Harris Teeter - usually a little too pricey for me, I go now and then to check out the produce they have on the quick sale rack, and some of the specialty items you don't see anywhere else around here. This time they had some green beans for 75 cents, regularly almost $3.00. So I bought two bags of them.
I wasn't sure what I would do with them when I bought them but when I got home and looked at what else I had in the pantry and freezer, peas, ricotta cheese, bacon bits, parmesan cheese, eggs, and Orecchietti pasta, it became Carbonara with Green Beans and Peas.
To me there's not much that's more comforting than a pasta dish. When I think comfort food, I usually think pasta. Even if I want soup, I want pasta in my soup. As a kid it was ChiliMac. You know, the elbow macaroni with ground beef and tomato sauce. Mmmmm. I could eat a ton of it then. We used to make it at Girl Scout Camp in a huge kettle and you could have all you wanted. After I got older, it was plain old spaghetti with meat sauce and mushrooms. Back then it could have been out of a can and I would have loved it. As a matter of fact I use to eat Chef Boyardee Raviolo right out of the can. But most of the time I browned some ground beef and poured a jar of Ragu with Mushrooms into the beef and spooned it over some spaghetti noodles topped with a little Parmesan. Now that I'm a little older still, and about the same time that I started learning more about cooking, I came to favor dishes like Angel Hair Pasta with a really fresh marinara, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh basil.
Today the pasta dishes are anything concocted with whatever I have and often include a variety of herbs and/or spices. In March I posted the Vegetable Spaghetti I love so much in "Something Out of Nothing". Often times I will make a Pasta Primavera with chunky vegetables like zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes or mushrooms, with tomato sauce or a garlic and olive oil sauce with salt a cracked pepper. I've been making my own tomato sauce too since we are growing our own tomatoes so the jarred sauces are kept on the shelf only for those times when I want to make something and I don't have time to defrost.
The Harris Teeter green beans somehow inspired me to make a Carbonara. I was hungry when I was shopping (very dangerous) so I started craving all kinds of things I shouldn't eat. But pasta was on my mind. It was delicious and pretty easy to make. The only "difficult" step might be the "carbonara" part where you add egg yolk to the sauce. You have to be quick and careful not to scramble the egg or it just won't have the flavor Carbonara is supposed to have.
Bacon is fairly integral to an authentic Carbonara, but you can certainly leave it out if you are not a fan of bacon. Authentic Carbonara would use strips of bacon cut up into pieces and use all the fat leftover to make the sauce. (Too fatty for me.) Adding a drop of some liquid smoke would work too. Liquid smoke is a fantastic ingredient, but wow, is it strong. More than one drop and you have ruind the dish. I never pour it from the bottle into my dish. I always pour a drop into the cap first so I'm sure I only get a tiny little bit.
This isn't the healthiest dish I've ever made. Pasta, bacon bits, egg. Three or four times a year though shouldn't be too sinful. There isn't really a way to make a Carbonara into a healthier dish though because it's the egg and the bacon that make it carbonara. The liquid smoke could substitute the bacon, and I supposed one could use a little bit of "Eggbeaters" to substitute for the yolks. So, go ahead, try the substitutions. I just don't think it would taste like a real Carbonara should taste.
Here's how to make my version of easy
CARBONARA WITH GREEN BEANS AND PEAS
1/2 lb Orecchietti (or some other chunky pasta)
1 c fresh or frozen peas
1 lb cleaned and cut green beans
1 T. Olive oil
1 c. ricotta cheese
1 T. cracked or 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 - 3 T. real bacon bits
1/2 - 3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
More Parmesan for garnish
Put up a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is being cooked, in a large skillet, saute the cleaned and cut green beans until they are almost done. Leave them just a little crispy. If you are using fresh peas cook them with the green beans so they will cook through. If you are using frozen, add the peas to the cooked green beans and let them warm through.
Now beat the egg together with the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Stir in the bacon bits. Set aside for a moment.
When the pasta is cooked to your liking, reserve a cup of the cooking water before you drain the it. Drain the pasta, and immediately add the very hot pasta to the skillet with the beans and peas. Leave the heat on very low. Add the ricotta and egg mixture immediately stirring quickly to coat everything and to keep the eggs from scrambling. Add the cracked pepper and stir in well. The heat of the hot pasta will cook the eggs sufficiently.
Serve in pasta bowls topped with a little more grated or shaved Parmesan. It's a complete meal. No bread required because you have pasta, no salad required because you have beans and peas. Although, a small green salad would be lovely with this meal. Hope you'll enjoy this one!
Next time, it's Sweet Potato Soup with Fennel. Creamy and delicious, it's elegant enough to serve company, or just sip from a cup and savor it. If you don't like sweet potatoes, give this one a chance. The fennel I added gave the soup a beautifully savory flavor. You'll love it.