Back in my college days, I was quite fortunate to live off of Arthur Avenue, New York’s “other Little Italy” in the Bronx. Instead of the Taco Bell drive-thru, we had local Italian eateries that hand delivered heaping containers of take-out pasta right to your door, which is how I discovered the wonders of spaghetti alla carbonara (and put on that freshman fifteen).
Traditional carbonara pasta is made with Guanciale (an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig’s jowl or cheeks), eggs, and Pecorino Romano cheese, as opposed to the pancetta and cream laden version I enjoyed in college. Nowadays, I prefer this lightened up recipe (about 500 calories per serving), which I adapted from Bon Appetit’s fettucine carbonara with fried eggs. Broccolini is in season year round, making this an ideal dish for those winter nights when you simply cannot stomach another root vegetable. It is relatively simple to make, but impressive (and delicious) enough to serve at your next dinner party.
Fettucine Carbonara with Mushrooms, Broccolini and Poached Eggs
8 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper and salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
12 ounces dry fettuccine noodles
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (I prefer cremini)
1 tsp olive or grapeseed oil
1 large (or 2 small) bunch broccolini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup white vinegar
In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 eggs, cheese, garlic, and pepper; set aside.
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly tender (about 3 minutes less than package directions); add broccolini. Continue to cook just until broccolini is crisp-tender and pasta is tender, about 3 minutes longer. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the mushrooms in 1 teaspoon olive or grapeseed oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Drain pasta-broccolini mixture, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Remove pot from the hot burner and return hot pasta-broccolini mixture to pot. Immediately add egg-cheese mixture, mushrooms and 1/4 cup hot cooking liquid; toss to thoroughly combine, adding more cooking liquid by the tablespoonful to moisten as needed. Season to taste with salt, more pepper, and red pepper flakes, if desired. Cover to keep warm.
Fill a second pot with water to about 3 inches deep. Bring to a boil and add a splash of white vinegar. Using a spoon, stir the water to create a whirlpool and immediately crack an egg into the swirling water (careful not to break the yolk – you may want to crack the egg into a cup first for ease of transferring to the pot). Remove pot from hot burner, cover with lid, and leave to sit for about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with warm water. Carefully remove the egg with a slotted spoon and transfer to the bowl of warm water. Repeat until you have 4 poached eggs. (Once you get the hang of it, you can poach several eggs at once.)
Divide the pasta among four warmed serving bowls or plates. Make a nest in the center of each one, and use a slotted spoon to drain and gently drop a poached egg into each nest. Serve with a light red wine.