Cooking For One: Carbonara, Two Ways

Posted by on Monday Feb 1st, 2010 | Print

DISH: Crispy Spaghetti Carbonara with Dandelion Greens and Pecorino; Orecchiette Carbonara with Scallions and Sundried Tomatoes
TYPE: Weeknight QLC Dinner
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Pasta, Egg, Bacon, Cheese

When we are home alone and craving a hit of creamy, cheesy carbs, we ladies of BGSK go straight for the carbonara. Back in Cara’s vegetarian days, the dish usually included some other meatless enticement in place of the bacon. But today, she is back on the wagon. So when we were shopping together on our retreat, and Phoebe instinctively reached for some uncured applewood smoked bacon (organic, of course), Cara was all for it.

It was a slippery slope from there. Somehow, we managed to eat carbonara only two out of the three days we were together. We weren’t so steadfast on the carb front: bread and pasta were still the main ingredients of all our other meals. We’d like to think it was just to use up all the bacon we’d bought, but really, after our first night of crispy spaghetti carbonara, we were already talking about what other delicious morsels we could add in the next day. We managed to fight the urge for twenty four whole hours by eating these Chard & Chickpea Toasts. But the last afternoon of our retreat it was dreary, cloudy and cold. The orecchiette we’d bought was calling to us, and so was the bacon. Like all sane humans with very little will power, we submitted.

From our kitchen, where we would eat carbonara fifteen ways if we could, to yours,

Cara and Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOKS

**Recipe**

Crispy Spaghetti Carbonara with Dandelion Greens and Pecorino
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients
½ lb spaghetti or other long pasta
1 bunch dandelion greens, main stems removed
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely chopped bread
2 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup shredded pecorino

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, and add the dandelion greens when there are 4-5 minutes left in the cooking process.

In the meantime, coat a small skillet in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry the bacon over high heat until dark and crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Turn the heat back to medium-low, and add the shallot. Sauté until translucent and beginning to brown. Remove to a pasta bowl.

Add the bread and the garlic to the pan and toast them the remaining fat and oil. When brown and crispy, remove to the plate with the bacon.

Allow the onion to cool slightly, then stir in the beaten eggs, red pepper flakes, most of the shredded cheese, and half of the bacon.

Drain the pasta and greens and reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid. Temper the egg mixture with a bit of the water, then add pasta and quickly toss to combine. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with the rest of the crispy bacon mixed with garlicky bread crumbs, and the remaining shredded cheese. Serve immediately.

Orecchiette Carbonara with Scallions and Sundried Tomatoes
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients
1/2 lb orecchiette or other short pasta
3 strips bacon, chopped
3 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 sundried tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 eggs, beaten
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup shredded pecorino or parmesan

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

In the meantime, coat a small skillet in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry the bacon over high heat until dark and crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and add the scallion and garlic. Sauté until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove to a pasta bowl.

Allow the scallion mixture to cool slightly, then stir in the beaten eggs, red pepper flakes, sundried tomatoes, and most of the shredded cheese.

Drain the orecchiette and reserve ¼ cup cooking liquid. Temper the egg mixture with a bit of the water, then add pasta and quickly toss to combine. Taste for seasoning. Garnish with the crispy bacon and the remaining shredded cheese. Serve immediately.

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  • Kate

    I think the only possible comment is: My goodness do these sound delicious. They are all I want, and all I can think about. I can't wait until I have a kitchen to prepare them in!

  • Esther

    Kate… beat you to it! I just made linguine with the first carbonara preparation and it was delicious!

    I have a question though… I'm pretty sure I added too much of the pasta's cooking liquid so the sauce didn't quite come together as creamy as I would have liked. Could I have tossed the pasta in a saute pan over low heat at the end to help thicken up the sauce?

    Thanks for the delicious dinner ladies!

  • Chef Aimee

    There is just something about pasta and bacon that makes any dinner divine!

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Esther–so glad you didn't hesitate to make the pasta! Sorry the sauce didn't turn out as creamy as you liked. The real purpose of adding the cooking water is to get the egg mixture's temperature closer to that of the pasta, so when you toss it, the eggs don't scramble. Next time, definitely try only adding a tablespoon or two, especially if your pasta isn't well drained and is carrying a bunch of water with it as well. If you still prefer a richer carbonara, I would suggest going a little crazier on the cheese and, perhaps, adding a third egg :) Since we ate it two days in a row, we tried desperately to restrain ourselves. Hope this helps!

  • Unplanned Cooking

    We always make our sauce with bacon. (We'll pretty much put bacon in anything.) I love the flavor that it adds. This looks heavenly!

  • Esther

    Thanks for the helpful tips ladies! I definitely added too much of the pasta water, but this gives me a great excuse to make it again this week to rectify my mistake!

  • Rebecca

    wow…i may have to make this tonight!

  • Colleen

    Both look great. Which did you prefer?

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Tough question, Colleen.

    Cara can't resist a sundried tomato and she loved the chewiness of the orechiette. Phoebe's sold on the crunch of the breadcrumbs, so she might lean towards the first.

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Ironically, Cara made the spaghetti version, and Phoebe the orechiette, so perhaps we both just prefer being fed by one another.

  • sarah

    How do you think this would turn out without the bacon? Maybe with a smoked tofu instead? I made the mistake of trying carbonara with fake veggie bacon bits a few years ago. NOT a good idea…