Dinner Diaries: Green Carbonara

When people learn that I went to culinary school in Italy, their eyes tend to open up wide with excitement. "The food must have been AMAZING," they say.

And it was, mostly because the ingredients we had to work with were all incredible. But to be honest, my roommates and I spent those months living primarily on gallons of cheap red wine and quick, cheap dishes like pasta carbonara and pizza margarita.

Actually, the pizza we usually bought at a little restaurant located near our school that offered a 10 Euro special of one pizza and one glass of wine. But the carbonara? Well that we made ourselves ALL the time.

It was cheap, quick, and just as suitable at 4 in the afternoon after a long day of classes, as it was at 4 in the morning after a long night of drinking wine and fending off the advances of enthusiastic Italian gentlemen.

When you spend several days eating the same thing (and when you live in an apartment full of future chefs), you start to get creative. It wasn't long before the three of us started to add lots of random things to our carbonara recipe to make it just a little more exciting--the roommate from Austin who loved spice would load up her dish with cayenne and hot sauce, while the other one would top it with a pile of grated cheese and a douse of fresh cream. If we could afford it (and we rarely could), we'd add chicken to make it a more substantial dish. At some point, I started adding herbs to it, along with diced leftover vegetables, and created what I now call my Green Carbonara.

This is a dish that would be very easy to personalize based on the seasons and whatever you happen to have on hand--fresh basil in the summer or cilantro for a vaguely latin flavor. In terms of vegetables, add your favorites! I love diced green beans and pureeing in a little spinach or kale. Zucchini, sugar snap peas, or asparagus would also work well here. It's a great way to use up those herbs in your fridge that are about to die, and to add more greens to your diet without even thinking about it.

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Green Carbonara
Serves 2-3

Ingredients

4 strips thick-cut bacon or pancetta, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 pound green beans, trimmed and diced into 2" pieces
1/2 cup kale or spinach, rinsed and thick stems removed
1/2 pound whole wheat rotini or other small shaped pasta (ziti, penne, rigatoni, etc.)
 2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch fresh parsley, bottom stems removed
2 scallions
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt and black pepper


Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While the water comes to a boil, saute the diced bacon until crisp. Add the green beans and chopped kale or spinach, and continue to cook for 2 minute, or until the green beans are bright green and the kale or spinach has wilted. Remove the bacon and vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve.

When the water hits a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. 

While the pasta cooks, combine the eggs, olive oil, parsley, scallions, cheese, kosher salt, and black pepper to your food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add a little bit of water to it if it gets stuck and let go until creamy.

Pour this dressing into a large bowl and add the very hot, drained pasta on top. Toss well to coat (the heat from the pasta will cook the eggs). Add the bacon, green beans, and kale, and toss to distribute. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve immediately.

Tip: If you're squeamish about even the possibility of raw eggs, transfer this to a pot and cook over high heat quickly for 1 or 2 minutes, making sure not to overcook the pasta


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