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Step aside, Macaroni & Cheese.

Step aside, Macaroni & Cheese.
June 8, 2010 Mary Jo

Imagine this Foodie Momma’s horror at receiving a project back from preschool that listed Macaroni and Cheese as Isadora’s favorite food.  What the…?  Really?  That handful of times having it elsewhere made it YOUR FAVORITE?  Really?!?  Whatever.  Kraft may have won the battle, but I’ve clearly won the war, thanks to the lovely boot-shaped country of Italy and her delicious recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara.  Step aside, you boxed pretend-food poser.  You are no match for Momma’s Carbonara, especially when she can sneak in some asparagus from the garden.  Ka-pow!

The recipe really couldn’t be easier.  In fact, the motions are pretty similar to that of the blue box and its powdered mix, swiftly negating the bogus ‘easier to make’ edge it may have tried to claim.  I learned how to make it through the fabulously-simple instructions from RP’s Pasta – Madison’s own fresh made pasta from scratch.  It’s been on our family’s rotation for years now and has made the prestigious ranks as one of our ‘get out of jail free’ meals when we have no idea what to make for supper.  As long as we have pancetta in the freezer, it’s like money in the bank.  (pancetta being that smokey Italian cousin to bacon.  You could of course substitute traditional bacon, but why not live a little and go for broke with the pancetta? )

Simply put, you boil some salted water for your pasta.  Any shape will do.  If you at the same time put a strainer over this pot of boiling water to steam a veggie to throw in (broccoli, asparagus, green beans) you’ll feel pretty clever with all of your multi-tasking at the stove.  While the water’s boiling, fry your pancetta in a separate skillet.  We find that dicing it while still frozen (or fresh) is easier than chopping it after it’s cooked.  In a separate bowl, whisk 2 whole eggs with 2 egg yolks.  Add a heaping pile of grated hard cheese (parmiggiano, pecorino) to the whisked egg mix.  Whisk it together to combine.  Add the cooked pancetta, combine.  Set steamed veggies aside.  Once the pasta is cooked to perfect al dente, drain and return to the hot pan immediately.  Whatever you do, do not rinse it.  I’ve heard that the pores of pasta just cooked are open, eager recipients of whatever they can suck in.  Would you rather that they absorb cold, tasteless water, or a delicious sauce that you’ve prepared, incorporating the exquisite flavor into the very molecular framework of the pasta?  That’s what I thought.  Also, you want that pasta to remain piping hot, because the next step is to add the egg/pancetta/cheese mixture and to stir it in vigorously.  The beauty of the whole process is that the heat of the pasta cooks the egg in the sauce to perfection, creating with the cheese a creamy, delicious sauce.  Add the veggies, stir to coat, and try to get the whole pot to the table before it’s devoured by your hungry mob of eaters.

Can I just say that I’ve intended to photograph the finished Carbonara about a dozen times now but have always been caught up in the heat of serving and eating, forgetting the camera every time?  So your now-inflamed taste buds will have to paint their own picture of how delicious this looks, because it really is fantastic.  And for the record, it’s triumphantly usurped Mac & Cheese on the Girl’s list of Favorites.

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