Tag Archives: pasta

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

Shepherds Pie

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

Lemon Artichoke Chicken 2

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

cleansing rain

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

Food for Life Baking Company Review

Today I am here to talk to you about bread. Yes, bread. Who doesn’t love it? Bread is awesome; the best! There’s even an quote that says, “All sorrows are less with bread,” and that is so true, whoever said that was onto something.

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There is, however, a downside to bread; SO. MANY. CARBS. The sad truth is that we do have to watch our intake of bread because of the carbs it packs on. Part of watching that intake, is choosing the best kinds of breads for your body to eat on a normal basis. This is not to say that you can’t enjoy a big, warm sourdough roll or a baguette every so often; but on a day to day basis, it is advised to opt for the whole grain, full fiber, etc etc incarnations of breads. And sometimes, that is sad.

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Panda is sad about the carbs.

But fear not my friends, I bring you tidings of great joy; there is a baking company out there that brings you absurdly delicious breads with tons and tons of nutrition:

FOOD FOR LIFE BREAD

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Chicken Bellagio

Years ago when I was a teenager, the cool thing to do for us youngsters was to go to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner before catching a movie. A favorite dish of my friends and I was their Chicken Bellagio; pesto spaghetti, breaded chicken, prosciutto, and a lemon arugula salad – simple yet completely delectable! It is so simple, in fact, that one night while scarfing down the dish before running off to an 8 o’clock film, I had a culinary epiphany: I could totally make this at home for probably less money and for more people. And so, two days later I called on my Italian ancestors to guide me and I created a Copycat Chicken Bellagio Recipe that is to this day a friend and family favorite!

When I was the co-author of my first foodie blog, Confessions of Two College Foodies, this copycat recipe was by far our most popular and most well-read; we even made it on a local access cooking show (which I will not link to here because the 20 year old incarnation of me is much more tragic than the 25 year old one). Anyway, people love this recipe because it is so tasteful and quite elegant despite utilizing simple ingredients.

Chicken Bellagio 14

Chicken Bellagio is a meal that gives you everything you need on one plate: carbs, protein, and greens. Rich and fresh pesto spaghetti is topped with a piece of tender and crunchy breaded chicken, which is then topped with slice of salty and delicate Prosciutto, which is then finished with a tangy and peppery arugula salad. All of these flavor profiles – the herbal freshness from the pesto and the arugula, the saltiness from the prosciutto, and the tanginess from lemon – make this such a magnificently balanced dish.

It is a little bit of work to time everything and get it all assembled, but once you’ve got the meal plated, it is really delightful and presents so beautifully. Furthermore, you can make this very elegant meal for friends and family for about $25-$35 for 4-6 people, which would easily run you over $100 when going out to eat; make this a winner in not only flavor, but in price.

This is going to be your new go-to when craving a restaurant quality meal, right in your own home!

Chicken Bellagio

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders or cutlets
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cream or half & half
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned Panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus another 2 tablespoons
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1-1/2 cups store bought or homemade pesto (click here for a reliable homemade pesto recipe)
  • 4 slices Prosciutto
  • 3 cups arugula
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

For the Chicken –

Pound the chicken breast tenders or cutlets until very thin. Season both sides with about a ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper each.

Create a breading station using 3 bowls. In the 1st bowl, mix the flour, garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper each. In the 2nd bowl, beat the eggs with the cream or half & half till completely mixed. In the 3rd bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. One by one, dip the chicken cutlets on both sides in the flour making sure to shake off excess, then the egg mixture making sure to let excess drain off, then in the breadcrumb mixture being sure to coat completely.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the breaded chicken cutlets. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side until the breading is golden brown.

For the Pasta –

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Reserve a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta. Place pasta in a large bowl and add the remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese and the pesto. Toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin out the sauce and make sure all noodles are perfectly coated in the pesto.

For the Arugula Salad –

Add the arugula to a salad bowl. Zest 1 lemon directly onto the lettuce. Mix the juice of the 2 lemons, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the arugula and toss.

To assemble –

Place 1 serving (about 1/8th to ¼ of the total) of spaghetti into a wide pasta bowl or onto a plate. Place 1 piece of chicken atop the post. Lay 1 piece of the Prosciutto over the chicken. Top the chicken and Prosciutto with a ¼ cup or so of the arugula salad. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese and serve.

Kitchen Republic Review

To the naked foodie’s eye, the Bella Terra Shopping Mall in Huntington Beach, CA is a sea of casual dining chain restaurants that offer decent to good standard meals but not much in the way of originality. If you sail through this island of entertainment a little more carefully, however, you will happen across a new gem of a restaurant that satisfies the craving for a unique dining and tasting experience amongst the flavors of the chain establishments: Kitchen Republic. Located across from the ever popular Cheesecake Factory and next to the polarizing Buffalo Wild Wings, the fairly new Kitchen Republic offers a space that is hip, cool, authentic, and welcoming with drinks and dishes from a tapas style menu to match.

Kitchen Republic 1

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Pasta Primavera

Sunday March 20th 2016 marked the bringing of another spring!

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YAY Spring is here!

Traditionally for the Spring Equinox, I always make my Pasta Primavera, and this past equinox was no exception. Pasta Primavera is a traditional Italian dish – Primavera means spring in Italian – and this dish is made all throughout the spring to celebrate the fresh produce that has come into season and harvest after the winter. I love making Pasta Primavera because it is simple, it is elegant, it supports seasonal eating, and it is actually quite healthy since it is loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and herbs.

food jennifer lawrence

Because a season change just means an excuse to eat more foods.

Sound good? I know you want to make it. Great! Well, you should make MY recipe for Pasta Primavera. Whereas many other recipes for this springtime dish call for boiling, steaming, or sauteing the vegetables within it, I roast them to really intensify the flavors because roasting brings out the best in vegetables. I also add goat cheese to this dish to bring a bright tang that I think is indicative of spring which gives the dish a slight richness and definite creaminess.

It is so simple and inexpensive, yet so fresh, bright, and absolutely delicious; I think you should definitely make my Pasta Primavera, and make it often! Buon Primavera!

Pasta Primavera

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

  • 2 large broccoli crowns, cut into small florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 2 large carrots, sliced and cut into 2 inch sticks
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 10 medium thick asparagus spears, cut to two inches
  • 15-20 sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup basil, julienned
  • ½ pound Farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other short cut pasta
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400̊F.

Arrange the broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, Herbs de Provence, and garlic. Toss until all the vegetables are well coated and spread into a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once half way through, until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In the last 1o-12 minutes of the vegetables cooking, add the pasta to the water and cook till al dente, about 10-12 minutes.In the last 2 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the asparagus and the sugar snap peas to the water with the pasta as well. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta, asparagus, and sugar snap peas.

Add the roast vegetables to a large pasta bowl, followed by the pasta. Add the goat cheese and parmesan cheese on top of the pasta and toss thoroughly until the cheeses melt and coat all the pasta and vegetables, using the pasta water as needed to help spread the cheese out. Toss in the basil.

Serve into individual pasta bowls and sprinkle with additional basil and parmesan cheese!

Recipe Review: Giada’s Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon

What do you think I do on my lunch breaks at the office? That’s right, I watch the Food Network. And if you haven’t already guessed it, my favorite Food Network Star is Giada De Laurentiis, who is my spirit animal as well. I’ve reviewed her restaurant and another recipe of hers, but it’s been awhile so I figured it’s time for another.

giada dance

My Patronus

Back during December, there was a “Holiday” episode of Giada at Home in which she cooked this Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon.

Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon 1

I can’t even.

I mean, hello, just listen to the name of the recipe. Watching it cooked on the screen was torture for my colleague friends and I. The sight of it inspired a deep need for it within us.

need

Said Johnny and friends to the pasta.

Still, I didn’t see what made it traditionally “Holidayish”. But when Valentine’s Day came around, I thought it would make the perfect V-Day dinner! In my mind, shellfish and pasta are staples for a special Valentine’s Day dinner, and the addition of bacon makes everything much more romantic.

valentine

Valentine’s Day = Food!

Of course, I am single – and Whole on My Own – and so is my mother and sister, so we had ourselves our own little fancy Valentine’s Dinner where we enjoyed this fantabulous recipe, along with a Kale and Roasted Beet Salad and some Prosecco.

After cooking the meal and taking my first twirl and bite, I knew it was a keeper. HOLY HELL PEOPLE!

the taste

My reaction after the first bite basically.

Tender sweet lobster, salty smoky bacon, delightful linguine noodles, rich tomato cream sauce, fresh herbs and peas, and of course, heavenly Parmesan cheese; this dish has everything going for it! All the flavors and textures play off each other perfectly. It is a luxurious and sensual dish. And though it sounds indulgent because of the cream and bacon, a moderate sized portion of this was actually just the right amount, no one felt weighed down or bloated, but perfectly satisfied. Remember people – moderation!

The recipe is pretty easy to follow. Giada has labeled the difficulty as “Intermediate”. That’s just because you do have to do quite a few things at once, and once you start there is no stopping, so you have to be prepared. Plus, if you buy a whole cooked lobster or two, you have to break open its shell which is no easy feat.

xena fight

Basically the effort it takes to break open lobster. Damn those spikes!

My advice is to do all the prep work before you start the cooking. Chop all the vegetables and herbs, have the tomato and cream measured out, have the lobster meat cut up into chunks and set aside in a bowl, and have everything readily assessable. This way, once you start, you’ve got everything you need to execute.

Ingredients for Creamy Linguine with Lobster and Bacon

Prepare everything ahead of time and lay it out.

I cut the ingredient portions in half because I was only cooking for 3 people while Giada originally intended the recipe for 6, but you could easily double this recipe or modify it for your friends and family as needed.

At any rate, you should absolutely 100% make this dish when you are feeling a little bit ritzy! Enjoy!

Also, here is a video of my lobster singing “Under the Sea”.