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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
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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.”

Autumn Slaw

When you just can’t have another salad with your soup or sandwich but are still wanting to get your fibrous greens and veggies in, slaws are the way to go! I bring my lunch to work almost every day, and I like a side salad of some sort to accompany my main soup, sandwich, or wrap. However, there are weeks where I just cannot bring myself to prep another line up of basic salads. When I have these weeks, I turn to slaws.

There is something about slaws. They’re crispy and crunchy, they have their own feels and tastes that distinguish them enough from salads while also still providing you greens and fiber. Especially in the Fall and Winter when delicate lettuces, tomatoes, and other salad toppings are not in peak season, slaws become even more optimal by utilizing Autumn-Winter produce such as cabbage, dark leafy greens, and Brussels Sprouts.

When we turned the corner into Fall this year, I sought to create a slaw that is comprised of some of the great seasonal offerings, that is crunchy-fun to eat, and of course, tastes fantastic. And so, I came up with this Autumn Slaw. Really, this slaw is perfect to take us all the way through Fall and Winter to Spring.

Curly, earthy green kale, shredded Brussels Sprouts, rich purple cabbage, crisp and bright fennel, and tart pomegranate seeds in a zingy apple cider vinegar dressing make this dish fresh, dynamically flavorful, and hearty yet light. It is a fantastic side dish for lunch or dinner in place of salad; and it could even be a snack. I feel fantastic eating this slaw and love how you can prep at the start of the week and enjoy it all week long. I hope you enjoy this healthy and delightful recipe too!

Autumn Slaw

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups kale, cut or shredded thin
  • ½ a purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
  • 1 cup Brussels Sprouts, shredded
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Add the kale, cabbage, fennel, Brussels Sprouts, and pomegranate seeds all together. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pour over the slaw and mix with your hands, massaging the slaw until tender.

You can also divide slaw into containers, make dressing in container, and only toss when ready to eat.

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
  • Time: 5 hours
  • 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!

Johnny’s Weekend Roundup!

Ciao friends! I am back with another weekend roundup, bringing you articles and other online reading material that I found informative and/or entertaining, and thought you might too! Enjoy it in your leisure over the weekend.

So here it goes – Johnny’s Weekend Roundup for the weekend of August 27, 2016!

Continue reading

Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

One of my absolute favorite foods to make is artisanal pizzas; I love rolling the pizza dough into rustic, oblong shapes that are perfectly imperfect and then topping them with gourmet flavor combinations of quality ingredients. I don’t know exactly what it is that makes me enjoy cooking these types of pizzas so much, but I love the process of cooking them and am really proud of the original recipes I’ve developed!

A couple of my other artisan pizzas!

Most recently, I published my recipes for my Butternut, Brussels, and Bacon Pizza and my Bleu BBQ Chicken Pizza. Today, I giveth onto you the recipe for one of my favorites; my Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza – I know, it’s a mouth full literally and figuratively!

Can you say, “BELLISIMA!”???

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This pizza is born of summer and is reminiscent of Tuscany in the warmer months. Imagine this; the sweetness of fresh figs, caramelized onions, and balsamic, contrasted with the saltiness of prosciutto and the tang of creamy goat cheese, and finished with the fresh and peppery bite of arugula. I am telling you, this is one incredible gourmet pizza!

Pour yourself a glass of wine and turn on the old world Italiano music, because with this pizza, you are about to feel like you’re enjoying a beautiful summer meal in the Tuscan countryside! Buon Appettito!

Fig, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

Cook’s Note: Vegetarians can certainly omit the prosciutto here to make this a veg friendly option! 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin, oblong shape and place on an oiled baking sheet. (Pro-tip: sprinkle course cornmeal on the baking sheet to help prevent the pizza dough from sticking).

Drizzle the surface of the dough with the olive oil and balsamic. Use the back of a spoon to smear evenly over the dough. Arrange the caramelized onions in an even layer over the sauce. Sprinkle evenly with the mozzarella, goat cheese, and half of the basil. Arrange the fig slices all over the pizza. Arrange the prosciutto pieces over the figs throughout the pizza, evenly spacing the slices.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the dough is golden brown, the cheese is melted and bubbly and the prosciutto is crisped. Sprinkle with remaining basil, then the arugula in an even layer.

Cut into rustic squares, sprinkle with parmesan, serve, and enjoy!

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