One of the things I love best about where we live is the abundance of great local food, and nothing is more local than moorland bacon from our neighbour Sean and organic free-range eggs from our friends 1/4 mile down the lane.
But my kids are weird about eggs. They’ll eat them in omelettes, but hate them in quiche. They’ll eat them in Salade Niçoise, but detest them in egg salad. Poached eggs are deemed “disgusting”, but I suppose it goes without saying that the kids don’t mind eggs in custard, or in cakes and in cookies.
The youngest is also a bit of an anti-masticator. In practical terms, this means that she does not like to chew meat, lettuce, or even apples unless they are cut up. In an odd reversal, she will gladly chew hard candy, chewy biscuits and toffee. Strange, that. She also loves to eat butter and clotted cream. I can understand that.
The Author doesn’t like to eat things that don’t have meat. He’s not exactly anti-vegetable, but when a vegetarian dinner appears on the table, he gets gloomy and accuses me of trying to “turn” him.
Still, there is one meal that my family agrees on – Pasta Carbonara. It’s creamy – with no cream! It’s eggy – meaning lots of protein – with no visible eggs! And it’s got meat – but not too much! Plus, it’s pasta, and who doesn’t like that? Oh, and it take 10 minutes. We’re all happy.
serves 5 generously
I love making this because it is packed with protein and essential fats, and remember, not only does fat add flavour, it’s good for you! (Or at least, not bad for you…) And once everything is prepped, this dish is so quick to put together – it takes me longer to chop up the bacon than to do all the rest combined!
- 350g linguine (see end of post for GF version)
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 TB olive oil
- 250g bacon, cut into small pieces
- 4 eggs, whisked together
- 100g parmesan or grana padano, grated
- freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Salt well* and add the linguine. Cook the pasta until almost done (about one minute less than the package instructions).
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over a medium flame in a skillet that is large enough to hold the pasta later. When the oil is hot, add the garlic clove and cook until the flavour is released – you should be able to smell it. Remove the garlic and discard, then add the bacon to the skillet and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it is cooked through.
If the pasta isn’t ready yet, turn off the bacon pan and let the pasta continue cooking until it is al dente. When the pasta is ready, add it to the bacon by lifting it with tongs and adding it directly to the pan. (Don’t worry about the pasta not draining properly; you don’t want it to drain properly. The water from the pasta pot, with its starch and salt, will add tons of flavour and body to your finished dish.) If you don’t have tongs, drain the pasta in a colander, but be sure to save at least 1 cup of the pasta water.
Stir the pasta and the bacon together over medium heat, and add 1/2 cup of the reserved water. Continue cooking the pasta with the bacon, and when most of the water has evaporated, taste a piece of pasta. If it is cooked perfectly (i.e. how you like it) turn off the heat. If it is not cooked enough, add another 1/2 cup of water and continue cooking. (An aside: After many years of pasta eating, I can say that slightly overcooked pasta is preferable to undercooked, so if it is too chewy for you, keep cooking. What’s important is the taste for you.)
When the pasta is how you like it. turn off the heat and add 1/2 of the pepper and half of the cheese to the pasta and stir in well. Add the eggs and quickly stir into the pasta, keeping everything moving so that the eggs don’t scramble but instead create a nice creamy sauce. If the pasta starts looking too dry, add a little more of the pasta water at this point. It may start to look a little watery, but it will congeal as it cools. Add the rest of the cheese and pepper, and serve. A nice bitter green salad wouldn’t go amiss.
To make a gluten free version of this: Gluten free pasta tends to get mushy and then fall apart very quickly if it is overcooked. To combat that, it helps to stop the cooking process halfway, so you can control it more carefully. To do this, cook the GF pasta in plenty of boiling water until it is almost done, as stated above. Reserve a cup of the water, but drain the pasta and refresh in cold water until it is cold throughout. Then continue the recipe as written.
* Some Italians say that the pasta water should be as salty as the sea, but I think that may be a little too much here, since we are using the water in the recipe later.