Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara: A Lighter Version

Spaghetti alla Carbonara, a simple recipe of spaghetti, cheese, and eggs, has survived for centuries. The hot spaghetti "cooks" the eggs. Simple as this dish sounds, it can be trucky and if you aren't careful, wind up with spaghetti and scrambled eggs.

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What is the origin of the recipe? Nobody knows for sure. Clifford A. Wright examines some of the possibilities on his website. Despite all of the theories, the history of this historic dish is "vague," according to Wright. Still, it continues to be on restaurant menus in Italy and America.

Unfortunately, Spaghetti alla Carbonara (which means coal workers' style), can be dry. To correct this problem the Williams-Sonoma recipe tells cooks to reserve some pasta water and add it to the spaghetti, if necessary. Other recipes call for dry white wine. You may also add extra cream.

Mario Batali demonstrated the recipe on "The Chew" television program. He uses guanciale (pork cheek that resembles un-smoked bacon), pancetta, or bacon. Instead of adding the beaten eggs to the hot pasta, Batali separates the eggs, adds the whites to the pasta, and tops each serving with a raw yolk.

I wouldn't eat this raw yolk and you probably wouldn't either. Maybe that's why the Epicurious website recipe ends with a note that says the eggs in this recipe aren't fully cooked. The safest recipe I've found is in a cookbook titled The Cooking of Italy, published by Time-Life books years ago. Eggs are cooked by transferring them to a pre-heated bowl and tossing them with hot pasta.

My lighter version uses two eggs (not four) and egg substitute. Four tablespoons of butter are reduced to two. Instead of heavy cream I used fat-free half-and-half. To get more fiber, I used half regular and half whole wheat spaghetti. You may use all whole wheat if you wish. This is my lighter version of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Slurp it up!

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2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 slices of bacon
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound of thin spaghetti, half regular, half whole wheat
2 tablespoons sofr butter or margarine

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Place a large,oven-proof mixing bowl in the oven to warm. In a small bowl, combine egg yolks, egg substitute, and Pamesan cheese with a fork. Set aside. Cut bacon crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Cook in a cast iron skillet until crisp and remove with slotted spoon. Pour off most of the fat from the skillet, leaving 1 1/2 tablespoons. Turn off the heat. Add the scallions, red pepper flakes, and fat-free half-and-half. Cover sauce to keep warm. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and carefully transfer to warm bowl. Add butter and toss with two forks. Pour bacon sauce and egg mixture over pasta and continue to toss until sauce is distributed. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan cheese. Makes four servings.

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