Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Twirled Tour: Skillet Carbonara

I realize that I make a lot of pasta, but that's exactly why this Twirled Tour food truck is a genius idea. I have so many interesting and delicious varieties that the menu would never get stale!

I'd been tempted to make this particular recipe since the first time I flipped through my latest Cooking for Two book. I love, love, love pasta carbonara, but the egg involved has always made me nervous. Worse than undercooking it, I was worried about scrambling it. Once again, America's Test Kitchen made it easy for me with a fool-proof recipe!

This pasta was rich and creamy, there was just the right amount of bacon-y flavor, and the yummy homemade breadcrumb topping was the perfect finishing touch. I could eat this again, and again, and again. Plus, since I had the bacon out and an unopened bag of spinach in the fridge, I decided to give a warm bacon-spinach salad a go. And am I glad I did!

I broke out Tyler's Ultimate cookbook and flipped to The Ultimate Spinach Salad with Bacon, Black Pepper and Honey. Bill (surprisingly) really likes spinach ... usually raw, not cooked, but apparently also wilted. And he discovered that he loves spinach salad with warm bacon dressing the last time we visited the Capital Grille. Tyler's recipe beats that.

Skillet Carbonara Casserole
4 slices bacon, chopped fine
1 slice white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1 1/4 cups Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper
1 large egg
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 1/4 cups water
1 3/4 cups penne (or whatever type of pasta you have on hand)

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Cook bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate. Pour off fat left in pan and reserve 1 tablespoon.

Pulse 1 tablespoon cooked bacon, 2 teaspoons reserved fat, bread (I used sourdough and I highly recommend it!), 2 tablespoons cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in food processor until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses; set aside. In medium bowl, whisk remaining cheese, egg, milk, and broth together.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon reserved fat to skillet and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine and cook until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Add water, pasta, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to rapid simmer. Cover and simmer vigorously, stirring often, until pasta is al dente and most of liquid is abosorbed, 10 to 15 minutes (this took about 9 minutes for my cavatappi).

Off heat, add egg mixture and remaining cooked bacon to pasta and toss to combine. Top with bacon-bread mixture, transfer to oven, and broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Let pasta cool for 5 minutes before serving.

The Ultimate Spinach Salad with Bacon, Black Pepper and Honey
1 large egg
1 slice bacon
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 lb. baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper

Place the egg in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, turn the heat off, and let sit for 12 minutes. List the egg out of the pan and cool; peel and coarsely chop the egg.

Place the bacon in a skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes (I like my bacon super crisp, so I cooked mine a bit longer) over medium heat to render the fat. Place the bacon on a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook 5 to 6 minutes, until soft. Add the honey and vinegar and continue cooking until the onion has caramelized, about 5 more minutes. Toss the spinach into the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss with tongs until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Place the spinach in a bowl and onions in a bowl, crumble cooked bacon over salad, and sprinkle with egg.

Salad: Amazing. Carbonara: Amazing. I don't know what else to say.


  1. Grown up mac & cheese? I'm on board! LOL. I don't know if it really is quite close enough to be classed a mac & cheese, but I don't doubt it's just as good, if not far better.

    And I'm a huge lover of salad. Almost any. This one is no exception! Good idea to put them together. Connected by the ever potent and undeniable gastronomic force that is BACON. I'm definitely not surprised that this ended up being one of your favorite recipes so far.

  2. Wow, I didn't really think of this as mac and cheese, but that gives me an awesome idea. This could totally serve as a base for mac and cheese with a few substitutions!