Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Skinny Spaghetti Carbonara

I am not a traditionalist when it comes to food. You’d think because I lived and basically started my cooking life France, I would be… but I’m not. Unless I'm making something specific, for a special event, I do not take any recipe too seriously. I like to change them up, make them my own. Usually out of a sense of frugality, I like to use what I have on hand. And out of a childhood watching my mom throw this and that into a pot without ever really referencing a recipe, I find myself doing the same.
I know that many people might be offended when I call this Spaghetti Carbonara, when it has a few non-traditional ingredients. But what else can you call it? Carbonara-ish? I just call it “Skinny Carbonara” because it comes from one of my low-calorie cookbooks called Cook Yourself Thin: Skinny meals you can make in minutes.

I was introduced to Carbonara when I was living in France, and ever since then it has been one of those foods that sort of transports me back. It is warm and salty, creamy and comforting. This recipe is just as much of all of these things, but manages to do it in under 450 calories per serving. This is definitely on the dinner rotation at our house. Especially since we're T minus 19 days until our Lake Tulloch trip where we basically live in bathing suits 18 hours a day.

The recipe actually calls for 3 slices of bacon, but since it makes 4 servings, I usually do 4 slices. With one slice of bacon coming in at 70-100 calories adding one more only bumps the calorie count by 25 calories per serving. The 425 count includes the 4th slice.

Spaghetti Carbonara, adapted from Cook Yourself Thin
Serves 4
Calories per serving: 425

4 slices of bacon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/3 cup 1% milk
1 large egg
8 ounces of spaghetti
1 cup frozen peas
1.5 ounces parmesan cheese, finely grated
4 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. I like to slice it into lardons before cooking. Move to a paper towel and drain the bacon grease. Add the olive oil to the pan and then add the onion, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent. Remove from the heat.

2. In a large serving bowl, whisk together the milk and egg, then stir in the onion. Add a few grinds of black pepper and stir.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to the package instructions. Two minutes before the spaghetti is done, add the peas. Drain the spaghetti and peas, reserving a half cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta/peas to the egg mixture, tossing until the pasta is well coated. I like to add in about a quarter cup of pasta water to give it a little body. Add the cheese, half of the parsley, salt and more pepper to taste.

4. Plate up the pasta, top with crumbles of bacon and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Remember not to put the pot back on a burner once the egg mixture is in there. You dont want scrambled egg spaghetti. Also, something to be aware of: this recipe is best with regular pasta since whole wheat competes with the taste of the sauce.

Buon Appetito!