A treat meal comes in many forms and they don’t need to be time intensive just because they’re on the more luxurious side of the food spectrum. A good example of this is “pasta carbonara” which, for both of us, is a delicious comfort food which neither of us can pretend is light on calories. Who cares though? Sometimes you just want to eat what you want to eat and calories are not part of the consideration! Traditionally, this is made with spaghetti but our picture blatantly is of penne… please don’t call the Pasta Police… we broke a rule, we don’t do it all the time… you can use whatever pasta shape you like and we promise not to tell… ssshhhh!
You can embrace this naughtiness with open arms and have it in the traditional way with… white pasta — shock, horror! — (but as this is a key element of the healthy, Mediterranean diet that the Italians follow… is it really something to be quite so dramatic about?!) In the spirit of decadence, you can also make the sauce with the addition of cream (which, by the way, is apparently totally unauthentic.) You can then grate an obscene amount of parmesan into the sauce. Why not go the whole hog and have a beautiful glass of cold, dry, white wine with it as well? (Unless you’re underage — in which case No No No to the wine!)
Now, all this indulgence aside, you can also enjoy this treat and reign in some of the minxy bits. Worried about the white pasta risk of weight gain/blood sugar spikes? Switch your pasta to a wholegrain version or one made with rice, spelt or quinoa. Avoiding gluten? Get a gluten free pasta and then dig right in. Want to shave off some of the calories? Refuse to make an unauthentic pasta sauce and ditch the cream found in most non-Italian recipes (and ditch the butter while you’re at it.)
Have a big green salad on the side, don’t have the wine. It’s all up to you really, we’re not here to tell you how to live your life. But you know what? Unless there is a medical reason that you cannot eat this recipe or some of its component parts, then having this once in a while ain’t gonna hurt. Treat yourself. But if you eat this all the time, your jeans will tell you! Lycra cannot handle everything you throw at it…so just remember… everything in moderation.
What you need: (serves 6 but scale this down as needed)
- Pasta – assuming you’re a law abiding pasta user, then you’ll need about 500g of spaghetti (but use your common sense depending on who you’re feeding.)
- A drizzle of Olive Oil or Butter
- A crushed clove or two of Garlic (to your taste)
- 100g of diced/chopped Pancetta or Bacon
- 100g of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or you can do a 50/50 mix of Parmesan and Pecorino)
- 5 fresh Eggs – try and use organic or free-range
- Salt (you may not need any as the cheese is salty) and Pepper to season.
- Optional – A sprinkle of fresh Parsley and single Cream
How to make it:
As you get used to this recipe, you will quickly see that you don’t really need precise measurements for putting the sauce together. You’ll soon be able to come up with proportions that are ample for the pasta and are flavour balanced to your very own tastebuds!
Follow the cooking instructions for whatever pasta you are using (remember to salt the water the pasta is being cooked in as this will season it for you.) In a bowl or measuring jug, gently beat the eggs and then mix in the grated cheese and season it up with some freshly ground black pepper to taste. If you’re using cream, then go ahead and mix that in too. You can go for a modest couple of tablespoons or can go wild and pour in even more. Totally up to you.
Be warned though, cream can make the dish feel quite heavy and, personally, we don’t think there is any real need for it as the egg yolks are indulgent enough. As we don’t use cream, we don’t need to use salt, because the cheese is salty enough. But the saltiness does get diluted if you do use the cream, so you may want to then season it by adding salt at this stage. At this stage, this is a raw egg mix so if there are common sense reasons that you should not be consuming raw eggs, then please don’t start dipping your finger in to taste the seasoning at this stage. Wait until later when the sauce has already hit the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, get another pan on a medium heat and add a little oil (or melt your butter.) Lightly fry the pancetta/bacon until it is crispy golden. Turn the heat down, add the crushed garlic and cook for no more than a couple of minutes (keep a real eye on the garlic to make sure it doesn’t burn as it will become very bitter otherwise and will ruin the whole dish.) By the time you have done all this, your pasta should be close to cooked, and once it is, strain it and tip it straight into the pan with the garlic/pancetta and mix it all up!
Take that pan off the heat — if you don’t you’ll end up with scrambled eggs at the next step! Now pour your egg/cheese mixture all over the pasta in the pan and then gently stir it through the pasta so that everything gets coated in the yummy sauce. If you’re using parsley, this is the time to stir it through the pasta before serving it up and enjoying! This dish is best enjoyed either outdoors on a terrace in the sunshine with a cold beverage of your choice and probably some glamtastic sunglasses on… or in your pjs, on your sofa and wearing something with an elasticated waistband!
Nutritional Info… ?
Really?!? Under Carbonara?! Let’s not pretend we’re interested in the health inducing properties of a creamy bowl of pasta. We don’t believe that carbs are the enemy at all — they give us energy/fuel — but once you’ve drenched it all in cheese and egg yolks, well it’s a bit obvious — this isn’t what you would eat whilst training for the Olympics or to fit into that slinky little number you’ve had your eye on recently. But who cares?!? We are not suggesting you have this every day or every week… just have this as an occasional treat and don’t beat yourself up about it afterwards. Food is for health but also for pleasure. The key is a balanced attitude towards it. Be fair and kind to yourself.