Recipes

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

It’s been a minute since Johnny La Pasta shared a pasta recipe with you. And so, today I am sharing one of my all-time favorite recipes that I learned in the motherland (Italy): Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

In 2014, I embarked on the adventure of a lifetime, traveling all around the Italian peninsula with a whole party of new and now very dear friends. We visited the historical and iconographic sites, we took in the naturally dramatic and beautiful landscapes, we immersed ourselves in the warm and vibrant culture, and we DRANK A LOT OF WINE and we ATE A LOT OF PASTA.  It was bliss.

Eating pasta in Italy is true living. Beyond the soul joy of devouring bowls of authentic pasta dishes, for a cook like me, these indulgences were also inspirations for my own kitchen back home. Whilst in Rome, we had a lot of Pasta alla Carbonara as this is Rome’s signature dish. My Italian family did not immigrate to America from Rome, they came from Calabria in the south, and so no authentic recipe for carbonara came over with them. Pasta alla Carbonara was not a dish I normally had growing up, so having the opportunity to taste authentic incarnations of it in Rome was new and exciting for me.

Of course, I had had Pasta alla Carbonara dishes here in the states; but they were always incredibly cream based, white and gooey, made with a rue like an Alfredo sauce. I could never really detect the use of egg and therefore could not appreciate it in these dishes, which is unfortunate as egg is supposed to be a main feature of any carbonara.

So I was pleasantly surprised by the Roman’s carbonara dishes: silky, smooth, salty, decadent, very simple, yet absurdly divine. The use of egg is pronounced in these dishes as the yolks provide a beautiful yellow gold color for the sauce and create a silken consistency, making the dish creamy and luxurious but in a different way than probably most American eaters are used to. I was hooked on the stuff, and I had to know how to make it at home.

I spoke with several natively Italian cooks about carbonara at length because I am me and obsessed with food. I explained to them what most Americans thought carbonara was: a cream sauce made from flour, butter, and milk or cream cooked down with cheese melted into it and then an egg beaten in for good measure, often served with peas and mushrooms. The Italians were absolutely, deeply, and profoundly horrified to hear this. They told me that, “If that is how Americans are making carbonara, they should be ashamed of themselves.”

They then proceeded to BLESS me with the proper, authentic technique for Pasta alla Carbonara in the hopes that I could bring it back home to the USA and bring the American people closer to God by showing them how to make and eat carbonara right!

The secret to this carbonara is that it is super simple: eggs, parmesan and pecorino cheese, pancetta or bacon, black pepper, and pasta. That is all. No fancy rue sauce, no added cream, no mushrooms, no peas.

Basically, the eggs and cheeses are beaten together in the bottom of a pasta bowl to make a thick cream. Once the pasta is done cooking, it is removed from the water, and the bowl with the egg-cream is placed on the pot with the hot pasta water still in it. The heat from the water underneath the bowl starts to cook the egg-cream mixture. The pasta is added, with more cheese, and the heat from the pasta 1. finishes cooking the egg-cream sauce so that it is safe to eat and 2. melts the cheese and eggs into a thick, silky sauce the coats the noodles completely. Bacon or pancetta is added and the dish is served. That is all and it’s truly one of the greatest pasta dishes ever. I typically make this dish with Spaghetti as the long noodles are perfect to be coated and twirled in this rich sauce.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara has since become a staple dish in my kitchen. I turn to it again and again for its ease and affordability, its authenticity and its decadence, and for its ability to transport me right back to the streets of Rome with each and every bite. I hope you enjoy Spaghetti alla Carbonara! Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • ¾ lb-1 lb spaghetti
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 full egg
  • ½ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 5 slices bacon or wheels pancetta
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

Directions:

Cook bacon your favorite way. You can chop the bacon up into bits, cook until browned and crispy in a pan, and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Or, you could cook bacon my way! Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet, lay the bacon pieces across the rack, and bake in the oven at 400F till crispy, about 20 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and cut into pieces.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook till al dente, about 8-9 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the eggs, black pepper, and ¾ of the pecorino and parmesan cheeses in a large glass bowl. Whip until completely combined; it should be very thick.

Without draining the pasta water, remove the spaghetti to a separate bowl. Turn off the heat. Place the bowl with the egg-cream mixture atop the pot of hot water. Whip the mixture quickly for 30 seconds. Add the pasta to the bowl and remaining cheese to the bowl. Work quickly and toss for 1 ½ minutes until the sauce completely coats the noodles.

Serve equal amounts into bowls and top with the bacon/pancetta. Garnish with additional cheese and if you’d like, a small chopping of parsley. Serve and enjoy!

Spring is Sprung

The Spring Equinox is upon us and the season of spring is coming into full bloom! Each season has it’s own beauty and importance. Spring’s beauty is in its power as a time of renewal, of freshness and growth, of more sunlight and warmth, and of enhanced energy. There is much to be enjoyed in this new, bright season. And as with any season, spring brings different flavors and focuses. Here are a few of my favorite articles that are rooted in this great season to help you have the best spring possible!

(1) Pasta Primavera 

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Pasta Primavera translates in Italian to “Spring Pasta” as this dish features on the fresh and bright flavors of the season.

(2) Shepherd’s Pie

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Saint Patrick’s Day is technically in winter, but we still consider it a Spring Holiday. And on this holiday, it is time for a Celtic Classic: Shepherd’s Pie.

(3) Slow Cooker Lemon Artichoke Chicken

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Spring is a time for brighter flavors and of course, artichokes! This Slow Cooker dish can be dumped in the pot within 2 minutes and you come ready to a zesty and fresh meal!

(4) Saucha and the Spring

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Spring is a time of cleansing and growing. Explore this with yogic concept of “Saucha.”

Winter Vegetable Bowl

I am just one of those people who absolutely loves winter vegetables. While many dream of the bounty of summer all year long, the winter veggies like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, parsnips and so on make me extremely happy. Recently while dining out, I had a warm winter vegetable salad featuring such winter produce tossed in a zingy horseradish vinaigrette; the dish was incredibly hearty, earthy, and satisfying and what’s more is the seasonality of it truly made me feel good in my body.

Thus, I went home and made my own variation of that good tasting and feeling dish. Roasted butternut squash, carrots, and parsnips provide hearty sweetness while roasted cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and kale give earthy savory notes. The addition of warmed cannellini beans contributes a buttery creamy element while dried cranberries add chewy tartness. Lastly, a balsamic horseradish vinaigrette makes for a sharp and at times sinus-clearing dressing that highlights the best of all the other ingredients. Inexpensive seasonal ingredients and pulled together with very little effort!

This Winter Vegetable Bowl is perfect served as is and vegan! Or you can add a simply cooked protein like chicken, salmon, or shrimp. I hope you enjoy this bowl of winter’s bounty!

Winter Vegetable Bowl

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into chunks at an angle
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks at an angle
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered
  • 8 ounces cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups kale leaves
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons grated horseradish root
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts on the baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and pepper, toss all together and arrange in an even layer. Bake 30-35 minutes until butternut squash is tender and the Brussels and cauliflower is browned.

On another small baking dish, place the cannellini beans and kale, place in the oven for the last 5 minutes that the other vegetables are baking just to warm the beans and slightly crisp the kale.

In a small bowl, whisk together the horseradish, balsamic, Dijon, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper.

To serve, place an even amount of the vegetables, cannellini beans, and kale in pasta bowls. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat. Sprinkle the cranberries over the top. Serve and enjoy!

 

Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

One of the best parts of travel is indulging in the foods of the lands in which you are visiting. You enjoy the distinctive flavors and cooking styles, and maybe even receive a little culinary inspiration to take home with you! When I was in Scotland this past October, my mum and I stopped in at a little place that had been recommended to us by several locals: Clarinda’s Tea Room. Clarinda’s Tea Room is a truly quaint establishment with soft tea-time-like décor, serving up affordable, comforting, tasty breakfasts and lunches along with a bounty of cakes, scones, biscuits, and of course, tea.

We enjoyed lunch at Clarinda’s, opting for the half sandwich and soup special. That day, the soup du jour was a Honey Roasted Parsnip Soup, and it was delightful. Being Scotland in the autumn, the weather is quite gray, cool, and rainy, and so many seasonal dishes feature hearty root vegetables that are warming and comforting; this soup was exactly that.

Clarinda’s Tea Room – Honey Roasted Parsnip Soup

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Whilst eating the soup, I received the inspiration and came up with the concept for my own root vegetable soup. Just over a week after returning to America from the United Kingdom, I put that culinary inspiration to the test and this was the very tasty result!

My version! Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

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This Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup is both sweet and savory, soulfully warming and superbly comforting. It reminds me of that Parsnip Soup I had at Clarinda’s, and is in many ways a colorful cousin to that soup. Sweetly roasted carrots and parsnips, savory sautéed onions, pungent garlic, and woodsy thyme and rosemary give this soup great depth of flavors that contrast and complement one another. The addition of cannellini beans makes this soup even heartier with a boost of protein, but also helps the soup to become creamy when pureed without the addition of any dairy products. This soup is completely vegan, requires very few ingredients, and can be put together in a pinch!

I’m really proud of how this recipe has turned out, and am even more taken with it as it was conceived in Scotland; now, anytime I make it, I will always remember my incredible journey there. And all of us can eat this soup for its great and cozy flavors that are perfect to be enjoyed all fall and winter long!

Honey Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 2 large or 3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 large or 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5-6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the parsnips and carrots on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the honey, half of the salt and pepper, and the thyme leaves. Toss until all the carrots and parsnips are coated well. Roast for 30 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven.

Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and season with a pinch of salt and pepper, cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the roasted parsnips and carrots, toss all together. Add the beans, vegetable stock, rosemary, and bay leaf. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Uncover and remove the bay leaf. Puree by use of immersion hand blender or by transferring the soup to a food processor in small batches. Puree until completely smooth. Serve and enjoy!

 

 

7 Johnny La Pasta Recipes To Make This Fall

Fall is here in all its glory! I, like so many others, adore this cozy and colorful season (even if Southern California still gets random Summer heatwaves).There is something special about this time of the year, you can just feel it in the air, and what’s more, you can taste it in the food! Fall centric food is definitely my favorite; the warming flavors and seasonal ingredients, it’s all so good!

I have several recipes of mine that are perfect for this time of year; a few of them even embody Autumn themselves! And as we move ever into October, I thought it would be nice to consolidate all those recipes in one place for you to peruse, study, and cook! So, here are 7 Johnny La Pasta Recipes you should make this Fall!

(1) Stuffed Acorn Squash

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My Stuffed Acorn Squash is the foodie personification of Autumn! Sweet and warming acorn squash contrasted and complimented by a stuffing of spicy Italian sausage, crisp celery and onions, tart green apples, crunchy bread crumbs, and earthy sage. All topped with melted Havarti Cheese. This is my favorite Fall recipe.

(2) Vegan Cauliflower, Mushroom, and Red Bean Chili

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A Vegan’s delight! This Chili is so hearty and rich while being completely plant-based! One of my most popular recipes!

(3) Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza

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My Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza  is THE Pizza of Fall! Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts, Crisped Bacon Pieces, Caramelized Onions, and Balsamic Sauce make this one incredible gourmet, artisan pizza!

(4) Garlic Rosemary Chicken

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Garlic Rosemary Chicken – the simplest and most flavorful roast chicken recipe ever! My go to especially in Fall and Winter! Healthy and hearty all at once!

(5) Johnny’s Tomato Soup

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A hearty and healthy Tomato Soup that feeds both the body and the soul. This soup is made hearty in flavor by bold rosemary and bay leaf, and is made creamy by pureed cannellini beans that also add a punch of protein. Mindless to prepare, easy on the wallet, and tasty to the tongue!

(6) Easy Bolognese

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Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of pasta with Bolognese sauce; and no recipe is easier than this!

(7) Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream

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My Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream is the perfect healthy Fall dessert! Just a few ingredients for this nutritious treat!

Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream

Fall is here! One of the many reasons that I love Fall, like so many of you, is the incorporation of sweet and warming pumpkin into all manner of dishes (though, I really do feel like pumpkin spice popcorn and salmon have taken the whole pumpkin craze too far). Anyway, I am a big pumpkin fan and get very excited to eat more of it this time of year.

YAY PUMPKIN! #basicanddontcare

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Southern California, however, doesn’t always get the memo that it is Fall and we want to cozy up against crisp weather. No, October here by the beach typically brings random heat waves that trump the temperatures that Summer brought. It’s annoying. But I have learned to adapt to it by getting my pumpkin dessert fix through cooling, but seasonally tasting Pumpkin Ice Cream! And anyway, who doesn’t love ice cream any time of year regardless of the outside temperature?

You’ll recall in the Summer that I posted a recipe for my Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Nice Cream; a recipe that utilizes frozen bananas, cocoa, and peanut butter to make a cool and sweet dessert that is totally guilt free. Well, Oops! I did it again because I’ve now made a Vegan Nice Cream that highlights the flavor of the season: PUMPKIN!

Oops! I made another Vegan Nice Cream recipe!

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This delicious dessert utilizes the base of frozen bananas with unsweetened pumpkin puree, good and smoky maple syrup, and pumpkin spices to create a dessert that is cooling and sweet with the flavors reminiscent of pumpkin pie and lots of nutritious benefits. This recipe is simple and inexpensive, and also healthful and seasonally comforting. I hope you enjoy my Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream!

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Vegan Pumpkin Nice Cream

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients:

  • 6 bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 12 oz. organic pumpkin puree, unsweetened (about ¾ of a 15 oz. can)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 ½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Pulse the frozen banana pieces in a food processor until blended and resembling vanilla ice cream. This can take some time and you may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl, so be patient.

Add the pumpkin puree, maple, and spices. Puree until smooth. Pour into a freezer safe bowl and freeze until solid.

Defrost and serve into bowls, topping with additional pumpkin pie spice and nuts as desired. Enjoy!

An Open Letter to Food Bloggers with Perfect Food Photography

Hi there fellow food blogger!

My name is Johnny La Pasta, perhaps you’ve heard of my blog? Perhaps not, building up a popular blog is no easy feat. (Say, when do the advertisers start giving me money to put banners on my site? Still waiting).

Me too Brit, me too.

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Anyway, I love your food blog. Your recipe for that slow cooker salmon is giving me life. I can’t wait to try!

Also, I just have to tell you, your food photos are soooo beautiful! Or perhaps a better compliment would be pinable”, that’s a much better word of affirmation in the digital age anyhow.

I mean, that pizza looks like Michelangelo made it….

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Perhaps another way of saying your photos look great is to tell that they look photoshopped. Wait what? They are? No wonder!

Like, those potatoes have to be airbrushed…

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You see, I have to admit to you, I am jealous AF that your food looks like it was styled carefully by Martha Stewart herself while mine looks like it was styled by, well, me.

Martha approveth of you, disdaineth of me.

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You’re during an A+++ job with your food photography, and your blog gets higher views because of it. Bravo!

Do you pay the hand models? Or are your hands also as perfect as your food?

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However, wouldn’t you agree that perfectly photographed food is not always how REAL FOOD turns out looking?

Here is my real food. I mean, sure my dented fridge is in the background, but the pizza looks okay….

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Is it not true that food can come out looking messy and sloppy and not photographed in the right light or setting, but still be completely delicious and nutritious? I know it to be true, because that is the nature of real food.

My pasta is a little messy, but you can’t not know it’s delish, right?

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Sometimes, you just don’t have time to make it look pretty and magical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

Nice camera! Can you pay off my student loans, please?

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You see, you have that $3000 camera, and an advanced version of photoshop on your macbook pro, and you have all the gadgets for creating the illusion of perfect, soft, natural light, and you have a gloriously large and upscale kitchen to stage everything in, and you have different types of plates and tablescapes to stage against, and you sometimes even have an assistant pouring sauce into the picture to get that rad action shot. All of it maketh these gorgeous foodie photos.

But that’s kind of unattainable for the rest of us peasant level food bloggers.  Some of us have tiny, non-granite counter kitchens with very limited space and one set of plates. So, sorry if you see my overused toaster in the background of my dinner shot; I gots nowhere else to put it! And sorry if my photo turns out too bright or dim; I only have hideodeous flourscent lighting in my kitchen and dim orange lighting in my dining room and natural light in my abode is evasive, especially at prime cooking times.

Dream….

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Reality….

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Also, if my photos look like they were shot quickly and then rushed on from so that the photographed food could be eaten, that’s because they were. I know that this food blogging gig is your full time job, so you can dedicate hours to shooting the perfect food photo to pin and insta, you might even make food just for a photoshoot and not even an actual meal; but I am over here trying to food blog my real life actual dinner at my literal dinner time because I work 55 hours a week between 2 jobs. Taking time to create the perfect shot is a non-option for me most regrettably.

Like, this is my actual dinner, I have to take this photo and eat now or die.

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I wish I could document the process of putting every ingredient in my slow cooker in the morning light and then capture the final plating at sunset with stunning, “LIKE” inducing snaps, but I am already running late for work by the time I am dumping all the ingredients in my slow cooker at one time so….not happening.

How did you even get up there? Are these your real friends? Can I have one of the succulents?

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I love that you can accomplish this seemingly impossible feat and make art of your food through photos, but please judge me not for when mine comes out a bit more gritty and less photoshopped looking, because my food is still good. You’re foodie photos might be the equivalent of a highly edited Vogue cover, while mine are the quick, realistic pics of the paparazzi, but I can’t help that right now.

The thing is, real food isn’t always pretty. And a recipe post that has less than airbrushed looking photos doesn’t mean that following said recipe won’t produce real food. Real food can be pretty and it can be okay looking, but it all tastes the same.

Maybe this isn’t to your photography standards, but it still tastes good AF.

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So if anyone is sad their food doesn’t plate just like the world’s most successful blogger, do not let your heart be troubled! If you followed the directions, your food still tastes good, you are just seeing the realist incarnation of it. And if you read a blog like mine where the photos are just okay, please know it is still good, but here again, it is just real food that was just plated and is about to be demolished by me so that I can continue pushing through my hellish 55 hour work week.

So keep doing what you are doing, keep making food look good, but don’t look down on us that don’t have the right tools, settings, and resources to do so. And the rest of you, be proud of anything you manage to plate at the end of a busy day no matter if it’s traditionally pinable or not!

Cheers and Namaste!

Johnny La Pasta