HUB’S HINTS ~ CAMPER’S “COMFORT” CARBONARA
If you are a fan of “Comfort Food”, those dishes that warm the heart and nourish the sole, you will thoroughly enjoy this rich and savory Italian comfort food specialty – Pasta alla Carbonara. I mean, think about it; what could be more comforting than a combination of heavy cream, butter, cheese, bacon and pasta. Anyone who enjoys a delicious and satisfying “Mac & Cheese”, will find this dish a truly be a religious experience! Carbonara is a traditional Italian pasta dish that is based on eggs, butter, cream, cheese, bacon and seasonings. There are many variations of the ingredients and preparations but, once you prepare the following recipe, you may feel compelled to experiment in order to fully reward your adventurous spirit.
The origin of this dish (like many dishes worldwide) is rather obscure. There are numerous stories about its name but, most Italians believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for the charcoal workers in the urban areas south of Rome and in the regions of Umbria and Lazio. The derivation of the name Carbonara is from “Carbonaro” the Italian word for charcoal burner and it has even been suggested that the dish was created as a tribute to the “Carbonari” (the charcoal men, a secret society that figured prominently in the unification of Italy). In parts of the U.S. this dish is often referred to as the “coal miner’s spaghetti”.
Although, this hearty and savory dish can be enjoyed at home, the camping community may soon refer to this dish as the “Camper’s Comfort Carbonara”!
CAMPER’S COMFORT CARBONARA (serves 4)
¾ lb of Thick, Center Cut Bacon – A variation of this ingredient could be pancetta and/or prosciutto or, consider a combination of the three – bacon, pancetta and prosciutto.
4 Egg Yokes * Separate the yolks from the clear liquid, place in a bowl to mix with other ingredients. Please consider purchasing only cage free organic eggs – for your own health and to support the care of the animals.
¼ cup of Heavy Cream
1 cup of Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese – Imported Reggiano Parmesan is recommended – variations of this ingredient for future consideration could be Pecorino Romano or Asiago, or a combination of the three – Parmesan, Romano and Asiago. Ultimately, it will be a matter of taste preference.
¼ cup of Diced White Onion
1 clove of Fresh Garlic Minced
½ teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon of Freshly Ground Black Pepper
½ teaspoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 tablespoons of Butter – I recommend Kerry Gold, pure Irish butter made from milk from grass-fed cows (seems a bit against the grain to use an Irish component in an Italian dish but, it works extremely well).
1 lb of Thin Spaghetti – My recommendation is to use Barilla # 3 Thin Spaghetti ~ a variation for the pasta could be Angel Hair, fettuccine, Rigatoni, Penne or Bucatini style pasta.
1 cup Frozen, Early Harvest, Petite Peas
Fry the bacon until a firm texture (not quite crispy or hard) place on paper towel to drain off the grease. Cut the bacon or break apart into approximate ¼ inch size pieces and set aside. Pour off the excess grease from the pan, let cool – with a paper towel wipe out the excess grease and remaining bacon crumbs around the perimeter of the pan. Leave a bit of bacon residue in the center of the pan – add the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic on medium-high heat for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, remove from pan and set aside.
Cook the pasta “al dente”, pasta should never be fully cooked, soft and mushy. It needs always to be slightly firm and chewy but not hard. Drain pasta and have piping hot ready for the cheese mixture. Be careful not to let the pasta sit too long – it will stick together!
In the bowl, beat the egg yolks for a few minutes with a fork, add the cream and gently stir together, add the cheese, salt, fresh ground pepper – make sure the mixture is well stirred and mixed together before pouring into the hot pan with the butter.
In a large high sided fry pan or a pot large enough to hold all of the cooked pasta, heat the butter until golden (not brown) and bubbling (not separated). Pour in the egg and cheese mixture. Over low heat allow the egg mixture to partially cook in the heated butter. Make sure the egg mixture does not cook too much. The hot spaghetti will complete the cooking process. When the egg mixture is ready, add the spaghetti, crumbled bacon and frozen peas, mix the contents thoroughly. Keep over low heat while stirring. When the pasta is completely coated and all ingredients have been sufficiently mixed – Serve Immediately!
I sincerely believe that this Italian specialty will be warm and comforting, delicious, engaging and satisfying. Enjoy!
POSSIBLE ITALIAN WINE ACCOMPANIMENTS
VINO BIANCO ~
RUFFINO – ORVIETO CLASSICO DOC, UNBRIA
Description: The winery was founded in 1870 by Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino. Immediately the foundation was established for Ruffino to become one of Italy’s most well-known and beloved labels. Although Ruffino is known predominately for superior quality Chianti, the winery produces a limited assortment of additional releases. The Orvieto is named after one of Italy’s most beautiful cities of the same name, located on a hilltop between Florence and Rome. “Classico” refers to the original delimited vineyard location that made the area famous. “DOC” (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) is the Italian assurance of authenticity and area of production. Ruffino’s Orveito is made from 40% Grechetto, 20% Procanico, with the balance of the blend – Verdello and Canaiolo Bianco. Taste: Flowery (meadow flowers) fragrance, pleasant, versatile, easy drinking and refreshing with a citrus and golden apple fruit flavors and possessing a hint almond and fresh sage.
ALLEGRINI – SOAVE DOC, VENETO
Description: Since the 16th century, the Allegrini family has been engaged in the tireless pursuit of excellence and perfection in a winemaking area just north of Verona. Years of research, experimentation and meticulous attention to detail has established Allegrini as one of the true innovators and respected labels. Allegrini’s Soave is made from 80% Garganega (an indigenous grape variety) and 20% Chardonnay. The fruit is hand-harvested from 25-year-old vines grown in chalky and volcanic soils. The must is cold-macerated to preserve the fresh vibrant character and to add a fuller flavor extraction. Taste: The fragrant, wildflower aroma is complemented by a subtle and elegant citrus, white peach and grapefruit complexity and a lingering, refreshing minerality.
LA SCOLCA – GAVI, PIEMONTE
Description: This is one of Italy’s most respected, superior quality white wines that is intended to be consumed early but, is a wine that will improve with age. Gavi is made entirely of Cortese (meaning “courteous” in Italian). The grapes are grown in the commune of Gavi in the heart of Piedmont approximately 30 miles north of Genoa. La Scolca is known around the world as the paragon of Italian white wines. Taste: Bone-dry, high-toned and intense, crisp, rich and fine, with refreshing acidity and mineral notes.
VINO ROSSO ~
LA CARRAIA – SANGIOVESE IGT, UMBRIA
Description: La Carraia was founded in 1976 by the Gialletti and Cortarella families. Riccardo Cotarella is one of the most respected authorities on the production of Italian wines. La Carraia produces a broad spectrum of wines intended to satisfy the palates of the casual but, demanding value-oriented consumers. This wine is made from 100% Sangiovese (the grape of Chianti) aged in Allier and Nevers (French Oaks) barrels for a rich texture and a refined smooth mouth feel. “IGT” (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) is an Italian wine designation (Law) identifying origin and traditional style of wine. Taste: Brilliant, ruby color, rich and lush layers of fruit with abundant ripe blackberry and currant with hints of chocolate, mocha, tobacco and sweet spice finishing with a vibrant and refreshing acidity.
LE RAGOSE – VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE RIPASSO, VENETO
Description: Valpolicella is an amiable red wine, velvety, fragrant, subtle and delicious. The wine is produced in an area in the northwest portion of Italy, just north of Verona. Le Ragose sources its fruit exclusively from estate owned vineyards, 1,200 feet above sea level and from vines that average 30 to 60 years old. The wine is made from 50% Corvina and 50% a blend of Molinara and Rondinella grape varieties. The fruit is hand-picked and carefully fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel casks. “Superiore” is a designation for aging – in this case 1 year in stainless and two years in Slavonian Oak. “Ripasso” is a production method involving the added fermentation of mat dried fruit – as is done with Amarone. Taste: This special Valpolicella is perfectly balanced, with the rich, luxurious complexity of Amarone and the softer mouthfeel of traditional Valpolicella. The wine has a bright acidity with plum and pomegranate flavors and a hint of ground spice and pine forest.
MONTI – MONTEPULCIAO D’ABRUZZO DOC, ABRUZZO
Description: Montepulciano is produced in the region of Abruzzi in the south-central, eastern portion of Italy (in the region directly east of Rome). Normally, soft, easy drinking and affordable wines come from this area. However, Monti produces something truly special. This is a small family owned and operated facility specializing in fine quality wines of pedigree and reputation. Baffo, meaning “mustached” in Italian, is the name of the family dog that appears on the label of each of the family’s wines. This delicious red wine is made from 95% Montepulciano (the red wine grape variety of southern Italy) and 5 % Sangiovese (the grape of Chianti). Taste: Dark, inky, ruby-red color, fleshy fruit flavors, intense ripe blackberry and cherry flavors with hints of herbs, licorice, black pepper and smoke – round, ripe tannins, a complex structure and delicate acidity.
The wines have not been listed in order of preference. It does not matter if you prefer white wines or if your taste leans more towards red, all of these wine selections would nicely complement this particular “Comfort” dish. Search for these wines at your local retail shop or consult with the resident wine specialist for recommendations of wines that are similar and/or that fit your pricing preferences and tolerances.