I’ve loved pasta for a long time, but in spite of this love, sometimes I’m befuddled by it. Why do some recipes call for certain shapes? The resulting taste is the same, after all. Clearly some dishes require particular pastas — lasagna, for example — but would I be doing a meatball a disservice by placing it atop a pile of capellini or casarecce instead of spaghetti? If you’ve ever been bewildered by pasta as I have been, then the National Pasta Association‘s guide to the variety of shapes will be as helpful to you as it has been to me. The illustrations* are super-cute, too.
I know that after the holidays you’re supposed to feel the need to diet, eat healthily, work out and abstain from things like carbs and bacon and cheese, but I woke up yesterday morning craving pasta, which is why I decided to make spaghetti carbonara for dinner in spite of my leftover-laden fridge. For the record, I did eat the remaining Brussels sprouts from Christmas Eve dinner for lunch, along with some of my dad’s herb-marinated olives and a clementine, so I didn’t feel as guilty as I could’ve for giving in to the demands of my stomach.
Actually, come to think of it, I didn’t feel guilty at all, which may be why I am fat.
Spaghetti carbonara has a tyrannical iron grip on my heart, and I’m rendered as helpless as a baby bunny when faced with a bowl of it. The first time I ever ate carbonara was when I was fourteen, at a restaurant in, of all places, my mother’s hometown of Cagayan de Oro, and I loved the creamy thick sauce coating each strand of pasta so much that I convinced my mother to take me back the next day for another mound of it. Both days I resolutely put my head down and didn’t come back up for air until I was finished, barely restraining myself from swiping my tongue across my empty plate. My mother’s evil eye might have had something to do with that though.
Ruth Reichl‘s recipe is just as good as the carbonara of my memory, and dead simple. Something interesting to note is that there’s no cream in the ingredients list; the eggs do all the work, magically transforming themselves into a rich and smooth sauce.
Spaghetti Carbonara, from Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
Makes three portions
1 pound spaghetti
¼ to ½ pound thickly-sliced bacon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large eggs
½ cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook, and you can make the sauce in that time.
- Cut the bacon crosswise into, pieces about ½ inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp, the bacon won’t meld with the pasta.
- Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.
- Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much fat to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta.
- When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.
It’s hard to believe summer is almost over, especially since our CSA box has been steadily growing, all but inundating the fridge with its contents. In fact, I emptied the CSA produce out of the fridge just to see the difference its removal made, and Keith said, “It looks like there’s no food in here.”
This week’s box consisted of the following:
- Garden Peach tomatoes
- Hot pepper
- “Regular” tomatoes
- Spicy salad mix
- Sungold cherry tomatoes
- Watermelon (which was out of the box, if you want to get into specifics.)
I needed to put together a super-fast dinner for Keith and me; it had to get on to the table in fifteen minutes or less. I had just read an article on CookThink about boiling garlic for pasta; since I had several heads, I decided I would use them all. Though the CookThink piece indicates the use of unpeeled cloves, I threw in my cloves unpeeled, along with some gemelli. While the pasta boiled, I halved each of the tiny Sungolds; after I strained the gemelli, I picked out the cloves, which I then mashed into two tablespoons of melted butter. I tossed everything together — pasta, raw Sungolds, garlic-butter — and added some Parmesan. Had I any fresh herbs (sage, maybe, or even thyme) I would have given them a rough chop and added them to the mix. As it was, everything came together nicely for a quick, light dinner, and I’m pleased to say that it took precisely fifteen minutes. Not bad at all.