Ah, I wish I had made carbonara before. It’s an excellent pasta dish because it’s rich and filling, but not as heavy as an alfredo. Don’t get me wrong, I like alfredo too and will sing its praises another time, but carbonara has so much more flavor.
Speaking of flavor, I couldn’t simply use just the basic ingredients. I had to add some extra bitterness to play off the creamy and bacon flavors and textures. I’m a big fan of spinach (I’ll even eat a bag of it raw!) so I tossed in about three cups of spinach that I had originally been saving to make a wilted spinach salad. Screw the salad–I could make that any time–, the leaves will wilt a bit from the heat and provide an extra punch of flavor. It made a good dish great.
The quantities here are based on about a half pound of store-bought fresh pasta. The recipe can easily be doubled and dry pasta can be used in place of fresh (fresh is so much better, if you have never tried it, I highly suggest it).
Linguine Carbonara with Spinach
Serves about 3-4, depending on how hungry you are.
4 ounces bacon
approx. 8 ounces fresh store-bought pasta
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup white wine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot
pinch nutmeg (I just run it over my microplane grater 3 or 4 times)
no more than 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (this dish isn’t spicy, I just like the little undercurrent it gives–it goes well with the spinach too)
about 3 cups fresh spinach (I use three large handfulls)
1. Roughly cut the bacon into strips about a quarter to a half inch wide. Put the bacon into a pot over med-low heat to render the fat and crisp the bacon. The great thing here is you can just leave this at low heat while you prepare everything else. Stir it every now and then though and reduce the heat if it begins to fry. The low heat won’t overcook it and you will be able to boost the heat to crisp it.
Meanwhile- Combine the whole egg, egg yolks, cream, both cheeses, and nutmeg in a bowl. Beat/whisk gently to break apart the eggs and combine everything.
Meanwhile- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Check the bacon, at this point some fat should have rendered (you can spoon a bit out if you want). Increase the heat to med-high and add the garlic, red pepper, shallot and wine. Allow to come to a bare simmer to reduce slightly.
3. Once the water boils, cook the pasta just barely to al dente (check your package, fresh pasta can cook in as little as 2 minutes). When draining, reserve about a half cup of the cooking water.
4. When the pasta is nearly done, add the spinach to the bacon, stir, and remove from heat.
5. Drain the pasta (remember to reserve some pasta water). Add the pasta to the bacon & spinach mixture and toss once or twice. Add the cream & egg mixture to the pot and toss to combine. Serve immediately (bonus points for using warmed bowls–I’m just saying).