Honeymooning in Rome with Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

On dreary February days such as this, I tend to find myself reminiscing about all of the delicious things I've eaten, wishing that I could just snap my fingers and have a buffet laid out with plates overflowing with every tasty morsel.  Alas, as much as I wish I were Hermione Granger or Molly Weasley, I am not.  In fact, I'm not even close as I would most definitely be placed in Hufflepuff if I were to ever get the chance to don that old Sorting Hat... 

Well, a girl can dream.  For now, I will have to settle with whipping up my own plates of deliciousness.

Today, my thoughts are filled with memories of my honeymoon.  The hubs and I went on a wee tour of Iceland, France, and Italy back in November and ate every single thing that struck our fancy.  Iceland's bounty offered up the most fantastic hearty breads and seafood, France had more butter, wine, and pastries than I could have ever imagined, and Italy's obvious prowess with pasta has yet to be surpassed.  On our first night in Rome, Aaron and I found ourselves toddling about in search of food and stumbled across a little restaurant a few blocks away from Piazza Navona.  We saw other diners voratiously digging in to plates piled high with peppery, yolky pasta topped with smokey guanciale and dusted with nutty pecornio.  Needless to say, Aaron was sold.  

While my recipe for spaghetti carbonara differs slightly from tradition by using easier to find pancetta in place of the guanciale, the hubs seems to be a pretty big fan.  This recipe is as simple as anything and brings us back to that night, sipping campari and meandering the moonlit streets of Rome.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4

400g dry spaghetti
5 egg yolks
1 tsp salt
½ - 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
150 - 200g pancetta, sliced about 1cm thick and diced into 1cm cubes
Reserved pasta cooking water

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt, pepper, pecorino, and parsley and set aside.  The mixture should be quite thick but don't worry - we'll thin it out with a little pasta water later.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the spaghetti until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and cook the chopped pancetta until golden and crisp.  Remove the pancetta from the pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  If your think you're a little shy of 2 tablespoons, pour some extra olive oil into the hot pan.

When the pasta is done cooking, scoop out about ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside while you drain the spaghetti.

Remove the frying pan from the heat, carefully add the pasta and cooked pancetta, and stir to coat with the hot oil.

While the spaghetti heats , slowly dribble about 3 - 4 tablespoons of the pasta water into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid curdling.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the spaghetti and mix for about 5 – 10 seconds only.  Quickly transfer everything back into the egg yolk bowl and continue to stir until each noodle is nicely coated.  This back-and-forth trick (eggs from bowl to pan to bowl) helps ensure that the sauce thickens and cooks without turning into scrambled eggs.

If your carbonara seems a bit thick, slowly add a little more of the pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. 

Serve topped with a little more pecorino, parsley, and black pepper for an quick, easy, and pretty darn tasty Rome-inspired dinner!

An aubergine valentine

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

Ah, Valentine’s Day!  Whether you love it or hate it, there is one rallying cry we can all get behind on February 14th: today is a day for good food!

I started this morning bright and early by cooking up my take on steak frites with wee little hand pies for dessert on CTV’s Your Morning (check out these recipes and the video for the segment here!) and have been hemming and hawing about what to make for dinner tonight ever since.

So, for our first Valentine’s as a married duo, I’ve decided on something that’s quick, easy, and mutually adored by both Aaron and I alike.  We’re about to dive into some rich, meaty, and cheesy Roasted Eggplant Parmesan!

Purists may scoff but this is my go-to version of eggplant parm.  No, it is not dredged in bread crumbs.  No, it is not fried.  Yes, it is delicious.  And to be honest, without the dredge, I’ll feel a little less gluttonous adding copious showers of extra Parmesan cheese while sharing this meal with my beloved.

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 2 (with some leftover for lunch)

1 medium eggplant
1 tsp kosher salt
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cups quick and classic tomato sauce (or your favourite store bought tomato sauce)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 slices of fresh mozzarella or, if you’re feeling nontraditional, some goat Gouda (half the thickness of the eggplant slices and about the same size around)
Fresh basil to garnish, optional
Parmesan frico to garnish, optional (recipe follows)

Preheat your oven to 375F, line one cookie sheet with tin foil, and another with a layer of paper towel.

For the eggplant, trim off the top and bottom and slice into 1 cm disks.  This should give you about 15 slices but more or less is fine.  Place the slices in a single layer on the paper towel lined cookie sheet and evenly sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.  This will draw out some of the moisture and bitterness from the eggplant and give it a super lovely texture. 

Allow the salted eggplant to sit for about 20 minutes while you gently heat the tomato sauce, finely grate the Parmesan cheese, and slice the mozzarella (or goat Gouda if you’re like me and that’s all you have on hand).

Pat the eggplant dry with another piece of paper towel and coat the foil lined cookie sheet with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil.  Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the sheet and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and pop the eggplant into your preheated oven for 20 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through.

Remove the eggplant from your oven and top each with 1 – 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce and evenly sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.  At this point, the eggplant slices should look almost like little pizzas! 

Choose the three prettiest pieces of eggplant and top each with a slice of mozzarella (or Gouda).  Pop the whole thing back into the oven and cook until the cheese is perfectly melted and maybe a bit golden.  If you’re in a rush or just want some crispy bits of cheese, throw on the broiler but be sure to keep your eyes and nose on alert – burnt cheese is rarely if ever a good thing.

To serve, dollop some sauce down onto your plates and stack 5 or so of the roasted eggplant slices on top, making sure to finish with the super cheesy mozzarella layer.  Toss some fresh basil on there as well as some freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Parmesan frico and share with your honey.


Parmesan Frico

¼ cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 375F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Scatter the Parmesan cheese onto the centre of the parchment paper, making sure that the cheese stays concentrated in one even and thinly spread layer.

Bake for 5 – 8 minutes or until melted and just slightly brown.  Be careful not to over brown the cheese because it. will. taste. awful.

Remove the parchment from the hot cookie sheet and allow the frico to cool completely.  Break apart and serve as wispy little crackers or on anything that is made better by Parmesan cheese (hint: roasted eggplant parm)!