I’ve made a lot of carbonara in my day. I used to be kind of addicted. can you blame me? A little pasta, some pancetta or guanciale, the egg yolk-enriched sauce, and freshly grated Pecorino or Parmigiano. Perfection. When I first learned how to make it in cooking school, I understood why it was a winning dish. I also found out how rich it is. I don’t make carbonara a lot these days. It’s so rich, it’s hard to get up from the dinner table afterwards! So, I was fooling around in the kitchen the other evening, and I decided to change it up a bit. I wanted it to be the classic I always loved, but somehow a bit brighter. Maybe cut with some veggies. The solution? Brussels sprouts. Once these are roasted or charred, I end up popping them in my mouth like candy. (Children are gasping the world over.) I didn’t have a lot of time, so I did a quick char in a hot skillet with some olive oil, butter, garlic, salt and pepper.
I wondered what else I could add. Then it hit me. Pesto. I had just made a batch for soupe au pistou (recipe coming this week!), and I had some leftover in the fridge.
Good gracious! The pesto and sprouts sent my simple pasta dish into outer space. It lightened and brightened things, but the integrity of the original dish was kept intact. And, if you already have pesto made, or you use store-bought, it’s a cinch. (It’s okay. I won’t tell. You do what you have to do to get dinner on the table.)
A dish of pasta, a hunk of bread, a glass of vino. Perfetto. Eat it al fresco on a beautiful evening, and you just might come to tears.
Note: I would normally add 2 egg yolks for 12 oz of pasta, but the pesto did a nice job of thickening, so I cut it down to 1 yolk.
Here’s a picture of a package of pancetta as sold in a natural foods market. Try to get great quality pancetta from an Italian deli or reputable purveyor.