Recipe: proper spaghetti carbonara

 

IMG_0573a.jpg

Recipes are not protected by copyright law, probably as they are evolving all the time. And as much as I like to keep to tradition when it comes to certain dishes I love to experiment with others.

When it comes to pasta there is no reason to always stick to the traditional recipes, but I think it’s good to try to master them first.

Growing up in Sweden in the 1980s and 1990s, we had a lot of traditional Scandinavian dishes, usually including meat and potatoes. Italian dishes then, when the world seemed a bigger place, were often (very) bastardised versions of the real thing, and therefore not of great inspiration to me. Because I only had the school dinner version of lasagne to sample I thought for a long time I didn’t like the dish. But it turned out it was just that terrible (yes, terrible) version I didn’t like. It was the same with ravioli (and other non-Italian dishes); my reference points were bad. Whereas everything my mother (or grandmothers) cooked was always delicious, but more Scandinavian in heritage.

Now my relationship with Italian food is quite different. I have been to Italy a few times and tried the real thing, and also cooked proper Italian dishes at home. And the emulsion of water and Parmesan keeps fascinating me. First of all, it’s DELICIOUS, but also, once you get the hang of it, it’s not difficult at all as this recipe proves. And once and for all, you do not need cream to make a creamy carbonara, just a little patience and using the method below. But I must admit I added one tablespoon of it during my first attempt, although it’s not needed. As always Gennaro Contaldo’s recipes are spot on. Grazie.

Spaghetti Carbonara, serves 2

Adapted from Gennaro Contaldo’s for Jamie Oliver recipe.

3 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

Put the egg yolks into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all that lovely flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture (the pan will help to cook the egg gently, rather than scrambling it). Toss well, adding more cooking water until it’s lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and extra pepper. 

Advertisements

Recipe: fabulous lemon spaghetti

pas1.jpg

Right now we have normal Spring weather in London (as one would expect in May), but when I made this lemony pasta for the book club girls we had summer temperatures in April (!). If it hadn’t been so windy, I would have liked to eat outside but indoors had to do.

pas4.jpg

Because of the nice weather I wanted to make something summery, but more filling than a salad, so when my colleague suggested this River Café recipe I had a hunch it would be perfect.

pas6.jpg

And it was!

Looking at the ingredients list it might seem like a heavy dish but the acidity from the lemon makes it appear as light as air (well almost). It’s so fresh and really tastes of summer. So much so that it’s easy to dream of Mediterranean holidays…

But back to London and reality. The pasta went down a treat (everybody had seconds) and Mary-Louise even asked for the recipe. She has since reported back that she made it twice in one weekend and that it works just as well with the pasta shape bucatini. Thank you M-L!

pas2.jpg

Lemon spaghetti with Parmesan and basil, serves 6

Adapted from River Café’s recipe.

250 g spaghetti

juice of 3-4 lemons, preferably Amalfi lemons

150 ml olive oil

150 g Parmesan, freshly grated

2 handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked and finely chopped

finely grated lemon zest 

Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan.

Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, then stir in the Parmesan; it will melt into the mixture, making it thick and creamy. Season with sea salt and black pepper and add more lemon juice to taste.

Add the sauce to the spaghetti and shake the pan so that each strand of pasta is coated with the cheese. Finally, stir in the chopped basil and some grated lemon zest.

 

Recipe: Cacio e pepe

IMG_8607.JPG

Cacio e pepe, this heavenly dish consisting only of pasta, pecorino and black pepper (and a little cooking water from the pasta) has always seemed so daunting to make. I have enjoyed it cooked to perfection in Rome (it’s a Roman dish) but I never thought I could recreate it at home. But then I read Felicity Cloake’s article about the perfect cacio e pepe and decided to have a go as she made it seem so easy. And it turns out, with her guidance, it actually was!

The receipt is perfect. I didn’t change a thing and it worked perfectly the first time. If you’re a cacio e pepe novice like I was I highly recommend reading the article beforehand just to understand the elements of the dish better. And I can’t stress enough how important the quality of the ingredients are; buy some good dried pasta (I love de Cecco) and some really nice pecorino ( I got mine from Natoora) and your finished dish will be just as nice as the one you had in Rome on your holiday.

IMG_8615.JPG

Cacio e pepe, serves 2

Adapted from Felicity Cloake’s recipe.

2 tsp black peppercorns

200 g spaghetti 

80 g pecorino romano, at room temperature, finely grated 

Toast the peppercorns in a very hot, dry pan then roughly crush with a pestle and mortar.

Bring a wide shallow pan of well-salted water to the boil, then add the pasta; it should be covered but not by much. Stir occasionally during cooking and, five minutes into the cooking time, scoop out 250 ml water into a wide bowl to allow it to cool slightly.

Drain the pasta and leave it to cool for a minute. Meanwhile, put the cheese and most of the pepper in a large, heavy bowl or pan and beat in some of the pasta water very gradually to make first a paste, and then a sauce the consistency of bechamel. Add the pasta and toss furiously while adding enough of the water to make a sauce that coats each strand of spaghetti.

Divide between warm bowls, sprinkle over a little more pepper, and serve immediately.

 

Wild garlic pesto

rlp2

When I was in Sweden last my mother gave me a large bag of wild garlic she picked for me, so back in London I made a batch of lovely pesto that I’ve been eating lately. The same day I made it I just had it with spaghetti and (more) grated parmesan as a light lunch. Delicious!

IMG_1375

Wild garlic pesto, approx 250 ml pesto

ca 50-70 g wild garlic (about a bunch as stick as a small banana)

30 g almonds

40 g parmesan

1/2 lemon, juice only 

mild oil, approx 100-150 ml 

salt & pepper

Mix wild garlic, almonds, lemon juice and parmesan with a bit of oil to a paste in a food processor or with a stick blender. Keep adding oil until you have the consistency you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps in the fridge for 5-7 days. 

Spaghetti with courgette and smoked salmon

IMG_7241

When work is busy I usually cook pasta for dinner. It’s quick and easy yet satisfying. This version with creamy spaghetti, courgette and cold-smoked salmon feels fresh after a long day at the office. If you cook two portions it allows for a packed lunch for the following day too. Bonus.

Spaghetti with courgette and smoked salmon, serves 2

2 portions spaghetti (I prefer de Cecco)

120 g cold-smoked salmon

1/2 courgette, thinly sliced

50 ml white wine

a dash of concentrated fish stock

50 ml cream

chopped chives to serve

Cook the spaghetti al dente. Slice the salmon. Pour the wine into a small saucepan and let the alcohol evaporate and the liquid to reduce a little. Add cream and stock, let reduce a bit further and season. Add the courgette slices and let them soften in the liquid. Drain the pasta and mix with the sauce and salmon. Serve with chives.

Spaghetti with girolles, dijon and cognac

When a friend gives you three tubs of handpicked girolles (by himself) you feel the responsibility. To not disappoint I paired the lovely mushrooms with shallots, dijon mustard, some creme fraiche and cream and some cognac and served it with nice spaghetti (from De Cecco, my favourite pasta brand).

This saue is rather sharp on its own, but perfectly balanced when served with pasta. Feel free to add some black pepper or parmesan when serving, but it is really good without it too.

Spaghetti with girolles, dijon and cognac, serves 2

300 g spaghetti

1 large shallot

ca 100 g fresh or frozen girolles

1 garlic clove

butter, oil

50 ml creme fraiche

100 ml cream

2 tsp dijon

3-4 tbsp cognac

persillade, salt, white pepper

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted water according to the instructions on the packet. Chop the shallot and fry in oil and butter until soft. Remove to a bowl. Chop the mushrooms roughly, fry in plenty of butter and oil on high heat for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and add the pressed garlic. Add also the fried onion. Pour 2-3 tbsp of cognac into the pan and let it bubble away. Add cream, creme fraiche and mustard and let it thicken. If you fancy a stronger cognac taste, add 1-2 tbsp more. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and persillade. Drain the pasta and place in bowls. Top with the sauce and sigh of happiness.