Carbonara is a simple, traditional Italian dish. The origin of the name is unknown. Carbonaro means charcoal burner in Italian, and some say the dish is so called because of the black flecks of pepper liberally used in the recipe. Others say its because the dish was served to coal miners who needed a cheap and substantial meal. In some parts of the U.S. it is called "coal miner's spaghetti".
Traditionally it calls for guanciale, an unsmoked Italian bacon prepared with pig's cheeks. I substitute bacon. I've also added some chicken, peas, onions and sun dried tomatoes. Because I don't serve multiple courses with my meals, like they do in Italy, I like the main dish to be a complete meal with protein, vegetables and carbs. A simple green salad, lightly dressed, is all you need to accompany this dish. Oh, and maybe some garlic bread.
So here goes. Chicken Carbonara, Fully Loaded
- 4 oz. bacon, cut into matchsticks
- 1 chicken breast, boneless, skinless, 1" cubes
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, julienned
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/2 lb. spaghetti
- salt and pepper
Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil, add the bacon and saute on med/low heat to render the fat. Remove the cooked bacon to drain on paper towels. Remove all but a light coating of bacon grease from the pan. Saute the chicken and onion until the chicken is browned and the onions are translucent. Add the minced garlic, frozen peas and dried tomatoes and heat thoroughly. Add ground black pepper, generously.
Meanwhile, cook up the spaghetti in salted water. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cheese and cream.
When the spaghetti is cooked al dente, ladle it into the bowl on top of the egg mixture and stir it a bit to create a nice creamy sauce. Add the carbonara meat mixture and toss. Add some pasta water if needed to loosen up the sauce if it seems too thick. Toss. Serve immediately with some grated cheese and fresh ground pepper.
Chef's cheat: If you're in a real hurry and don't want to bother making your own sauce with the eggs, cheese and cream, just add a jar of creamy cheese alfredo sauce. Classico makes a good one. I've also used the alfredo sauce with sun dried tomatoes. Here's a link.
Now, get back to the coal mines with a smile on your face and a full belly. Mangia bene!