Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spaghetti alla carbonara

A classic Roman pasta dish and simplicity itself.  Bacon, eggs, pasta, black pepper.  You'll find carbonara nearly everywhere in Rome -- it is one of the great Roman specialties. 

Typically it is done with spaghetti, but on my last trip to Rome in 2009, I found rigatoni alla carbonara.  Equally good, and probably a bit easier to eat. 

1 lb spaghetti or spaghettini
6 slices thick-cut bacon, or 8 slices regular bacon, cut up into 1/4-inch pieces
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper

Cook the spaghetti to al dente in liberally salted boiling water.

While the pasta is cooking, sauté the bacon over medium heat until cooked, but not crisp.  Set aside with the rendered bacon fat.

Bacon sizzling.

Beat eggs well in a bowl.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. 

Black pepper and beaten eggs. 

When the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water.  Drain the pasta and dump into serving bowl.  Add beaten eggs, about half the cooking water, and the bacon with reserved fat to the pasta, and mix very well, until all the strands are coated with a creamy, eggy sauce.  Sprinkle liberally with black pepper.

The composed dish.

Though the Romans would not likely do it, I'm not averse to adding a tablespoon or two of butter to the hot pasta. 

Serve immediately.  Pass grated cheese at the table. 



Rigatoni alla carbonara, at a small trattoria in Rome.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sunday supper -- roasted chicken, rice pilaf, sauteed spinach

Had a late lunch on Sunday, so didn't get around to dinner until 8 pm or so.  But it was a great meal.

I roasted some chicken, sauteed fresh spinach in olive oil and garlic, and made a mushroom-rice pilaf.  Very nice.

Apologies for the photo, but it's from my phone.

I got the spinach at Iovine's in Reading Terminal Market -- 99c a bunch.  Beautiful stuff.  Brought them home, washed them well, wrapped the washed spinach in a towel, and kept it overnight in the fridge.  Just before dinner I sauteed a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil, and added the damp spinach to it, turning it to let it cook down.  Remarkable how you get almost nothing from a mountain of spinach.  Salt & pepper to taste.

Pilaf was easy -- sauteed chopped onion (1 small) and celery (1 rib) in 1/2 stick of butter.  Added 1/2 lb sliced mushrooms, S&P, and cooked until tender.  I added about a teaspoon each of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage.  1 1/2 cups rice, 1/2 broken-up linguine, then 3 cups stock (I used canned, half chicken, half beef.).  Brought it to a simmer, then popped it into a 375°F oven for about 15 minutes until all the liquid was absorbed.

Chicken was seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (I use Paula Deen's 'house seasoning' recipe -- 4 parts salt, 1 part pepper, 1 part garlic powder), dried rosemary, thyme, and sage.  Sprinkled a bit of paprika on top, onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and into a 375°F oven (convection) for about 40 minutes. 

Enjoyed a nice glass of Australian shiraz with dinner.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Marinara sauce

Folks often ask me how to make a simple tomato sauce for pasta.  And they compliment me on the sauce I serve them.  (Thank you, all. :-)  )That sauce would be what we'd call "marinara" sauce -- meatless tomato sauce, simple and unadorned. 

It's the easiest thing in the world: onion, garlic, olive oil, then tomatoes.  Salt and pepper. Then let it simmer for 20 or 30 minutes.  After that, add basil if you have it, or some parsley.  Optionally you can add some hot red pepper flakes, or a couple anchovy fillets.  For those of you who are tempted to hit the close button, wait -- the anchovy fillets add a dimension of flavor to the sauce that is unidentifiable as 'fish.'  Try it, it works beautifully.

I typically will make a large pot of sauce when I make it -- it keeps in the fridge for a few days, and it freezes beautifully.  Make it once, serve it three or four times.

Basic 'marinara' sauce

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed, crushed, or finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp crushed hot red pepper flakes (optional)
2 anchovy fillets (optional)

2 35-oz cans whole Italian tomatoes
1 35-oz can crushed tomatoes

1 handful (1 cup??) chopped basil or parsley 

Heat the olive oil in a 5- or 6-qt saucepan.  Add garlic, onion, pepper.  Saute gently until softened.  Add the crushed red pepper and anchovy fillets if you're using them.  (Use them, ok?)

Dump the whole tomatoes into a large bowl and gently crush them with your hands into coarse pieces.  Add them to the pot, along with the can of crushed tomatoes.  Stir well, bring to a simmer, lower heat, and let simmer, semi-covered, for about 20 minutes.  Taste for salt and pepper and add accordingly.

Just as the sauce is finishing, add a handful of chopped basil or parsley to the finished sauce.  Got both?  Put both. 

This amount of sauce will easily accommodate two pounds of cooked pasta.