It’s Monday and that means yes, here I am with dinner based around an ovum protein source.*
*Another synonym for “egg,” from thesaurus.com: cackleberry. I am so not shitting you.
I’ve been wanting to make this homemade refried bean and roasted potato taco thing for weeks now, but this pesky thing called “work” keeps me from getting home early enough to do it, and this other pesky thing called “poor organizational skills” keeps me from planning ahead and making the refried beans in advance (I actually have preternaturally powerful organizational skills, but I use them all up at work so when I get home I’m like an elderly dementia patient). So it’s another permutation of pasta with egg: Carbonara con Funghi e Piselli. Ho molto immaginazione, no?
Pasta alla Carbonara is a classic pasta dish based around some kind of cured pork product (guanciale, pancetta, sometimes prosciutto, bacon for the cheap at heart), egg and cheese (pecorino, parmigiano, other tangy Italian grating cheese that does not originate in a green can). Oh, and pepper, lots of black pepper. And if you live in our house, garlic. The egg and cheese coat the pasta to make a silky sauce, the pepper and salty pork cut through the fat and the garlic makes your breath stink from here to next week, so you want to avoid spending time in enclosed spaces after consuming. For example, I just ate this dinner and spent an hour in a Honda Accord. You should not.
I wanted to beef it up a little bit and Brian loves peas like the world’s pea stock is all being heaved to the bottom of the ocean in a plastic sack tied to a cinderblock like so many kittens, so I decided to throw in sauteed mushrooms. Okay, and peas too. I’m not cruel. It is, after all, the day after our anniversary, not that we’ve been telling each other, “Happy Day-After-Our-Anniversary” all day like giant saps or anything. I definitely did not leave him a voice mail to that effect. Nope, it’s just like any other day, when I customarily greet him with a “What the fuck are you looking at?” and a sharp kick to the shins.
Anyway, you could add any kind of vegetables you want (leeks would be tasty, as would spinach or zucchini), because you get to saute them in bacon drippings and bacon drippings are the fat equivalent of sweet, sweet love for vegetables.
The egg gets whisked and mixed into the pasta raw. Brian has a whole method for the sauce-making, because this is apparently what he regularly eats (1) for dinner when I’m too insane to cook and/or (2) for lunch on Fridays when he’s home. Because, you know, he gets every other Friday off. Because he works for the federal government, in an office where someone once spent nearly a year coming in, turning on his light and computer, leaving, GOING TO ANOTHER JOB, coming back at the end of the day to turn everything off and collecting two paychecks.
In my world, when there’s “a 2:30 meeting in conference room D” there’s actually a meeting at 2:30; it’s not code for “we’re going on a Dunkin Donuts run.” And he wonders why I kick him in the shins so much. So he makes this all the time and I had no idea because it always happens when I’m either out of my head or at work on Friday LIKE A NORMAL WORKING PERSON WHO WORKS.
The process goes thusly: Whisk egg. Whisk grated cheese into egg. Mix finely minced raw garlic into egg. Pour egg-cheese-garlic over hot pasta and toss continuously to coat. Toss with two wooden spoons, not tongs, because otherwise the egg will get clumpy on you instead of coating the pasta smoothly. Be fast, also to avoid said clumping problem. He saves pasta cooking water just in case, but has never found it necessary.
The egg and cheese make a slick but not goopy or fatty sauce, and the residual pasta heat warms the garlic just enough to keep it from whacking you upside the head, but not so much that it doesn’t give you a gentle biff.* (Or a not so gentle biff.) The peas are already mixed in because they’ve been cooked with the pasta for a few minutes, and the mushrooms and bacon get tossed in at the end along with more cheese.
I could have taken credit for all this but am not because it is The Day After Our Anniversary. Let it be known, however, that the mushrooms were all my idea. Well, and the idea to make this for dinner in the first place, which decision was made before I knew about Brian’s secret pasta life.
*Biff: v., to hit someone squarely on the forehead with the palm of your hand. Provenance, central New Jersey middle schools.
One egg and a couple heaping spoonfuls of cheese are enough to perfectly coat two servings’ worth of pasta; two cloves of garlic, half a package of mushrooms (four ounces, maybe?), a few handfuls of peas and four strips of bacon take care of the rest. And a little more cheese, because you always need a little more cheese.
Brian declares that he could happily eat this every week for the rest of his life and has decreed that our weekly meal plan shall be as follows…
- Monday: Cheap Ass
- Tuesday: Roast Chicken (in warmer months, replace with grilled)
- Wednesday: Pasta alla Carbonara
- Thursday: Smackdown
- Friday: Restaurant
…because it is the perfect blend of the consistent and the new. Precious, is it not? It’s things like this, plus his love of caution, Project Runway and Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel nibs* and willingness to kill the big bugs even though he doesn’t like them either that have helped us make it to One Day After Our Seventh Anniversary.
I’m not sure I’m quite as willing to adhere to a schedule that doesn’t include a Taco Night or an I’m Hormonal And Require Domino’s Cheesy Bread night, although I appreciate the plan. I do not deny, however, that I could eat this on a regular basis – although I might want to shake things up and maybe have it on a Sunday one week – without complaint. It’s everything unfussy Italian cooking should be: packed with flavor, simple, well-balanced and quick. My people, they know a thing or two about eating. And now so does Brian, and I reap the benefits. I would, however, trade those benefits for getting every other Friday off; not that I don’t appreciate them. I’m just saying.
Calculations: Pasta, $0.50. Bacon, $1.20. Egg, $0.50. Mushrooms, $1.74. Cheese, garlic, frozen peas and pepper, pantry items. Total: $3.94, or $1.97 per person.
*Don’t hork, those things are fricking awesome. We have been known to sit in the car and eat an entire bag for dinner Because We Are Grown-Ups And Can Do Things Like That If We Want To. We still get a little too excited about that. I assume it will die down once we hit our forties.
ONE YEAR AGO: Ice Cream for a Dead Man
Pasta alla Carbonara con Funghi e Piselli, per due (Carbonara with mushrooms and peas, for two)
1/4 box fettuccine
4 strips of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 oz. button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. peas
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp. + 2 tbsp. finely grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Fill a medium saucepan with water and set it over high heat. While you’re waiting for it to come to a boil:
Put a skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is crispy and the fat has rendered out, 5-7 minutes. Remove the bacon to some paper towels with a slotted spoon and pour off all but 2 teaspoons of the fat.
Put the bacon-fat pan back over the heat. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle on a pinch of salt (I know there’s this whole don’t-salt-your-mushrooms-until-the-end thing, I’ve never paid attention and never had any mushroom-related problems) and saute until golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the cheese and the minced garlic into the beaten egg.
When the water comes to a boil, salt liberally; add the pasta and cook according to the package’s instructions. If you’re using fresh (non-canned) or frozen peas, throw them in for the last few minutes of cooking time to cook/defrost.
Drain the pasta and peas and return them to the pot. Pour the egg mixture over and immediately begin tossing the pasta with two wooden spoons to distribute the egg and coat the pasta; it won’t look like it’s heavily sauced but will be nice and glossy. Mix in the mushrooms and bacon.
Split between two warmed bowls. Sprinkle another tablespoon of cheese over each and serve immediately.
Having spent a ridiculous (and unbillable) amount of time today just trying to figure out which one of two equidistant court houses had jurisdiction over a small but well known city in southern Ontario today, I really, really would like to kick some government workers in the shins. Yours seems too nice to warrant it, so I’ll save it for the court staff who never answer their gd phone and instead make me wait five hours for the thrilling conclusion to my harrowing search. (Or maybe the genius at the AGs office who deeemed this information to o seekrit to put it on a freakin’ map somewhere.) GAWD.
In short, my shitty day is the reason why my Cheap Ass Monday dinner consisted of a 1$ pack of cheese-powder coated rice crackers and a handful of slightly stale candied nuts from the break room. Mmm.
The marinated pork loin in the fridge will just have to grill itself tomorrow while I mow the lawn (or attend my own lynching at the hands of my snotty, lawn-centric neighbours.)
Finalmente! Someone else who adds garlic to carbonara and isn’t afraid to admit it – but I add it to the sauteeing pancetta so it gets cooked off a bit (but not, of course, browned – it is a lot easier on your Honda-mates after). I don’t add any veg (peas and shrooms? Un Americanata) however, and I not only don’t drain off any of the fat (it doesn’t render that much really – just right for a box of pasta), I also actually start off the pancetta with a little olive oil in the pan.
You get big points for not using cream.
Love the carbonara. I make a 2nd version too with carciofini (sub roughly chopped artichoke hearts for pancetta) inspired by blogger bleedingespresso.com which is yummy too.
Heyooooooooh! Have you ever had the buffalo wing pretzel nibs? They’re stupid-delicious, despite being one of those “shame foods” that you have to eat in private so people don’t think that you’re a culinary pervert (here I’m referring to my love for eating sweetened condensed milk from the can). Give them a shot.
I was just writing up an “ode to your pasta with eggs on top” love note on my blog, and now there’s gonna be this Pasta alla Carbonara that is totally frickin distracting and awesome looking. Happy Anniversary-ish!
Looks fabulous…minus the egg, this combo makes a great risotto too 🙂
You are WAY too organized. Even if I think I know what I’ll be eating for dinner all week, chances are someone or something will throw a wrench in the works.
I like your addition of mushrooms to carbornara! You definitely do some creative things with this dish. Raw garlic is quite a daring thing. I usually cook my garlic in the bacon fat.
It seems Brian is like my evil twin or something. We are at complete opposite ends of the pea spectrum.
I so wish I had read this before I tortured my children with some other half-assed pasta dish I made up on the spot for dinner tonight.
This sounds much, much better.
Carbonara is such a fabulous evil. I love making it w/ zucchini browned in the bacon fat. I even make a version as a side dish with orzo (and the peas, as my husband also has an unnatural attachment to them.)
However, I have no idea how 1 egg and 4 tbsp of grated cheese served as sauce for 2 people. That wouldn’t be enough for just me! I’m more in the half-to-3/4-cup grated cheese world, some of which would go on top of course, but still… gotta up the cheese ante. (Which would require then the reserved pasta water for assistance.)
Damn you for making me want to make this right now. I even have everything but the mushrooms in my kitchen already! Looks like Midnight Dinner will be carbonara tonight instead of the random steak I’ve been making of late.
Yum! Those are some big ass cremini mushrooms, wow! I don’t drain the bacon fat either, and I only use egg whites – I make a little nest in the pasta for the yolks for each serving (got that from a Batali book). As soon as I get around to it I’ll post my “breakfast salad” as my son calls it.
I have to say I’m a little surprised that “cackleberry” is an official word. I thought it was just one of those things only my dad says. He’s called eggs cackleberries for years!
I think “cackleberry” needs to be re-purposed as a name to call people, because that’s what it sounds like already. Try it out: “Did you know that ‘cackleberry’ is another word for egg?” “YOU’RE a cackleberry.” (and then, if this discussion is occurring in my house, “your FACE is a cackleberry!”)
Also, past tense of biff = biff’t, as in, “Did you see her in gym? She got biff’t right in the face with the ball.” That may be a Canadian regional variation.
so brian gets every other friday off….i bet that means he works 4 days at 9hrs each, an 8 hr friday, and then 4 days at 9hrs, right? yeah, i work for that same federal government…lol
oh and MMMM
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