January 4, 2010

National Spaghetti Day

I'm not one for New Years resolutions, but one thing I'm going to be better about is keeping my fridge and pantry clean and organized. I hate to throw something out if there's even a possibility I can still use it, and it's all too easy for me to push foods to the back of the fridge week after week. "I'll use those tomatoes and herbs later. Okay, that blue cheese is now black. Yikes!" Definitely a case of sunk cost fallacy, because I'll end up throwing the stuff away in a couple of weeks anyway. After my recent weeding of the refrigerator and pantry, and playing a game of 'What's the oldest expiration date I can find?,' I'm not anxious to repeat the task.

Who knew that January 4 is National Spaghetti Day? I celebrated by improvising a Spaghetti Alla Carbonara recipe based on available ingredients. Way to clean out the fridge! It's nice to cook something without going to the store first, and this recipe is open to a lot of variations. It's also a great weeknight meal, as it comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara
Serves 2-4ish - Boy ate 2 servings. Girl ate 1 and had 1 left for another meal.


2 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 shallot, minced
2 T. olive oil
4-6 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 pound spaghetti
kosher or sea salt


1. Heat oven to 200°F and set large heatproof serving bowl on oven rack. Bring stockpot of water to a boil for pasta. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water.

2. In a small bowl (I used a 2-cup capacity glass measuring cup), beat eggs, cheese, and shallots together with fork.

3. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat and add bacon. Cook until crisp. Add wine and simmer for several minutes.

4. When water comes to boil, add pasta and cook until al dente; drain, leaving pasta slightly wet.

5. Transfer drained pasta to warm serving bowl from oven. Immediately pour egg mixture over hot pasta, and toss to combine. Pour bacon mixture over pasta, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Abracadra Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

I find that cooking dinner allows me a lot more creativity than baking, because I don't have to be exact in the ingredients I choose or the amounts I add. This recipe is a classic example. If you don't mess with the method of adding the egg and cheese mixture to the hot pasta and serving bowl, you should be fine. Adding the egg and bacon mixtures to the hot pasta and warmed bowl is what cooks the egg and melts the cheese. The eggs haven't ever scrambled on me; they always thicken to a nice consistency.

Possible variations for this recipe: Don't like bacon? (Blasphemy!) Use prosciutto, but reduce the cooking time, so it doesn't burn. I used some super sexy Mt. Petit Jean Peppered Bacon (ordered from Zingerman's - hope that link works) and it was amazing! If I had some on hand, I would have added fresh herbs. You need something green to distract from the eggs, bacon, and cheese. You could also add tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, or other veggies. Cook them with the bacon if they need to be cooked through, and if not, add them at the end when you toss the pasta. You could use a combination of parmesan and other cheeses. When I've made this recipe before, I used a couple of cloves of minced garlic instead of shallot. However, I only had shallots available this time, and I actually thought they were better than garlic. You can substitute a different wide, flat pasta for the spaghetti, e.g., fettuccine or linguine. Add peppers or red pepper flakes to spice things up. After it's plated, grate additional parmesan over the pasta for extra presentation points.

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