Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Zucchini Carbonara with Penne

This is a slightly modified recipe of Jamie Oliver's, using ingredients I already had in my kitchen. This is really summery--as it uses summer veg--and it's also forgiving to your AC system, as it cooks pretty darn fast!

Carbonara is really the only "true" Italian cream sauce. You probably didn't know this, but Fettucine Alfredo is NOT Italian!--Just like pizza. Italians generally eat pasta plain with olive oil, or with vegetables or meat, in non-creamy sauces. This Carbonara sauce is the closest thing to a cream sauce that they get.

Now what exactly is a Carbonara sauce? you may ask...Well, it's a cream sauce that is made by adding egg and a touch of cream directly to the hot pasta and vegetables. The hot environment cooks the eggs immediately, leaving a smooth, creamy sauce that is delicate in texture and flavor. This is very much unlike our thick bechamel sauces, which are, in fact, French in origin. The trick with the Carbonara is that you must work quickly, ensure that the just-drained pasta makes it directly into the pan with the veg, take it off the heat, and combine the cream and eggs as soon as humanly possible, stirring the pot, or else the eggs with scramble and then you have "Eww, Pasta with Scrambled Eggs" instead of "Pasta Carbonara."

Now enough yacking...Let's get into the specifics.


-12 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces
-3 zucchini, halved and sliced thinly on an angle
-3 yellow squash (or just more zucchini), halved and sliced thinly on an angle
-1 lb. penne, NOT pre-cooked!
-4 eggs
-1/2 cup heavy cream
-1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
-1 tsp. dried thyme, or 1 small handful of fresh thyme leaves, no stems
-salt and pepper

Heat a wide-bottomed pan with tall sides to medium heat. Once you wave your hand over it and feel hot air, add the bacon.

At this time, you can slice up your vegetables.

After the bacon browns and gets crispy, add in all of your sliced veg (leave the bacon fat in there so the vegetables will crisp up!). Toss them around, and add in the thyme and 1 tsp. pepper.

Set your pasta water to boil, being sure to add enough salt so that the water is "salty like the sea" (about 2 tbsp. for a large pot). Continue tossing the veg every 5 minutes or so, leaving time enough for them to get golden and crisp in the bacon fat.

Add your pasta to the pot when the water is boiling.

While you are waiting for the vegetables and pasta to cook, add your eggs and cream to a bowl with half of the cheese (1/2 cup). whisk together with 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.

Set aside. This is what you will be pouring into the pasta in a bit.

When your pasta is just about done, take a mug out of the cabinet and scoop out half a mug's worth of pasta water. Set it aside.

Now this is part where it is critical to work quickly--no standing around! Get everyone ready at the table. Then, take the vegetables in the pan off of the heat. Strain the pasta and immediately add it to the pan. Directly pour in the egg mixture and toss the pasta in the sauce with tongs. Pour in a bit of the pasta water to loosen the sauce. Taste a noodle. Add salt as needed. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of Parmesan on top of each dish.

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