Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bucatini alla Carbonara (2 versioni)

Ciao di nuovo! It's been another long while since I've posted. I have not been cooking anything interesting. In fact before making this yummy Carbonara, I made a mushy pot of black beans and brown rice . . . trust me; it wasn't blog-worthy. Also these past few weeks have been stressful because of constant teaching and grading.  So in order to retain the little bit of sanity I have left from my busy schedule, I still think about my blissful months in Reggio Calabria, Italy.

MARIANGELA VERSION: While in Reggio Calabria, my boyfriend's mom, Mariangela (the same who shared her pizza dough and pizza recipe with me), asked me what was my favorite pasta dish, and without hesitation, I said, "Pasta alla Carbonara." For my birthday, she surprised me with this dish but made it with proscuitto instead of pancetta and spaghetti in place of bucatini. It was AMAZING, and I knew I wanted to recreate this dish upon my return to the States.

In the past, every time I made Carbonara, I would have to go on a long search for guanciale or pork cheek, the official meat used in traditional Carbonara, and I could never find it. I am confronted with perplexed stares and am asked to repeat my request multiple times by supermarket workers. I have always had to resort to pancetta, but now that I have tried Carbonara with proscuitto, I am happy that I no longer need to look far and wide for guanciale because I have found a good, substitute version of traditional Carbonara.

Even though the Carbonara originated in Rome, when I think of this dish with proscuitto, I think of the best moments of my life in Reggio Calabria...

TRADITIONAL VERSION: I started with the "Mariangela version" of Carbonara because it is a nostalgic dish for me; it is my preferred version, and it is not considered the traditional way to make the dish.

A traditional Bucatini alla Carbonara is comprised of bucatini (the pasta), guanciale (pork cheek), parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano or both (the cheese), eggs (the sauce), black pepper (spice), and pasta water, if needed. However, many Italians may substitute guanciale with pancetta, or in Mariangela's case, with proscuitto.

In the States, however, Italian-American restaurants serve Carbonara with pancetta or bacon, cream, and sometimes peas or other add-ins! *gasp!* I much prefer the more traditional way or with prosciutto served with a crusty knob of hot bread.
Bucatini: A few weeks ago, I was happy to find bucatini, which is the pasta used in the traditional version of Carbonara. My boyfriend encouraged me to use spaghetti instead of this type of pasta, but I wanted to try it out for myself and for the blog :).
As you can see in the photos, this pasta is much thicker than spaghetti, and there are holes in the middle. Once I took a bite of the Carbonara, I understood immediately why my boyfriend had discouraged me from using it! Even though it is more traditional to use bucatini, in the future, I will use spaghetti since they are thinner and more manageable to eat and enjoy.
Bucatini alla Carbonara

75-115 grams of spaghetti or bucatini per person (reserve some of the pasta water)
1/2 Tbsp of a light oil such as sunflower or soybean oil (I had only extra virgin olive oil on hand)
2-4 Tbsp guanciale, pancetta, or proscuitto
1 large egg per person
2-3 Tbsp parmigiano reggiano per person
black pepper to taste (q.b.)

Boil water and prepare pasta. Be sure to salt your water until it is almost as salty as the Mediterranean Sea (as they say). Once the pasta is 3 minutes away from being done, start cooking your pork of choice in a hot skillet brushed with light oil (I used a small amount of extra virgin olive oil, but Mariangela used soybean oil because it is lighter.).

While the pork is cooking, put the grated cheese and egg in a bowl and mix together well. Once the meat is ready, remove the skillet from heat and transfer the cooked pasta to the skillet. Stir the pasta and pork together well. Next pour the egg and cheese mixture on top of the pasta and pork and mix well. Serve immediately and sprinkle the top of the dish with plenty of fresh black pepper.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Copycat Recipe: Rudy's BBQ "Sause"

As a native Texan, I've always loved to eat BBQ ribs, chicken, sausage, etc. So while attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, I explored various BBQ joints in search of the all-time best place for BBQ. Most people raved about the famous Salt Lick. However, after having ordered a large sampler plate of all their "best" fixins', my friend and I were quite disappointed with the food and never returned. Then I discovered Rudy's ...
The end. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dessert Braids: Nutella, Strawberry, and Banana/Cinnamon Roll

I'm back in the States.  After living for approximately two and a half wonderful months in Portugal, et al., you can imagine my reluctance to return here.  Still, I'd thought I'd muse about a few homeland items that I had taken for granted and truly missed that are not readily available in Western Europe (at least at the places I've visited):

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Palak Paneer, Pulao, and Roti

Indian food. I love Indian food so much. In fact, being a vegetarian would be a lot easier if I were to just eat Indian food every day. However, sometimes I get in the mood for other types of foods, so...yeah. I'll eat more Indian food and just reduce my meat consumption instead ;). I think that's a fair compromise for now...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Resuscitated Dough for Cinnamon Rolls

So you're looking at the title of this post and are thinking "huh? what?" I hear ya. Let me explain...

These past few years I've made a lot of bread and yeast-based desserts on this blog so I am familiar with the usual signs of good/bad yeast growth, dough quality, etc. While living abroad, however, I have to relearn how to cook in a sense and get familiar with different ingredients and tools. I'm in Lisbon this time around, and I decided to make cinnamon rolls for my two friends who have graciously allowed me to stay with them for two months!
Happy, risen dough! You would never know that this dough had no life in it just a few hours ago. . .