my healthier take on spaghetti carbonara with spinach and smoked ham
everyone loves a good simple pasta. now i think something happened to me when i was around 22 years old because i suddenly started craving for cream-based sauces despite having grown up on bolognese and seafood tomato pastas. (i think this change coincided with me moving to England so maybe there’s something about this country that makes me crave for cheese and cream?)
anyway, spaghetti carbonara is a go-to of mine when i am feeling really lazy because it is quite easy to cook! you can whip it up in half an hour, no problem. there are tons of great carbonara recipes out there, all of which are essentially variants of the classic combination of: olive oil, garlic, pancetta, eggs, Parmigiano Reggiano (=Parmesan, the French name) cheese, and spaghetti. following a recipe is all well and good if you want to try to replicate exactly the standard taste. but i think that’s a bit boring so here’s my ‘healthier’ take on spaghetti carbonara!
SPAGHETTI CARBONARA RECIPE for 2 portions
– about 250 grams of spaghetti, 200 grams if you have a smaller appetite
– 4 cloves of garlic
– approx. 80 grams of pancetta OR sliced bacon pieces OR sliced ham, which is what i go for a lot of the time because i often have leftover ham in the fridge from sandwich-making
– salt and freshly ground black pepper
– half a yellow onion, minced
– spinach leaves, amount depends on how much veggie you want to add! i say 150 grams is about enough
– olive oil
for the sauce: 2 eggs + 200 grams (about 4/5 of a cup) of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano/’Parmesan’ cheese + a little bit of milk, about 1 T
1. In a small bowl, beat eggs and cheese well. Mix in milk, add salt (1 teaspoon) and black pepper to the mixture. This will form the base of the sauce. Set aside.
2. Boil pasta in salted water – the salt lowers the boiling point of the water; i’m not sure if it actually affects the taste of the pasta – does anyone know?
3. At the same time, in a frying pan fry the pancetta/bacon/ham in a little olive oil on low-medium heat. Use more oil for ham and less for pancetta/bacon as the fat will be rendered!
4. On low heat, add onion and garlic to pan. Fry until fragrant.
5. Wilt in spinach to the mixture. Everything will be smelling REALLY good at this point – we’re almost there!
6. When the spaghetti is done (do a taste test; spaghetti is usually done in 11-13 minutes), strain it but keep the original pot under the strainer so you retain some of the hot, starchy pasta water. You will need a good 2 tablespoons of liquid – no worries if you forget to retain the water; you can substitute with milk.
7. Add spaghetti to your frying pan of garlic, bacon, etc. Make sure it mixes well.
8. Switch off heat. Now take the first bowl of your eggy-cheese mixture, and pour it into the frying pan. Add the starchy pasta water (or milk) to the pan. Gently mix the pasta and sauce mixture; the heat of the pasta will cook the eggs without scrambling them.**
9. Serve on hot plates. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
10. Mmmmmmmmm :). Eat up!
***For those who don’t like the thought of raw eggs – don’t worry, the eggs WILL cook and if it makes you feel any better, i’ve never had problems with carbonara despite having a weak-ish immune system :P. The trick is to make sure the pan is hot even though it’s not sitting above a flame, and to thin out the egg-cheese mixture enough with milk and water so that it cooks very quickly in the pan.