06 August 2007

Pasta to the Rescue

I've been a cooking funk for the past few weeks. I would walk past my kitchen and 'sigh', so completely uninspired to make anything that my feet wouldn't even leave the carpet and touch its linoleum floor.

This cooking torpor began innocently enough with the loss of appetite from an unpleasant summer flu in the beginning of July after returning from Washington D.C.—the trip left me more run down than wanted to admit. My body recovered from its feverish state in a few days, but my stomach didn't follow for many days longer. And when it did revived itself, I somehow lost my desire to cook in the meantime. So thus began a string of buying takeout for dinner or making sandwiches for my meals.

But in about a week my budget couldn't take the abuse of eating out every night, nor could my tummy take could the steady diet of restaurant prepared food for that matter. Then several days later sandwiches became tiresome. Bread is good, but I can't exist on it alone—I'm Chinese; I need rice and noodles to feel complete.

Over the weekend, to dig myself out of this food downer, I decided to force myself to make something and that something was pasta. So now you might be asking why didn't I make rice. Quick explanation: My rice cooker broke several months ago; I was borrowing a friend's in the meantime, but that needed to be returned a few days ago; and I'm researching what rice cooker to next, still—if anyone wants to suggest a brand/model feel free. But back to the pasta....

I decided to do a simple carbonara. What could be more stimulating for my appetite, yet soothing to my stomach, than a luxurious sauce of egg, cream, and cheese, I thought. I used a recipe from Nigella Lawson's Food Network show as a point of reference and modified it suit my mood and what I had in the fridge.

Instead of pancetta, I used Canadian Bacon, the only porky produce I had on hand. I tossed in a variety of vegetables—green, yellow, and red peppers and zucchini—because I had bags of them, along with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and celery, at my disposal after attending a lecture a couples days earlier and making off with the leftover veggie tray at the host's insistence.

Hardly a traditional carbonara, but it was still okay to eat. I had a small plate for dinner and took more to work for lunch the next day.


1 pound spaghetti
2 cups cubed pancetta rind removed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg
Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta.
In another large pan that will fit the pasta later, cook the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Pour over the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream, and pepper. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, but since you want it kept al dente start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.

When the pasta is done, remove approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Put the pan with the bacon cubes back on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Thin with pasta water, if needed. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg to serve.

Food Network
Show: Nigella Feasts
Episode: Solitary Sensations

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