Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eggs for Dinner, alla Carbonara

As the half of the Philly Food Lovers team that is not a huge fan of breakfast, nor a major consumer of eggs in the morning, I gravitate toward other uses of these nutritional orbs.   I love using eggs for dinner--they are quick to prepare, generally healthy,  and bridge a wide swath of dietary restrictions --they cover ovo-lacto vegetarians, kosher eaters, and are carb-free.  Look for Claire's frittata recipe this weekend; she serves it for brunch; for me it's dinner.
Pasta alla Carbonara, heaven in a bowl.

Today, however, I am here to share one of my go-to pasta dishes:  Pasta alla Carbonara, or "Coalminer's Pasta"  (sorry, Dr. Atkins,  South Beach Dieters and vegetarians but this one contains both carbs and meat.)  I am especially partial to this dish because it is made with very basic ingredients, which I pretty much always have on hand.  I can rustle this up for a small or large crowd with miminal notice.  If you don't have the guanciale or pancetta (both of which are Italian versions of  bacon) as suggested in the recipe link, regular old bacon works just fine.  I have even used turkey bacon when my pantry or my company required it, and the dish was still delish.

Like many foods, the history of this one is hazy.  The most common story credits the "carbonara" or "coalminers" with developing the dish as something that could easily be prepared over a fire during their shifts with a few ingredients grabbed from the kitchen (or henhouse) en route to work.  The generous sprinkle of pepper is said to mimic the inevitable specs of coal that would drop into the dish as an occupational hazard while the miners were preparing and eating it.  Another theory claims that the dish was invented by necessity at the end of WWII.  The Allied Forces, when liberating Italy, dropped food parcels containing American staples--dried eggs and bacon--throughout country as a part of the relief effort for the formerly occupied land.   The Italians took these ingredients, mixed them with the pasta and pecorino cheese they had on hand and Carbonara was born.  (leave it to the Italians to make something so fabulous with such rudiments.)  Thank you Foodies'Kitchen for this info.

To source the ingredients for this simple dish, hit the Market.  By George will set you up with pasta:
Fresh fettucine from By George.
Depending on your choice of smoked meat, whether the authentic Italian version or an Americanized/poultry substitute, you have a wide selection of Market butchers who will provide what you need.

In terms of sides,  keep it simple.  Choose a crusty loaf of bread--either a semolina, or baguette from LeBus, or perhaps this country white from Metropolitan Bakery:

Metropolitan Bakery's Country White Bread

Philly Food Lovers Caesar Salad would be a grand accompaniment.    Iovine Brothers will provide all you need for this simple, crowd pleaser.

Stay tuned for guidance on wine from our friends at Philly Wine Finder and dessert from our friends at Flying Monkey Patisserie.

Buon appetito!

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