Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pasta Carbonara with Leeks and Lemons

Do you ever hear the name of a dish and instantly get intimidated?  If you answered yes, then you're not alone.  Although I do love a good cooking challenge, there are times when I read the title of the recipe and instantly get overwhelmed.  It may be fear of the unknown; I've never heard of it so it must be difficult and time consuming.  Or maybe the name just sounds fancy or complicated.  The bad thing is, I jump to this conclusion before I ever glance at the actual recipe ingredients or instructions.  I think we've all had that misconception from one time or another.
Pasta carbonara, to me, sounded very intimidating.  I had heard of the dish, seen it on menus but had never had it let alone searched for a recipe for it.  A while back, while I was "pinning" away, I pinned a pasta recipe that looked so amazing.  I didn't bother to click over and look at name, ingredients or directions, I just pinned it and kept on going.  Then, the other day I was really in the mood for some starchy goodness.  You know me, I love my starches!  So I started looking through recipes I had bookmarked and pinned when I came across that recipe that I had pinned so long ago.  I was instantly drawn to the picture that had pasta, bacon and cheese.  I know, what's not to love, right? 

When I clicked on the link to the recipe, I saw the name and became hesitant.  I was wanting to make this on a weeknight, and wasn't sure what all it entailed.  Instead of clicking away, I read the ingredients which sounded simple enough, then read the instructions.  Any fears or worries I had about this recipe quickly went out the door.  I knew it would be incredibly easy and perfect for the weeknight! 
This recipe consists of a few simple ingredients, probably most of which you already have in your pantry.  Pasta is cooked until aldente, and leeks are sauteed until golden brown.  A quick sauce, which I think is my favorite part about this recipe is a mixture of eggs, lemon juice, zest and cheese.  Everything is then mixed together, and then crispy bacon is added.  Then end result is simply divine.  A perfectly cooked pasta, with light and fresh leeks, tart lemons and crisp and salty bacon.  This is one of those meals that is quick enough for a weeknight but impressive enough for entertaining. 
This wasn't only a hit with myself and Spencer, but Tucker (my 3 year old) loved it too.  I wasn't surprised when Spencer went back for seconds, and thirds, but when Tucker asked for more that's when I knew we had a winner! 

Pasta Carbonara with Leeks and Lemons

8 Slices bacon, cut into lardons
3-4 Leeks rinsed thoroughly, (white and light green parts), halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 Clove garlic, minced
3/4 Pound short pasta, I used campanelle
2 Large eggs
1/4 Cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 Cup parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place bacon in large pan over medium heat and cook until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside, being sure to reserve the bacon drippings.  Add the leeks to the bacon drippings, stirring occasionally, until golden about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook an additionl 30-45 seconds, until fragrant. 

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water, salt and bring to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions, until aldente.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy water, then drain the pasta. 

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice and whisk to combine.  While whisking continuously, slowly pour 1/4 cup of the reserved water. 

Combine the pasta, leaks and egg mixture and toss to combine, until the pasta is evenly coated.  Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.  Add the bacon and stir to incorporate. 

Place in serving dishes, sprinkle with more cheese and chopped parsley.

Recipe source: barely adapted from Martha Stewart, Everyday Food (November 2011)

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