Tonight I made one of my favorite dinners – pasta carbonara. When I was little, I used to ask my mom to make spaghetti carbonara every year for my birthday because I liked it so much. When I lived in Italy a few years ago, I discovered that my mom makes the American version of my favorite dish, not the Italian version.
If you’ve never had it, carbonara is a pasta dish that came into being because chefs would make it after a long night cooking with the things they always had in the kitchen: eggs, bacon, pasta water and cheese. It’s like breakfast in a bowl!
When you get carbonara at an American Italian restaurant, or in my mom’s kitchen, it will likely have heavy cream in it. It’s delicious, but incredibly fattening, so it’s not something that I can incorporate into my weekly menu. When I went to Italy, however, I discovered that Italians did carbonara better – and healthier – by eliminating the heavy cream (heck, you can’t even find heavy cream on the shelves at an Italian grocery store!).
So here is my version of carbonara, based off of the many, many bowls of it that I consumed in Italy. Bon appetit!
1 cup of pasta, cooked and drained
1/4 cup of pasta water, reserved
1/4 onion, cut into small strips
1 strip turkey bacon
1 egg, whisked
1 handful of spinach
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
1 t nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Cook your bacon and remove it from the pan, adding the onions to the pan to caramelize in the bacon drippings. Once the onions are caramelized (this usually takes about 10 minutes), add spinach to the mixture and let it wilt.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the water. Pasta water acts a a natural thickener, so you’ll need it to create a sauce.
Crumble the bacon and add it to the pan with the spinach and onions. Then dump the pasta noodles into the pan along with the reserved pasta water. Turn the pan to low heat and add to the mixture the egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper, parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Stir consistently for 3-4 minutes until the egg mixes with the water and become saucey, but don’t let it brown. This can take some practice, so (oh no!) you may have to make the recipe multiple times. Garnish it with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!