, cut into match stick lengths
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch baby spinach, rinsed well and trimmed of stems, lightly chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 12 oz. linguine or fettuccine, cooked al dente
  • 3 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until lightly browned; set it aside on toweling to drain.  Remove all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.  Return the pan and bacon fat to moderate heat, add the onion and sauté to soften; add the garlic and toss briefly.  Remove pan from heat. Place the spinach on top of the vegetables and allow it to wilt slightly while cooking the pasta.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and reserve 1 cup pot liquid.  Slowly whisk ½ cup of the hot liquid into the eggs to temper them, stir in the cheese and freshly ground pepper.

Over moderate heat, re-heat the vegetable bacon mixture, toss in the pasta, add the bacon and remove from heat when steaming hot.

Off the heat, stir the egg mixture into pasta and toss lightly to coat.  If dry, add a bit more of the reserved liquid.  Add sea salt if needed and more freshly ground pepper. Place in a large serving bowl, sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired and serve immediately with additional cheese.  Yield:  4 servings

Variations 
Mushroom:  Sauté 12 sliced crimini mushroom caps in 1 tsp olive oil to soften, add 1 clove crushed garlic, cook to distribute flavors and set aside.  Add to other vegetables prior to combining with pasta.

Curly kale:  Trim kale of tough core and stems; then chop the leaves lightly.  Add to pasta pot 4 to 5 minutes before pasta is al dente and stir to distribute.  When cooked, drain all and proceed.

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