Pasta Carbonara

If you, like me, have been hoarding boxes of pasta over the course of the pandemic, you may be getting tired of your same old noodle routines. We all have the recipe rotations we keep in our back pocket for those nights following long days during which we haven’t had much bandwidth to think about dinner. Part of the beauty of a recipe like pasta carbonara is that the scratch-made sauce that takes moments to come together; even better, it maximizes flavor with only a few simple ingredients. This is a great one for everything from fancy date nights to “Oh my gosh I am so tired but can’t do canned red sauce even one more time this week” dinners!

A Brief History of Pasta

The origins of pasta as we know it are somewhat in dispute: there are those who claim it dates as far back as 3000 B.C. in China, and those who attest it had a parallel birthplace in 1100s Sicily. Regardless of origin, pasta has always held global appeal and been a cheap, reliable, appealing way to fill a belly.

According to “Italics Magazine,” an Italian magazine written in English, pasta as we know it was originally closer to lasagne than spaghetti. In the 1st century A.D, Horace, the Roman poet, wrote of “lagana,” a dish made of sheets of fried dough which may or may not have been stuffed with layers of meat.

Writings from 3rd century Palestine describe “itriyya,” a semolina-based dough cut into strips, dried, and then boiled. An Arab lexicographer and physician named Isho bar Ali described this ancient cousin of pasta in detail, and wrote of the industry surrounding it–ships sent the itriyya to “Calabria, to Muslim and Christian countries,” noting “very many shiploads are sent.”

As a result of extensive trading in the Middle Ages, food historians estimate pasta began to take on different shapes. Sicily may be credited with couscous; by the 13th century, pasta shapes like gnocchi, ravioli, vermicelli, and macaroni spread across the Italian peninsula.

Naples emerged as the leading producer and consumer of pasta in the 17th century. Pasta’s increasing popularity may have been due to the fact that it was a dish accessible to those who did not have the means to purchase meat for their meals. The Industrial Revolution saw the advent of machines like the torchio, which was a mechanical press designed to cut dough into thin pieces. The first license for a pasta factory was written in Venice in 1740.

In 1877, in the town of Parma, Italy, Pietro Barilla began one of the most successful pasta businesses still in production today.

Pasta’s Story Isn’t Over

Some pasta shape traditionalists attest that the record for existing pasta shapes is set in stone. Pasta-curious podcast host Dan Pashman challenged the status quo this year by setting out to create the “perfect” pasta shape: able to be speared by a fork and retain sauce, and toothsome enough to have a decent chew.

According to the New York Times, he worked with Sfoglini, a pasta company based in New York, to put the wheels in motion and create a riff on tradition. After nearly three years of research, they made the bronze casting capable of bringing Pashman’s dream to fruition and a new shape was born!

Enter cascatelli, a word derived from the Italian “cascata,” meaning waterfall. This new noodle is available for purchase online and was even recommended by the NYT article to be paired with–you guessed it–carbonara sauce!

Photo from the New York Times

So What About Carbonara?

If you, like me, impulsively purchased every available box of bucatini after the great bucatini shortage of 2020, a more traditional pasta shape would lend itself just as well to carbonara, a dish which may have origins reaching back to Italian coal miners, as it was colloquially called “coal miner’s spaghetti.” (“Carbonaro” is the Italian word for charcoal burner.)

While it is possible, of course, to eat whatever shape of pasta you like, it is recommended that you choose a shape with a large ratio of surface area to volume, like spaghetti, bucatini, or fettuccine in order to cook the eggs in the sauce properly. Let your heart be your guide!

You gotta love a tasty dish with simple ingredients…and how can you go wrong with that much cheese??

Gather the ingredients. Grate the cheese, whisk the eggs with salt and heavy pepper, cook the bacon…

Whisk cheese into the eggs and place in a large bowl while the pasta is cooking. Enjoy a little mental “vacation” while all you have to do is stare into a pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally…

When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the egg and cheese mixture, tossing vigorously. Serve immediately topped with more cheese if desired, or grated salt cured egg yolk.

Or, if you are hedonistic like me, add both cheese and yolks!

Note: the pasta will loose a lot of heat when transferred from colander to cold bowl with cold sauce. Have whoever you are feeding on call and ready to eat! 🙂

Pasta Carbonara

Al dente pasta cooked bacon or guanciale is tossed in raw eggs, cheese, and salt and pepper, cooking the eggs and turning them into a delicious, creamy sauce.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 people

Ingredients
  

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz pasta (bucatini, spaghetti, or fettuccine are traditional)
  • 5 pieces thick cut bacon (guanciale or pancetta are more traditional, so feel free to sub)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil if using guanciale or pancetta (otherwise, omit)

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Lay bacon on a metal rack over a sheet track with a lip, and cook bacon in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly cooked but not crispy. Chop or snip bacon into 1/2" pieces and set aside.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and both cheeses. Season with a small pinch of salt (bearing in mind the pasta water is salted and the bacon contributes a significant amount of salt) and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Set aside.
  • Cook pasta until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a serving bowl with hot water to preheat.
  • Drain pasta when al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Dump hot water from serving bowl, patting dry with a towel. Add pasta to the warmed bowl, followed by the egg and cheese mixture, tossing continuously. If desired, add some pasta water for additional creaminess.
  • Serve immediately with more cheese, fresh pepper, or salt-cured egg yolks if desired.
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Creamy Pumpkin Pasta (V)

Picture this: you’ve just found the most perfect recipe for homemade pumpkin pie. You’ve cleared you schedule, cleaned your kitchen, purchased the ingredients…and now all there is left to do is bake.

You begin adding ingredients to the mixing bowl with precision and care until you come to the pinnacle moment that gives your pie its very essence: the can of pumpkin puree. (Of course, if you take the time to process your own pumpkin every time you bake a pie, my hat is off to you. Sometimes we only have time for a two hour project, so a can of the sweet orange stuff will have to do!)

After adding the necessary puree to the bowl, your stomach falls to the floor. You realize, hands shaking, that you have an odd amount of leftover pumpkin in the can. You know logically that if you cover it with cling film and try to save it, it will kick around in the fridge for longer than you’d like until you find some use for it or at last throw it away. Even the dogs have started rolling their eyes at you when you continue to offer them spoonfuls…they’ve seen this all play out before.

Fear not, reader. There is an easy, delicious use for the odd amount of pumpkin puree that you’ve always wondered what to do with. The solution in this case, and in many other cases, is: pasta.

this recipe is so easy and cheap to make, and takes very little time to assemble. here’s to another simple weeknight dinner!

For those of you who are paying attention to how much dairy you consume, this recipe was created with the intention of making it vegan. (If you’d rather have your dairy, feel free to substitute heavy whipping cream for coconut cream and parmesan for capers.) With the holiday season upon us, I found myself craving something relatively healthy and light.

cooked pasta is introduced to pumpkin and coconut cream and blended

This recipe can all be made in one pot, for those of you who prefer to do less dishes. I have a feeling I am not alone in this…

Toast the walnuts while you are making your sauce. Chop them up to your desired coarseness when they are cool enough to touch. Add red pepper flakes, torn parsley, and capers.

…not a bad way to end the day !

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta (Vegan)

This healthy, one-pot dinner makes a great ending to a busy day.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Healthy, Intuitive, vegan
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz pasta of your choice
  • 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk, with cream
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbs capers
  • 4 Tbs fresh parsley, torn or chopped
  • 1/4 Tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pot, bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  • Chop parsley and set aside. Measure out pumpkin and coconut and set aside.
  • Boil pasta until al dente, 7-12 minutes. Meanwhile, toast walnuts until fragrant and golden brown, about 5 minutes. When cool enough to touch, coarsley chop walnuts and set aside.
  • Drain pasta. Add oil to pot and turn heat to medium. Add red pepper flakes and "bloom" in the oil, cooking for several minutes until the color and flavor starts to bleed into the oil.
  • Turn heat to low, add pumpkin and coconut cream and stir. Turn heat off, and add drained pasta, parsley, walnuts, and capers, stirring to combine. Taste, adding salt and pepper as needed.
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Other Ways to Use Up Pumpkin Puree