Monday, October 29, 2012

Pasta Carbbonara to weather the storm…again.

Last year I posted an ultimate comfort food - pizza to weather hurricane Irene.  This time as all of North East is bracing for impact of hurricane Sandy, I wonder if maybe these threats are coming more often now than they did before.  Or maybe there were storms in the past and I just didn’t pay much attention being younger and more light-minded.  The news keeps referring to a major storm of 1991 and I don’t even recall it… I was too busy being a teenager I guess.
Anyway, I figured while I still have power I might as well cook something yummy, heavy and as comforting as a goose blanket on a cold night.  The kind of food that can ward off any storm, mostly because you’ll end up sleeping right through it.  A piece of warning- this is not a light food by any means and should be consumed with caution and only in the case of a nature’s fury.  Other than a hurricane, the only other reason to make this is probably a snow storm.
Crack open a bottle of special wine and you can stare into an eye of any storm and not even blink.
And speaking of wine, you might want to pair it with something a bit spicy and full-bodied to cut down some of the richness.  A nice Syrah or Brunello goes very well with the creaminess of the sauce.
Pasta Carbonara being one of the creamiest sauces out there contains no dairy of any kind.  It is basically bacon and eggs served with noodles.  It cooks in 10 minutes (assuming you are not making the pasta at the same time) and basically requires four ingredients. 
I made my own noodles but you can use fresh or dried pasta of any kinds.  Spaghetti or Bucattini  works the best because of the ways the sauce coats the strands.  I made Bucattini, which is a thicker spaghetti with a whole in a middle.
Making good pasta requires a lot of experimentation.   Sheet pasta dough used for stuffed pasta or for papadelli is more forgiving, but if you are making the extracted pasta such as spaghetti, the right texture is key.  I use the King Arthur pasta flour blend, it has a nice balance of semolina and “00” flour.  
For the pasta:
Makes about 5 -  6 servings
3 ¼ cup of King Arthur Pasta flour blend + more for kneading and dusting the ready pasta.
4 extra large eggs
1 or 2 tbs of water ( if needed)
For Carbonara sauce:
¼ lbs of Pancetta diced into ¼ inch cubes or julienned into strips
¼ lbs of bacon diced
5 extra large eggs
½ cup of shredded parmesan cheese
½ cup of shredded pecorino cheese
A handful of frozen or fresh peas ( optional)
3 whole garlic cloves
Freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste

Prepare the pasta dough.  In the food processor fitted with a dough blade, mix the flour and the eggs until the dough comes together.  If it is so dry that it is crumbling instead of forming a ball, you can add 1 or 2 tbs of water, but I urge caution as the dough should be very dry.  Turn out the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead until smooth.  Cover with plastic and let rest at least 30 minutes.

When ready to make pasta cut the ready dough into 5 or 6 pieces and generously flour each before putting through a pasta machine.  Once the pasta is extracted, separate it carefully and dust with more flour.  At this point, you can either hang your pasta to dry (the back of a chair works great for this) or lay it out to dry in bird-nests. 

You should let the pasta dry about an hour, longer if you can manage it.  You can also freeze the pasta at this time.
When ready to make assemble the dish, make sure the pasta water is generously slated and boiling before you begin making the sauce.  When making Carbonara, thongs move rather quickly.
To a deep large skillet, add bacon and pancetta and whole garlic cloves and cook on medium until most of the fat has been rendered and the pieces are turning crispy.  Set aside and do not discard the rendered fat.  You do not want to let the fat cool either it needs to be hot enough to cook the egg, so you can keep the skillet on super low flame.

In a bowl whish the eggs, cheeses and black pepper until smooth.
Discard the garlic from the bacon mixture.
Boil the pasta for 2 min (if using peas you can throw them into the boiling water with the pasta), than drain and add to the skillet with bacon and pancetta.  Toss to coat all of the pasta evenly with the fat.  Turn off the heat and add the egg mixture.  Using a wooden spoon beat the egg mixture very quickly into the pasta.  The heat from the noodles and the fat will cook the eggs turning a whole thing into a creamy paradise. 
Taste the sauce, most likely it will not require additional salt as there are too many salty elements such as bacon and cheese, but you can always adjust seasoning to your taste

Serve with a bit of fresh ground pepper, more shredded cheese ( if desired) and be ready to take a nap right after…
Now if this does not stick to your bones and keeps you cozy in bad weather, I don’t know what will.

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