Spaghetti is definitely a go-to meal around here and my kids could eat it every day, much like myself as a kid. Once, when I was in 3rd grade, my dad and I found ourselves home alone for a week. We ate spaghetti every night. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. My dad was lucky I was a clueless 9-year-old.
While I am grateful to know that my kids will always eat spaghetti (it really is a good option on a busy night), I must admit that Nate and I are less enthusiastic about the dish. I don’t know, it’s just kinda boring. The razzle dazzle of spaghetti has finally worn off for me. Sorry, Dad!
Last week, however, I decided to try to make spaghetti more interesting. The result was delicious! I used a recipe for spaghetti carbonara from Christina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love cookbook and it came out beautifully. The ingredients are simple, the taste is flavorful, and the sauce is creamy without using actual cream.
Nate and I both really liked this recipe. I actually loved it. The girls stuck with classic boring spaghetti that night, but I don’t think they even tried the carbonara, little stinkers. Owen, however, ate three servings and couldn’t get enough!
Adapted from Big Bowl of Love by Christina Ferrare (I changed a few of the ingredient amounts and also some of the technique based on my experience with the recipe)
- 2 cups peas (original recipe calls for fresh, I used frozen)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 2 tablespoons chopped shallot (or regular onion if you don’t have a shallot on hand)
- 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine (fresh is yummier, dried is fine)
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
If using fresh peas, remove the peas from their pods and set aside. For frozen, run warm water over the peas to separate them, drain, then set aside.
In a cold, large, heavy pot, pour the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the pancetta, cook over medium heat until pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta and set aside. Add shallot to the pan and saute until crispy. Remove from heat, add pancetta back to the pot and set aside. I am lazy, so I cooked the pancetta then just added the shallot/onion to the pan without removing the pancetta. I added the shallot before the pancetta got crispy then cooked until the onions were softened. Once cooked, turn off heat and set pan aside.
Cook pasta to package directions. Be sure to salt the water – 1 tablespoon salt per 3 quarts of water. Three minutes before pasta is ready, add peas. Drain pasta and peas, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water and set aside.
The original recipe tells you to add the pasta to the large pot with the shallots and then mix in the sauce ingredients. I did it this way and found that the cheese was very clumpy. It tasted good, but I didn’t get a smooth sauce. So, I am modifying the directions. Return the pancetta/shallot pan back to the stove and turn the heat on to medium-high. Immediately add 1/2 cup pasta water, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Whisk well. Add remainder of the parmesan cheese and milk and keep whisking. If the sauce is too thick or gooey, add pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until sauce is creamy. Reduce heat to low then stir in the peas and spaghetti.
Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese and mint leaves if desired.