Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Capellini Carbonara

I tend not to make a lot of italian food - in part because of my weird cheese issues, but largely because Mamma DiSalvo (and Sons) have probably fed myself (and brother Balls)  growing up more than mom@ballsandpie. While a bowl of whole grain pasta and some of Mamma's sauce is an easy go-to meal at B&P HQ, I don't often get more that complicated because I know I'm not going to come close. As of this entry...well, not much has changed, but I've found another good way to indulge my obsession with bacon and garlic. And if you do find yourself in the Dayton area, please give Mamma DiSalvo's Restaurant or DiSalvo's Deli a try.

This started as the synthesis of a couple different recipes readily available via google search. Tasty, on the whole, but next time I'm using whole eggs (not yolks), and less cheese. Maybe onions, too. And probably prosciutto. That said, starting with the following, I did OK:

1 box whole grain capellini
1/2 pack diced uncured bacon (~6-7 strips)
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup Freshly grated parmesan
Fresh Garlic. Lots of it.
Olive Oil

Freshly peeled garlic cloves
So, I started by peeling and chopping about 8 cloves of fresh garlic. Yes, that's overkill. Yes, that is also awesome. Obviously, you could cut back significantly if your answer to "How much garlic is too much?" is anything besides not understanding the question. Anyway, I like preparing garlic, it's kind of a zen activity for me and it makes the kitchen smell good (We can thank dad@ballsandpie for his genes here). This was a good time to prepare a mixture of egg yolks and parmesan - mine was awfully thick, but you can thin out with a 1/2 cup of starchy water from the pasta at the end. Sadly, my block of Parmigiano-Reggiano had seen better days, and I was left with the Trader's Joes can of grated parm. It didn't melt as readily as I would have preferred - and the end result could have been a bit creamier.

Next came preparing the bacon, and

pasta simultaneously - you  want everything ready around the same time. I started boiling water (and a dash of salt) in a mostly full 2 qt saucepan. Then it was time to dice and render the bacon. I added just enough olive oil to my smaller suacepan over medium-low to get things going; quite honestly, I'm sure there's more than enough fat in the bacon. After adding the bacon, I let it go for about 15 minutes until it started to brown, and added the chopped garlic for a final two minutes. If you're really trying to do this right, use a good pancetta or maybe even prosciutto or speck in place of bacon.

Once the water was boiling, I added the pasta. For "everyday" use, I like to use whole grain pasta - it's an easy to get nutrients and fiber into your diet. Do I need to point out how much egg yolk, saturated bacon fat, and cheesy dairy fat is in this recipe? Clevelanders - I prefer Giant Eagle's Nature's Basket 8 whole grain Capellini. Al Dente in about 5 minutes, and it's as close in texture to semolina pasta as I've found. Not the same, but closer. Once it's ready, drain - but reserve 1/2 a cup of the water to thin out the egg/parm mix. Make sure it's cooled down first, obviously - you want the heat of the pasta to cook the egg.

You're pretty much done at this point. Toss the pasta in the rendered bacon and garlic (deglace immediately before with a bit of dry white wine, if available), and quickly add the egg mixture while everything is still hot - mixing continously. Salt and Pepper to taste. If you've done it right, all you dairy and eggs and fat should result in a nicely creamy, garlicky sauce in pasta. Mine was gritty from the poorer quality cheese (ultimately, the quality of your ingredients always make your meal) - but still a nice, tasty dinner. Next time, I'll probably dial back on the pasta and cheese, use full eggs, and go with pancetta.


  1. Eight cloves of garlic!? Da-yum! I've always used whole eggs with the carbonara and drain the fat off the bacon/pancetta in paper towels before crumbling. I'm sure you'd be able to tell that the bacon fried with so much garlic even after sopping up the excess grease.

  2. Interesting. It was definitely not a greasy dish - but I'll think about it for next time. The best carbonara I've ever had was randomly in a little shop in Lucerne - and they definitely piled in the garlic. Truth be told, I think there was enough whole grain pasta to mute out any of the particular strong tastes.