It’s PASTA time 🍝 🍝!!! My favourite time!!
Well, pretty much all Italian food is my favourite (hence, getting married in Tuscany…). The pasta in Italy is a game changer, if you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about! Pomodoro, Cacio E Pepe, Amatriciana, Carbonara, Puttanesca, sooo good! My favourite thing about all of these pastas? The simplicity. Most of them have 5 ingredients of less, isn’t that amazing? (I don’t count EVOO & Salt + Pepper as ingredients…). Recipes don’t need to have 50 ingredients to be delicious, it’s ALL about the quality of ingredients that you are using! Today I’ll be sharing a Spring Carbonara recipe with you! We’ll be steering away from the classic version by adding some spring flavours with Asparagus, Fresh Peas & Garlic! With it’s creamy & cheesy sauce, crispy pancetta, this Spring Carbonara will surely become a favourite for you too!
Let me start off by saying:
1. I am not and expert, so do whatever you wish with all of this information! I’m just a girl who loves to cook. A lot of the things I’m telling you I’ve learned by listening a lot (A LOT) of food TV, reading cookbooks obsessively, reading other blogs and some knowledge I’ve gained from chefs or cooks who I have met throughout the years.
2. I promise this is a simple recipe, but I have some important things I would like to go through with you. This post might get a little long, I tend to be a teeny bit passionate when it comes to Pasta! So, grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, and let’s talk Carbonara!
So, let’s start off with a little Pasta History:
Carbonara is a classic Roman dish, that consist of 4 essential ingredients: Pasta (obviously), Cured Pork (traditionally Guanciale), Eggs, Cheese (traditionally Pecorino), Salt + Coarse Black Pepper. What makes the creamy sauce is a mixture of the eggs + the cheese + the starchy pasta water!! That’s right, no cream or butter needed!!
Pretty simple right? But wait, each ingredient is very important! Let’s go through them one by one.
The Pasta: The traditional pasta for Carbonara is Spaghetti, but you can make it with whatever shape you like. Fresh or Dry? Well, that’s up to you! Unless I’m making fresh pasta, I usually stick to dry most of the time! There are 4 important things to do with whatever pasta you decide!
1. Salt your pasta water! SO Important!!! Liberally, 2 TBSP of Kosher salt per 4 Liter or water to be exact! (I usually just eye ball it but this chart from SeriouseEATS gives you the proper ratio for the salt your using. Yes, the kind of salt makes a difference. I always have Kosher salt, so that’s what I went with.) This is what will give the actual pasta it’s flavour. Also, in the case of Carbonara, the pasta water is a very important part, it will add flavour to the sauce.
2. Never put Olive Oil in your water! This will prevent your pasta from sticking together but it will also prevent the sauce to stick to the pasta! By simply stirring the pasta occasionally while it cooks, it should not stick together.
3. Don’t rinse your pasta once it’s cooked!! Again, this will rinse off all the starch left on your pasta and the sauce won’t stick.
4. Al dente! Always Al dente!! You always want to cook your pasta a few minutes shy of it’s recommended cooking time because it will continue cooking once you add it to the sauce! For whatever pasta dish you are making, you should always mix all the pasta with all of the sauce! Like Racheal Ray would say, who wants a bowl of naked pasta with a blob of sauce in the middle. So much better when’s it’s all combined. Especially in the case of Carbonara as you will be creating your sauce while mixing all of your ingredients together!
The Cured Pork: Traditionally, Carbonara is made with Guanciale. Guanciale is a cured Italian meat that is made with th pork jowl or cheeks. It can be quite difficult to find around hear, so Pancetta will be just fine. Pancetta, is basically Italian Bacon, it’s also cured and made with the pork belly (If you CAN get your hands of Guanciale, I would do 4oz instead of 6oz Pancetta because it tends to be a little saltier). Which ever you end up using, it will be delicious, I mean… Crispy Bacon, Cheesy Sauce, Spaghetti, come on now! Does it get any better???
The Eggs: Yolks or Whole Eggs? Well, it seems like everyone has a different take on this part! Some people use just the yolks, others use the whole egg. I do half & half. Two whole eggs + two yolks (and the fresher the better). Fresh eggs are soo accessible now! The farmers market, the health food stores, heck, maybe even your neighbour (is that just where I live because alott of people have chickens here!) I’m going to quote Martha on this “Buy the best quality ingredients you can afford”.
Are you guys still with me?? Just hold on a little longer, we’re almost done I promise!
The Cheese: So traditionally, Carbonara is made with Pecorino Romano, which is quite popular in Italy. If you don’t have Pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano is perfect! The difference between Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano?
– Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk.
– Parmigiano is made from cow’s milk.
When we visited Italy, the Pecorino there was soo good. But I just can’t seem to find any here that I really like, to I stick to Parmigiano.
Now this might be the most important part! Listen carefully… that “green can” of stuff they call parmesan cheese, you know which one I’m talking about! TOSS IT, and never look back! It is so SO important to use freshly grated cheese in this recipe!! In all recipes actually! It could completely change the outcome of your dish!! Even buying the pre-grated Parmigiano cheese in the plastic tubs in the grocery store, not for this recipe!! It has been dried out and the cheese won’t emulsify nicely in the sauce! A few tips for buying fresh Parm:
– Make sure it says “Parmigiano-Reggiano” on the rind, then you know it’s the real stuff from Italy.
– Always buy a piece with the rind on it. Once you’ve used up all the cheese, throw the rind in the freezer in a ziptop bag. Next time you make Bolognese, Ragu, Tomato soup, throw the rind in the pot while it simmers = game. changer.
Now, LASTLY!! Let’s go over the Technique!
- Boil your water, once it’s starts boiling add your salt.
- In a small bowl, add 2 eggs + 2 yolks. Add about ½ cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and some coarse black pepper. Set aside.
- Add a few tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) in a sauté pan, add the pancetta, and brown over medium-low heat. You want to start it off slow so it doesn’t burn. After about 6-7 minutes, your pancetta should start to look nice and crispy. At this stage, add the crushed garlic cloves and asparagus to the pancetta! You can also add your pasta to the boiling salted water. Cook the Asparagus until just done, you still want the asparagus to have a slight crunch. It should take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. You can remove the crushed garlic cloves at this point or leave them in, up to you!
- For the pasta, set the timer for two minutes before the recommend cooking time. So, if it says 10 minutes, set it for 8 minutes. 2 minutes before your pasta is done, take a mug or measuring cup and remove a big ladle of the pasta water. Set aside. Right after you remove the pasta water, add the peas to the pot with the pasta.
- When your pasta is ready, drain it (make sure you saved some of that pasta water)
- Add all of your pasta to the Pancetta mixture, toss everything together.
- Carefully & slowly incorporate about ½ cup of the hot pasta water to the egg mixture. This will temper your eggs and prevent the eggs from cooking instantly when you add them to the hot pan. If you wouldn’t do this part, you would end up with scrambled eggs in your Carbonara. Off the heat, add the egg mixture to the pasta and toss continuously until you see the beginning of a creamy sauce. Still tossing everything together, add the remaining cheese and add a little pasta water at a time until everything comes together. Don’t add all of the pasta water if you don’t need it, you will see as your mixing how much you need. Serve immediately! (It does tend to dry up fast as it’s sitting on the counter so maybe keep the leftover pasta water until everyone is done eating, you might want to add a little extra pasta water before serving seconds to loosen it up).
NOW I’M DONE! Promise lol! I know it’s a lot of information but it really isn’t complicated to make. The whole process of prepping & cooking takes about 30 minutes! Now open some vino, and go make some Spring Carbonara!
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do, let me know what you think!
You can make this delicious Spring Carbonara in 30 minutes! A perfect treat for date night in, dinner party or any day of the week kind of meal! Indulgent yet simple to make! Adding some nice spring flavours with Asparagus, Peas & Garlic!
- 1 Pound, 454 grams, Spaghetti*
- 6 Ounces, Pancetta*
- 1 1/2 Cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
- 4 Eggs (2 whole + 2 yolks)
- 2-3 Garlic Cloves, peeled & smashed
- 1 Bunch Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 Cup Fresh Shelled Peas*
- 2 Cups reserved Pasta Water
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt + Pepper
- In a small bowl, add 2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks. Add about 1/2 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese & freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside.
- To a large pot, add 4 litres of water + 2 TBSP of Kosher Salt. Bring to a boil.
- In a large skillet, add a few turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 TBSP. Add the pancetta and cook for about 6-7 minutes, or until browned.
- Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and set the timer for 2 minutes before the recommended cooking time.
- Add the smashed garlic cloves and asparagus to the pancetta mixture. Cook about 4-5 minutes until the asparagus are just cooked. You still want to them to have a slight crunch to them. Remove pan from heat. You can remove the garlic cloves at this point or leave it in.
- About two minutes before the pasta is done, take a few big ladle fulls of the pasta water, about 2 cups. Set aside. Add the peas to the boiling pasta for the last two minutes of cooking time.
- When the pasta is done, drain (don’t forget to reserve the pasta water) and add the pasta & peas to the pancetta mixture.
- Slowly and carefully, pour in about 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water to your egg mixture while whisking continuously. This will temper your eggs and prevent the eggs to cook instantly when they hit the hot pan.
- While mixing the pasta continuously, slowly add the egg mixture. When the egg mixture has been fully incorporated, add the remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, give it a quick toss then continu to slowly add pasta water to form the cheesy sauce. Do not add all of the pasta water if you don’t need it, I used about a little over a cup total.**
- Serve immediately, add additional freshly grated cheese.
* Traditionally Carbonara is made with Spaghetti but you can use any shape of pasta you like.
**You buy your Pancetta pre-diced or at the deli counter per pound. If you decide to buy it not diced, choppe it up into nice bite size pieces. If you are using Guanciale, cut the amount from 6 oz to 4 oz, it tends to be a littler saltier.
***If you can’t find fresh shelled peas, frozen peas will substitute juste fine.
****The Carbonara will dry up a little as it sits on the counter so save the remaining pasta water to loosen up the sauce for when you serve up seconds.
Keywords: Spring, Carbonara, Pasta, Parmigiano-Reggiano