Monday, August 18, 2008

Picollini Farfalle alla Carbonara

Can pasta be adorable? Because Barilla's new Picollini series are the most adorable pasta I've ever seen. Check your local grocery store for these miniature versions of popular pasta shapes that are sure to delight children and adults alike.

Tonight I made picollini farfalle (little butterflies) alla carbonara. Carbonara is a Roman dish that is traditionally made with guanciale (pig's cheek), but since I'm pretty sure you won't find guanciale anywhere in the US, use pancetta, which comes from the pigs belly and is somewh
at like bacon, but MUCH tastier.
When I lived in Rome a chef there told me it was an abomination to make a carbonara sauce with whole cream. The sauce is usually made with guanciale or pancetta, eggs, and a bit of pecorino romano. I guess it's the indulgent American in me, but I still make carbonara with whole cream and, brace yourself, and entire 2/3 cup of cheese (pecorino romano, parmesan, asiago, mozzarella, and provolone tonight but just romano and mozzarella will do). A true abomination.

Here's what you will need (this serves 2 adults and 2 toddlers, you can double it for bigger appetites):

1/2 lb. pasta Toddler Tip! Picollini farfalle or other small pasta shapes are great for
kids, spaghetti or bucatini is the traditional pasta shape but the small pasta is easier for little hands.
egg yolks
1/3 cup shredded pecorino romano (you can sub parmesan or a mix)
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup whole cream
2 oz. pancetta, chopped
bunch of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
black pepper

Put on a big pot of salted water to boil. Add a little olive oil to the pot so your pasta doesn't stick together.

In the meantime chop the pancetta. Pancetta is like a dry, cured, thinly sliced bacon usually
seasoned with pepper corns and sometimes with other seasonings. It is salt-cured and hung to dry for several months so although it looks like raw bacon it is completely edible as-is and is very delicious eaten raw. Be brave and try it! I think it is better raw than cooked, but it is also much better cooked than American-style bacon. Salty, peppery, amazing. Dress it up-If you're having guests you can serve it on an antipasto plate with salami and prosciutto accompanied by another plate of Italian cheeses and grissini (breadsticks). I lived in Sicily as a young teen, and I never really came around on all the cured meats, it wasn't my thing. It wasn't until I went back and lived in Rome for several months as an adult that I found a love for Italian cured meats. One of my favorites in Rome was speck, which is made from the thighs of the pig, it is simply amazing. We just don't get that many varieties of Italian cured meats in the US, probably because of FDA regs. The home-grown varieties I've tried are good (the pancetta I used tonight was made in Rhode Island), but a pig from Rhode Island just doesn't compare to one from Latium.

I just got off on a tangent there, but seriously, try the pancetta "raw".

Back to our recipe. Pan fry the chopped pancetta in a little olive oil. It cooks fast so it really only needs a couple of minutes. Then set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together egg yolks, cream, cheeses, and parsley. Stir in the
cooled pancetta.

When the pasta is "al dente", which literally translates to
"to the tooth", describing the perfect level of done-ness, when the pasta is tender but with a bite. Drain and immediately add to the bowl with the egg and pancetta mixture. Stir, allowing the heat of the pasta to cook the egg and thicken the sauce. The sauce should be smooth and creamy, it should not look like scrambled eggs!


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