Pasta alla Carbonara with Roasted Purple Carrots and Chives

Savory Recipes, Winter • 29 Jan 2014

The New Year has been rather frozen and prosaic. Stillness is what strikes me most, and I don’t mean an austere placidity or tranquility. Maybe I’m confusing inertia with boredom. January feels protracted, an endless recovery from the frenzied and artificially jubilant holiday season. I find myself stuck in a metaphorical box, replete with writer’s block, lack of ambition, malaise. We’ve also found ourselves fighting winter fevers, fits of seasonal downheartedness and weather-induced agoraphobia.

IMG_1942

As iron darkness engulfs the last slivers of daylight, the compulsion to nourish intensifies. Perhaps it is a case of the seasonal doldrums, a moody gloominess that overrides my somewhat hollow New Year’s resolution to eat more healthily, but I have been zealously craving grease and fat and calories. Rich foods have a direct pathway to my heartstrings, especially when I’m feeling vulnerable.

My winter hankerings come in the form of salty, buttery, carb-laden dishes, such as Pasta alla Carbonara, a swirl of caloric richness. A Roman dish of spaghetti (or fettuccine or bucatini), eggs, Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, guanciale (or bacon or pancetta) and black pepper, Carbonara is an exercise in simplicity; by the same token, a successful Carbonara requires adept technique and a smattering of high quality ingredients.

IMG_1939

Pork is fried until crispy in olive oil or lard and chewy pasta is delightfully drowned in both the pork bits and the smoky rendered fat. The pasta nest, still in the pan, is then pulled from the heat and wrapped in silken saffron egg yolks and salty cheese. I toss in a smack of crème fraiche to the yolks, which creates an even more lusciously velveteen sauce. I must add, however, that adding cream or crème fraiche is not traditional and often frowned upon, but I like the addition of something smooth and slightly tart. Fold quickly, away from the flame, to avoid curdling (a major Carbonara faux pas). The residual heat from the pan cooks the eggs and melts the cheese, resulting in a substantive, rich, creamy sauce.

IMG_1944 IMG_1948

I add gloriously scented roasted purple carrots to my Carbonara, or if they are available, silken white carrots. A little bit of extra texture goes a long way. A dapple of finely diced chives provides a welcome splash of green and looks pretty, tangled in the mess of pasta.

January, I do not condone your wily, malicious ways. You sweep through the streets with aplomb and leave us with knocking knees, trapped like prisoners indoors. At least you give us cravings. At least there’s Carbonara.

Pasta alla Carbonara with Roasted Purple Carrots and Chives

10-12 ounces fresh linguini or spaghetti
2 large silken white carrots or purple carrots (about 7 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
8 ounces thick-cut bacon, guanciale or pancetta, sliced into 1-inch cubes
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup crème fraiche
Scant 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons finely diced chives

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast carrots on the middle rack, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly browned, 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring, until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. Remove from heat and set aside. Do not drain the fat.

While the bacon cooks, whisk the egg yolks and crème fraiche in a small bowl. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.

Add the water to the cooked bacon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the pasta to the pan and gently toss with the bacon until the pasta begins to looks glossy. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the crème fraiche and egg mixture, cheese, salt, pepper and chives.

Serve immediately, topping each plate with extra cheese.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

4 Responses

  1. Your photos, writing, and recipes are all scrumptious! Thank you for sharing your talents. Carbonara is a favorite of mine, so I look forward to giving your version a try.

    I learned about your blog yesterday evening as I enjoyed a drink with your parents, who I met through a mutual friend.

  2. this carbonara would cheer anyone up… the january blues are so prevalent! i do know what you mean by comforting food… and these photographs are really lovely, too, kate!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *