Spaghetti (Well, Really Oriecchette) alla Carbonara and Lemony Green Beans

spaghetti alla carbonara

In the newspaper a couple of days ago, a challenge was issued: make Spaghetti alla Carbonara!  I looked at the ingredients, which are quite simple and thought, what the heck – I’ll take that challenge.

Since I was going right by the Mexican grocery store, I stopped to pick up the ingredients I would need. (First change to the printed recipe: it should have been an Italian grocery store, right?  I also didn’t use Pancetta, or Guanciale, or Pecorino. Will the modifications never stop?)

I’d gotten a beautiful bag of green beans from Gary and Dorie, our dear friends and thought that would add to a great supper.

Arriving home, the usual happened – we were out of spaghetti! However we had plenty of Oriecchette, which we love anyway.

Oriecchette alla Carbonara was delish – and so were the lemony, garlicky green beans.

Ingredients:

1 big Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 package of turkey bacon or thick-cut regular bacon, cut into 1/2 inch slices.
Freshly ground black pepper, maybe 1/4 – 1/2 tsp?
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or 1 tsp garlic powder
1 pound good spaghetti, or whatever pasta you have on hand
4 large eggs, stirred well and kept in a bowl
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
Fresh, chopped Italian parsley (Ali brought in about 6 good stems.)

Fill a big pot of water for the pasta, add the salt and bring it to the boil. As soon as the water is boiling, add the pasta. You want to cook the pasta until it’s very al dente. Save out about a cup of the pasta water.

In the meantime, in your largest frying pan, begin cooking the bacon. Let it cook for 8-10 minutes until it’s really nicely crispy and browned. Drain off all but 2 Tbsp of the pan drippings.  Add the crushed garlic and saute for a minute or two until it’s cooked.  (If using garlic powder, just add with the black pepper.)

Grind some black pepper into the bacon, and add 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

As soon as the pasta is just barely al dente, drain out the water, and add the pasta to the frying pan. Gently stir the pasta to coat it, and add a little more pasta water if you need to. Let the pasta cook for 1 minute on medium heat. Remove from the heat altogether.

Add the eggs and blend quickly and gently to prevent the eggs from cooking too much. If it starts to get sticky at the bottom, add a little more pasta water.  Stir for a minute or two.

Add the parmesan and parsley and keep gently folding the pasta. Add one more grind of black pepper over the top,  check salt and serve.

Pepper, Mushrooms & Eggplant on Pasta

We had roasted eggplant a couple of days ago, and had some leftover.  I also had peppers in the fridge and a bunch of mushrooms, so we threw together a lovely dish. A little parmesan would have been good, but we were out. It was delicious as is.

Maya wanted “hodge-podge” pasta tonight. (We keep a large mason jar with the tail ends of all different pastas. Even if they cook at slightly different times, they’re usually close enough to be fine, plus it’s fun to have all different shapes.)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, sliced thinly
1 green pepper, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp butter and 1 tsp of bacon drippings (optional)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
8-10 large mushrooms, sliced fairly thinly
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Roasted eggplant
Pasta

Start water boiling for pasta. When you start the mushrooms, you can start the pasta and it comes out about the same time.

Meantime, heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add peppers to oil and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Turn the heat down a bit, and loosely cover the pan with a lid. (I used a lid that was smaller than the pan, but still covered the peppers.) After a couple of minutes, I uncovered them, and stirred again. Back on with the cover for another couple of minutes.

Stir again, and remove the peppers. Wipe out the pan in case anything was getting close to burning. Add butter to the pan, and the bacon drippings. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to brown. Add the mushrooms and cook them the same way you did the peppers. Stir fry, then cover, stir again, cover and stir again.  For the final cook, you’ll want to leave them uncovered until most of the liquid dries up.

Add the peppers back into the pan, along with any juices. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh out of the roasted eggplants along the edge of the pan. Break up the eggplants into smaller chunks. Some parts will be stringy, but that’s okay. Toss with the peppers and mushrooms to warm and season with salt and pepper to taste. Yum!

I added another little pat of butter to my pasta since I love butter!

Quick & Yummy Pasta Bake

Tammy made a version of this for us the first time in Niobrara and for Kumy it was love at first bite. It’s perfect for cooking at a cabin, because it literally only takes one pot.  For a vegetarian version, just leave out the sausage.  (You may want to add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you leave out the sausage.)

1 1/4 lb. spicy bulk Italian sausage
1 24 oz. jar good spaghetti sauce
hot water

1 package rotini
1/2 cup parmesan
2 cups mozzarella

Brown meat in a dutch oven or large pot.

Add spaghetti sauce. Fill the spaghetti sauce jar with hot water, and add to the pot, along with the rotini and parmesan. Stir well, cover and bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, sprinkle Mozzarella on top, and return to oven for 10 more minutes without a cover.

Penne Adriana

1 lb. penne pasta
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 package spicy Italian sausage
1 package mushrooms, thickly sliced
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped or use baby spinach
3 Tbsp parmesan cheese.

Cook pasta to al dente in salted water. Heat olive oil in a frying pan, and cook sausage and mushrooms until sausage is cooked through. Remove from heat and slice into 1/2″ thick slices. Add back into frying pan, and add broth, and pepper. Stir well, and add spinach. Cook until spinach is just wilted.

Serve in bowls, and sprinkle with parmesan and another twist of black pepper. This makes me hungry just thinking about it, and rated a “Yum!” in 2003.

Update:  This looked so good that I made it for supper last night.  I only had smoked sausage, and no mushrooms, so I added more pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  It was so amazingly delicious.  We’ve grown to really love cooked spinach and I think you could add 4 or even 5 cups of spinach.

Spaetzle

Spaetzle is a delicious soft pasta that’s made fresh and then fried in butter.  It’s a German staple.  My  mom used to make Spaetzle when I was younger, using a metal colander and wooden spoon to push the super soft dough into a pot of boiling, salted water.  I have a way cool spaetzle maker (thank you Colleen B!) that looks like a grater with a hopper on top, but the colander and spoon method works just fine, too.

2 1/8 cup flour  (500 gms for anyone who cooks that way.)
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Butter

Mix the dough really well. It will be very sticky and soft. Start a large pot of salted water boiling, then turn down to a simmer. If you’re using a colander, dump about a cup of the dough at a time in it, and holding the colander over the simmering water, start scraping the wooden spoon back and forth across the bottom, so the dough drops out of the bottom holes. The noodles cook very quickly, so have a slotted spoon ready to take them out of the pot.

Meantime, melt some butter in a frying pan. When you pull the noodles out of the boiling water, shake as much water out as you can, and drop them into the melted butter to fry for a minute or so.

If you have an awesome spaetzle maker like mine, you just put the grater portion on top of the pot, dump in the dough in the hopper and slide it back and forth over the water.

Makes a ton of noodles and is so delicious.