Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Quick and easy carbonara

Most of the meals and recipes I have posted are time consuming to prepare.

Carbonara not only tastes really good, it's quick to fix.

This is one of those emergency meals you can fall back on in a pinch if you remember to keep bacon in the freezer, pasta and evaporated milk in the cupboard and butter, eggs and parmesan cheese in the refrigerator.
TV chefs always warn against using the pre-grated parmesan cheese in a can but it's truly not that bad and it keeps for quite a while on your shelf.

Another thing that makes this dish so appealing is that you can tailor it to fit your diet.

Trying to cut down on calories? Use less bacon or turkey bacon; less butter, skim milk instead of cream and two whole eggs instead of all egg yolks. When you want to splurge, use the whole pound of bacon, a stick of butter, heavy cream, all egg yolks and more cheese.

There is a slight difference in taste between the two versions but both are good. I compromise by using evaporated milk instead of cream and four tablespoons of butter instead of eight.

I happened to use rigatoni last night but fettuccini, spaghetti, ziti or farfalle work just as well.

Carbonara, my version


1 pound of thick sliced bacon

2 cups of evaporated milk

1 whole egg plus two egg yolks

1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, divided

4 Tbs butter

1 pound of pasta



1/8 tsp garlic powder


Cook the bacon until crisp then blot with paper towels to remove as much grease as possible.
Break or chop into small pieces and set aside.

Beat the egg and egg yolks into the milk and then add salt and pepper to taste and the garlic powder. Stir in 3/4 cups of grated cheese.

Melt the butter in a large pan.

Cook the pasta for about 10 to 12 minutes until it is done but not mushy.

When the pasta is done, drain it quickly then put it in the pot with the melted butter and pour in the milk, eggs, cheese and spices.

Turn up the heat and stir constantly until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the sauce has thickened to your liking and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

Add a green salad and some bread sticks and you're all set.

In his book, The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian, Jeff Smith offers this version of a lighter carbonara:


1Tbs olive oil

3 Tbs butter

3/4 cup of milk
1/4 cup of sliced and chopped prosciutto
1Tbs white wine vinegar
1/2 pound dry penne pasta
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Bring a kettle of water to boil for the pasta adding a bit of salt.

Heat a 1-quart saucepan and simmer the oil, butter, milk and prosciutto. Then add the vinegar and continue to simmer for about 5 more minutes.

While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta al dente, drain, and place in a mixing bowl.

If the sauce has cooled during the cooking of the pasta, quickly reheat it.

Add the sauce, the beaten egg yolks and cheese to the pasta. Quickly toss the mixture and check for salt and pepper.

Garnish with additional cheese.


Emily said...

Dad likes this more than I do (BACON! BACON! MEAT!) but it's still pretty damn delicious.

And your diet version is not nearly as diet as mine. If I wanted to get rid of a bunch of calories, I would 1) use turkey bacon instead of real bacon, like you said, 2) use wheat pasta instead of regular (with the sauce the taste difference is negligible) 3) put in skim milk for cream, 4) use 4 tablespoons of Smart Balance "butter spread" for 8 of the real butter, 5) egg whites instead of egg yolks for the binding agent, and if I were feeling totally masochistic I would find reduced-fat cheese, but even in my most caloric-deficient moods I hate using reduced fat cheese. It's the blandest-tasting food I have ever eaten. All in all the whole thing would probably taste like ass but sometimes you just really need to cut calories.

Like, uh, now, since you're coming in three weeks and I still haven't lost the weight I put on since Christmas and I don't plan on sparing any calories when you are here. Haha!

I love you mama.

Jill said...

Emily, my one faithful reader...

I love you too.