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Spaghetti Night March 31, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food.
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You may have noticed that we’ve been a little more. . . structured with our weekly meal planning than, maybe, most people are.  It just makes life so much easier, especially when we write our plan down and can refer to it during the week.

However, weekends are still a little more, well, free-form.  Kind of loosey-goosey, if you will.  We don’t necessarily know what we’re doing on the weekend until the weekend itself actually occurs, and, to be honest, we’re not sure what we’re going to be in the mood for after a hard day of gardening.  Or just sitting around catching up on TV.  One just never knows, does one?  πŸ˜†

So anyway, this past Saturday, we went to the public market and stocked up on lovely, virtuous fresh produce.  And between the market and some other shopping, we were in no mood to worry about figuring out dinner, so we decided that some nice, simple pasta would be fine for a quick supper.

But wait a minute.  Don’t we have something somewhere with a recipe for a quick, lighter (less guilt) spaghetti carbonara?

Why yes.  Yes we do.  πŸ˜€

Perfect Saturday night supper, don’t you think?  Cook’s Country magazine recently published a “recipe makeover” for carbonara – and I’m going to tell you up front – it is worth trying.  So here goes. . . mostly.  Since it was Saturday evening, and we’d already been out twice that day, well, this is a pantry dinner for us.  If we don’t have something on hand, we’ll make do with something we do have.  We’re Old School that way, especially on the weekends.  πŸ˜‰

We started a pot of water to boil for pasta, and while that was heating, we started putting together the sauce.

In the food processor, we processed the following:

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1 egg

1 egg white The extra yolk got mixed into scrambled eggs the next morning.

2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese Romano would work just as well – we happened to have parm open, that’s all.

1/4 cup half and half The recipe called for evaporated milk.  We didn’t want to open a whole can for 1/4 cup, and we had half and half open, so there you go.  A wild woman, that’s what I am.

1Β½ Tablespoons mayonnaise (I use Hellman’s Light)

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Meanwhile, while Peeps was starting the sauce, I chopped up the “meat” portion of our program – about 2 ounces each of supermarket bacon and really good ham – we like to keep Burger’s ham in the freezer, and it’s quick work to pull a single package of a couple of slices out of the freezer, slice off a couple of ounces, and save the rest for soup or something.

The ham and bacon get sauteed until the fat is rendered and the meat is nicely browned.

And yes, I know, traditional carbonara is all bacon.  But all bacon is mostly fat.  Some ham is less fat and more flavor.  Remember, this is a recipe “makeover” – we want to live to see 50.  😯

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Besides, we’re having Boeuf Γ  la Bourguignonne later this week, and there’s plenty of bacon fat and butter to go around there.

So where were we?  Sauteeing the pork products, that’s where.  πŸ˜€

Once the meat is cooked, we remove that and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some black pepper.  After about 30 seconds, stir in about 1/3 cup of white wine and simmer until reduced a bit, about 1 minute.  Cover and keep warm until the pasta is done.

Let me take a minute here to talk about the pasta.

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Even though I’m not Italian, I still have preferences.  We like Barilla pasta – more so since they opened a plant in upstate New York, to be honest.  But besides that, it’s quality pasta.  And we especially like Barilla’s “rigati” spaghetti – the strands of spaghetti have wee little ridges in them – nothing terribly noticeable, just enough to . . . encourage sauce to get stuck to it. Exactly what you like to see in pasta, to be honest.  I like it.  So if you see it, by all means, give Barilla’s Spaghetti Rigati a try.

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Once the pasta is cooked, drain it (duh!), reserving about a cup or so of the pasta water.  Return the pasta to the pot and toss with another 1/2 Tablespoon of mayonnaise.   Yes.  Mayo.  😯

I know, right?  Weird.  But I trust the editors of Cook’s Illustrated.  I really do.

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Meanwhile, with the motor running, we add the wine mixture to cheese-and-egg mixture in the food processor.  Remember that?

Also add 1/4 cup (to start) of your reserved pasta water.  You can add more later if you need to.  Process until smooth and frothy – a minute or so.

Immediately upon frothiness, stop the motor and pour over the mayonnaised pasta, and toss to combine, adding a bit more pasta water if necessary.  Stir in the bacony-ham mixture and enjoy.  πŸ˜€

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We opted to enjoy with some freshly defrosted Italian bread and a nice glass of Tuscan red – a sangiovese which was perfect with the rich-tasting pasta.

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The cool thing?  The dish was so rich and elegant, yet it was done in just the time it took to cook the pasta.  How sweet is that?  And accounting for the half and half (instead of fat-free evaporated milk) the pasta was about 400 calories and 10.5 grams of fat per serving.  Not bad at all, I’d say, eh?

Enjoy!

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