It’s Monday and that means yes, here I am with dinner based around an ovum protein source.*

*Another synonym for “egg,” from 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.