my kind of comfort food.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Coal Miner's Pasta. One of my ultimate favorites. As you can see, there's a theme going with pasta. I could eat it every night of the week. I've tried so many different carbonara recipes - with cream, without cream, with bacon instead of pancetta, with rigatoni, with spaghetti. Whatever variation you choose, the must-have ingredients for this recipe are: cheese (parmesan, pecorino, or a combination), egg yolks, pork and black pepper. I have to say, I've never met a carbonara I didn't like. My dad's is pretty darn good. But I have found a favorite, courtesy of Tyler Florence. Don't skimp on the cheese to pass and the fresh flat-leaf parsley - in my opinion they're the best parts.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Cook Time: 10 minutes
Level: Intermediate (according to
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 lb dry spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 oz pancetta or slab bacon, cubed or sliced into small strips (full disclosure - I used Oscar Mayer bacon and it tasted delish)
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
freshly ground black pepper
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture, so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm (al dente). Drain the pasta well, reserving 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water to use in the sauce if you wish.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute for about 3 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss the garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to soften.

Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pan and toss for 2 minutes to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (this is done off the heat to ensure this does not happen.) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. Season the carbonara with several turns of freshly ground black pepper and taste for salt. Mound the spaghetti carbonara into warm serving bowls and garnish with chopped parsley. Pass more cheese around the table...and get ready to feast.



The Power of Polenta

I recently discovered one of the easiest and tastiest side dishes to accompany any week night meal. Polenta is made from a boiled liquid ingredient and cornmeal. You basically boil the liquid, stir in the cornmeal and then add in flavor components. This is a great pantry side dish and is very versatile! In the recipe below I just added in what I had on hand, you can do the same with virtually anything. Ideas are Cheddar and chives, thyme and garlic, ricotta and spinach, etc. Just stir in what you like and you can transform this easy recipe into your own!

Soft Polenta with Parm and Rosemary (makes 4 side dishes)

Boil 3 cups of Chicken stock in a saucepan. Add in 12 Tablespoons of yellow cornmeal gradually and stir in with a whisk. Continue stirring until the polenta becomes thick and creamy. Add in 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of chopped rosemary, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Transfer polenta to a serving dish and let stand for a couple minutes before serving to thicken further. Enjoy!

You can go a step further with this and make polenta squares that can be done in advance. Transfer the hot polenta from the saucepan once prepared to a 8 x 10 sheet pan. Spread the polenta evenly on the bottom. Let cool to room temperature (this can all be done in advanced, even overnight) Once cooled, cut polenta into squares and transfer to a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Stick under a high broiler for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted and polenta is heated through. Serve!

Polenta can also be grilled instead of broiled, which is a great option as well. Experiment with this dish! There is so much you can do and make it your own.

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