Tag Archives: inspiration

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
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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!

“Conscious Cooking” from Daily Om

I recently read a wonderful thought passage from a book called Daily Om – Inspirational Thoughts for a Happy, Healthy, and Fulfilling Day by Madisyn Taylor. This book is filled with hundreds of 1-2 page messages to inspire to thought, reflection, and ultimately you taking better action to be a happier person. I have made it a practice over the last quarter to read 1 passage in the morning and journal any quotes that I find particularly meaningful, as I suggest to you in my previous post “A Good Morning”. I have definitely found myself reading messages that seemed to be meant for me on that day. Click the link above to purchase of Amazon; I strongly recommend purchasing it and soaking up its inspiration.

daily-om

Anyway, the other day I read a passage entitled “Conscious Cooking”. In summary, the message is that it is important to take time with our food. It is primarily about the preparation of food and how we can truly affect our food with energy as we prepare it. It makes sacred the act of cooking a meal and when we can appreciate that every meal becomes nourishment rather than a means to an end, and every meal becomes a bountiful feast. Not enough people, especially in this country, value food for its own brand of magic. Preparing food is a vital part of daily life. We are meant to spend time with our food as it is at once a necessary part of human life AND one of life’s greatest joys. This message capitalizes on that and it speaks to me loud and clear. Take a read!

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Let It Go

I recently happened across an inspirational quote that truly spoke to me:

“You’ve done your best today, now let it go.”

A simple sentence with a deep and impactful meaning, one that I very much needed to read, and feel many others could benefit from as well.

Like many, I have an extremely busy life: full-time job (the American version, not the French or Swedish version, meaning over 40 hours per week as oppose to under 36 – get on board USA), a second job (teaching yoga), this blog (the writing and the social media management that comes with it), a household to run, an elderly dog to care for, and dedications to my family, friends, and interests. My plate is very full, sometimes to the point where I doubt my ability to manage all of it. In recent months, I have found myself struggling to keep up with all of my commitments and responsibilities, often feeling overwhelmed and drained.

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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Book Review

You know Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert, because I know you have seen and/or read Eat Pray Love – that’s her book. And though you may only associate her as the woman who found herself through her time  eating in Italy, meditating in India and loving in Indonesia; what you may not be as aware of as I am is that Liz Gilbert is an earth-bound angel sent to help us capture inspiration and liberate our creativity in our daily lives. I’ve listened to her talks and interviews and read other works of hers and her words always touch me at my core; it’s the same story with her most recent memoir, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

In Big Magic, Gilbert touches on many different aspects of creativity and the undeniable human instinct that we have for it. For the book, Liz draws on experiences from her own life, stories from others, and the wise words of many different types of memorable people. It is, in short, a discussion of creativity, its importance to us and our world, and how we should go about treating it, cultivating it, and living it.

Now, I am not going to launch into some 10 page essay breaking down every facet of the book and dropping quotes left and write; you don’t need to read much more from me, you don’t need more words to process, you just need to go and read the damn book. The book manages all at once to be informative, educational, comical, thought-provoking and, well, inspiring. You’ll love it!

With that said, if you’d like to read on, I would like to share a few of my biggest, personal takeaways from my read of Big Magic.

idea

Inspiration and Ideas are often external forces – Gilbert theorizes that the inspiring thoughts and ideas that come to us do so in the literal sense of the phrase – they come to us from somewhere else, outside of ourselves. In a sense, she discusses the intriguing possibility that the ideas that spark us to create are their own beings of energy and light floating around, and they seek a vessel – a person – through whom they can be brought into the physical world. Ever had an idea that you thought, “Huh, that’s really cool!” but you never acted on it, and then a month, a year, or even a decade later you see that idea come into reality by someone else and you think, “Hey! That was my idea!” but you accept it as a mere coincidence? I know you have, we all have. Well, you probably did have that very idea. That idea probably chose you to try be born through, but you didn’t do anything with it. And so, it left you and moved onto someone who could and would bring the idea into reality.

I found this discussion in Big Magic to be incredibly intriguing. I had heard Gilbert discuss this topic before in this TED Talk, and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of it. After reflecting a bit, I’ve come to realize that I totally and completely agree with this concept of the external idea. Have you ever had a thought or idea that when you first thought it up you believed it to be the greatest idea ever, but then you didn’t write it down fast enough and no matter how hard you try you simply can’t remember what that idea exactly was? We’ve all had it happen; the poem or song you dreamed up but didn’t pen down and now you can’t remember how it went in your head, the storyline of the epic novel that would be riveting but you didn’t draw it out fast enough and now the storyline isn’t as strong, etc. I have had ideas – flashes of inspiration – but I didn’t eternalize them fast enough; and when I go to remember them, no matter how deeply I rack my brains, I simply can’t remember them at all! I have lost great ideas and tore myself apart in search of finding them again, but I can’t. Why? Because they are nowhere to be found within me; they have literally left my body and my conscious and moved onto a person that will act on them more quickly and birth them into the mortal world where they can touch others.

This is not to say that this theory discredits people who appear to always be brilliant in terms of creativity and may even be called geniuses. Rather, the theory supports the idea that some people are great vessels or instruments for catching the ideas that are floating around in the ether, working with them, and developing them into something truly amazing. We can be creative people, but we just have to be open to reaching out into the universe and catching the right ideas that we can then work with to create. As you can tell, this was a hugely important part of the book for me; I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.

personal-freedom

Stop putting requirements and expectations on your creativity – In Big Magic, Liz implores us to not burden our creativity with fantastical expectations and goals. Translation: stop telling your creativity that it must make you X amount of dollars so that you can leave your day job, stop telling your creativity that it must make you famous and adored, stop telling your creativity that it must produce more than the art you are making it for. This type of energetic thinking does no one service; it limits your creativity, it creates stress and longing within yourself, ultimately leads to sacrifice on the part of the creativity, which eventually leads to frustration and disappointment. There is no point to this! Be kind to your inspiration and creativity and do it simply for the fact that you feel compelled to do so without any attachment to the end result!

This was a very important takeaway for me. Look at this blog, Johnny La Pasta, for instance. This blog is one of my creative endeavors; through it, I pursue my creativity namely in relation to cooking, yoga, and lifestyle all through the medium of writing. Lots of other people do this too, and many of them make money for it – like lots of money for it. And so, I have at times placed expectations on my work for this blog that it will earn me a larger income than what I currently make, allow me to work from home, afford me more funds and time to travel, etc. When I have placed these bar marks on my work for Johnny La Pasta, I have noticed that my writing becomes more difficult and I become more stressed – especially when I am not seeing the high expectations that I created met. Now sure, the goal of turning my blog into a fiscally viable line of work is a decent and respectable goal, but I now refuse to make it a requirement of my work here. I create the posts and stories that I do because I have a passion for writing and the topics that I am writing about. I cannot burden my writing and artistic impulses with grand schemes. Instead, I will continue to create what I do because I feel compelled to and because I want to!

So, create because you feel it is something that you need to do, and do it without attachment or expectation. Enjoy the process, enjoy the result, be not disappointed by any of it!

splatter

Humans are meant to create…SO CREATE! – History tells us that humans have a deep need and will to create. Ever since ancient people figured out how to make scrapes on cave walls, we have been creating. We have been creating even at times where it doesn’t even make sense to create. When there is famine, plague, and terror; logically you would think that all creative endeavors would stop because there is a greater need to focus on tasks that support survival, but still, people continue to write and draw and paint and sculpt and weave and more throughout all of it. Creativity is nearly as a basic a need for people as food, sleep and sex. As a collective species, we have an insatiable desire to create and so we do.

In Big Magic, Gilbert tells us to follow our creative impulses when they come. Creating is good for us on many levels; it’s like a vitamin for the mind and the soul. And anyone can take that vitamin.

For some reason, we have come to believe that to create you must be creative, creative in the Pinteresty sense of the word. We have come to believe that if you want to create you must be a genius or a prodigy in one medium, only then can you actively and often create. The truth is, however, that anyone can be creative at any time. We can all be creative in big and small ways on a day to day to basis. This does not mean that what you create has to publishable or producible or worthy of a nomination. You create whatever you want simply because you feel the need on any given day; no one has to see or know about it, you don’t have to judge and critique after the fact. All you have to do is enjoy the process of it!

Look at children. They take a piece of paper and some crayons and just go for it. They aren’t attached to the end result. They aren’t worried about winning an award for it. They just see pretty colors in the crayon box, inspiration strikes them, and they ride that wave and create. The tree they set out to draw might end up looking like deformed purple octopus; but who cares? They certainly don’t. They are creating for the hell of it, and that’s beautiful. Let’s be more like that.

Are you a plumber with a poem ringing through your head? Write that poem! It doesn’t matter that you are a plumber, if you’ve got the inspiration, act on it. Even if it turns out as ghastly as some of the jobs you encounter in your plumber duties, just get it out of you and enjoy it for what it is! Are you a mechanic with music radiating between your ears? Pick up and instrument and play and sing it loud! It could be great, it could be okay, it could sound like cats dying; it doesn’t matter! Are you a screenwriter with a silver screen idea in your mind’s eye? Write that damn screenplay without concern of whether or not a studio executive would buy it or even like it. Ski that slope of creative energy for as long as it goes.

Okay, I’ll stop now, you get the picture. The point is, Big Magic was a reminder for me that creating is fun and it is healthy and it is accessible at some level to all of us at all times; so we should do more of it.

And with that, I hope I inspire you to read Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

big magic 2.jpg

Santosha and the Attitude of Gratitude

With Thanksgiving in the US coming upon us, we start to plan out our holiday celebrations: who are we inviting to the big Turkey dinner, what stuffing am I going to make, what’s the menu, etc. More importantly, however, we start to reflect on what we are grateful for; which after all is what this holiday is all about.

There is a concept in yoga called “Santosha” which is part of the “Yamas and Niyamas”, which I often describe as the Ten Commandments of Yoga; they are basically yogic codes to live by. Santosha is Sanskrit for “contentment” and/or “satisfaction”, but we often look at Santosha as “gratitude”. Santosha is all about finding contentment and gratitude for who you are and what you have in the present moment. I often weave “Santosha” into my yoga classes as a theme and encourage students to find their best expression of a challenging posture, then I ask them to find contentment with whatever layer they get to in that posture without harsh judgement of themselves or lusting after a deeper expression; I ask them to find gratitude for where their bodies are at and be grateful that they have bodies healthy and strong enough to be in a 100̊F room attempting such a challenging practice. Basically, it’s about adopting the Attitude of Gratitude as you move throughout your day with whatever life throws at you.

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Review: Be the Miracle – 50 Lessons for Making the Impossible Possible

Want a great, inspiring read? Be the Miracle – 50 Lessons for Marking the Impossible Possible by Regina Brett is for you! I don’t remember how a copy of this book came into my possession, but it has sat on my bookshelf for years and I finally decided to pick it up one day to give its pages a good honest try; I was floored. I cannot accurately describe how much I enjoyed the book and how insightful I found it to be.

This non-ficition book is divided into 50 chapters which comprise the 50 lessons referenced in the book’s title. What’s really great, besides the fact that you get to read 50 life lessons, is that each lesson is a decently short 3-5 pages which makes this book an easy read during the week; pick it up and read 1 or 2 lessons in your only free 20 minutes before bed and then put it down to continue the next day. These lessons vary widely and are based on Brett’s own experiences and stories that she has heard from other people’s lives.

This book is real and honest, it is incredibly deep and moving while at times also exceedingly humorous; it is a book that I would venture to say will enrich your life. If you read my last review of a health/lifestyle/spiritual based book, you will know that I keep my own book in which I write down quotes that I find to be particularly wise; I took almost 50 quotes from Be the Miracle – 50 Lessons for Marking the impossible Possible because I found so much meaning in the lessons that comprise this book! So, read it!