Monday, April 11, 2011

Pasta Carbonara Florentine (or, Saturday Night Special)

Saturday night is my least favourite time to cook. For years, we tended to go out for dinner Saturday night rather than agonize over what to make for dinner. Then the kids came along and we started ordering pizza, seen to be easier than cooking and/or dragging the kids along to a restaurant. Now that our kids are older we could certainly go out if we wanted. Or order pizza. But we seem to have been blessed with children who (a) dislike leaving the house and (b) don't like pizza. Our kids never ask to go out to eat. Would rather stay home and eat alphabet pasta drenched in V8. Or devour a tray of veggies with hummus. True story! Patrick actually reminded me one night last week that I had forgotten to give him his carrots at dinner. My kids are not perfect eaters, to be sure. (I mean, who doesn't like pizza?) And neither are their parents. Because despite being pretty much fully formed, functioning adults together for going on 18 years (good grief!) we still can't agree on Saturday dinner.

Last weekend was a typical Saturday. Despite spending a whack of cash on groceries nothing in the fridge appealed, nor did spending $50 on lackluster take-out. After dismissing any and all of our options I dove back into the fridge for inspiration -

Despite having a decently stocked fridge, as previously noted, nothing appealed. Often we default to breakfast for dinner Saturday night, so I reached for the eggs and some bacon then remembered we had some lovely pasta in the pantry to use up! I started buying rustichella d'bruzzo pasta last year. It was one of those things that I was just going to buy once to make a special dish that has ended up becoming a regular purchase. Pasta + eggs + bacon (+ parmesan cheese) =  pasta carbonara.

Truth be told, I first made pasta carbonara because I thought my husband would get a kick out of the name. His favourite Montreal Canadiens player when he was a kid was Guy Carbonneau, which sounds a bit like carbonara. So that's why I first noticed the recipe. I will admit to being a bit skeptical about this dish. Growing up, I was taught to fear the raw egg. Pasta carbonara tosses cooked, hot pasta with raw eggs mixed with some parmesan cheese. But despite my reticence, I tried pasta carbonara and I'm very glad I did. Not only is it delicious, it's dead simple to make and uses ingredients I generally have on hand. Saturday night I also found some spinach in my crisper, hence Pasta Carbonara Florentine:

Pasta Carbonara Florentine

Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 (6-ounce) package bagged prewashed baby spinach
6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons dry white wine
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and spinach; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Remove spinach from pan; place in a bowl.

Add bacon to pan; cook 3 minutes or until crisp, stirring frequently. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan; set bacon aside. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 2 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add wine; cook 1 minute or until liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain well, reserving 1 tablespoon cooking liquid. Immediately add pasta and the reserved cooking liquid to onion mixture in skillet. Add spinach and bacon; stir well to combine. Place skillet over low heat.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cheese, pepper, egg, and egg white, stirring with a whisk. Add to pasta mixture, tossing well to coat. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

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