Tuesday 30 April 2013

Penne Carbonara with Hot Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes

Carbonara is a silky, creamy pasta sauce made with eggs, cream, Parmigiano and usually bacon or pancetta. I'm switching the bacon out for spicy Italian sausage, but you could use any thing you like. I've seen Jamie Oliver do a carbonara with smoked chorizo once and it looked quite interesting. If you decide to use sausage, you can just slice them into coins and toss them in. I like to remove them from the casings and crumble chunks of it into pasta dishes. It's more rustic and appeals to me, personally. Traditionally you would use pork with this dish but you're the boss of your food. Like every savoury dish this one calls for salt and pepper, but if you want to stay traditional be a little more generous than you normally would be with the pepper. It's not only for seasoning. Carbonara is supposed to have a sharp, pepperyness to it. It's not supposed to make your eyes water but you get the picture.

This is very simple and straight forward. The only thing you have to be careful with is adding the sauce to the pasta. The uncooked sauce has raw egg in it. If you add it to a screaming hot pan, the egg will scramble. You want to add a bit of starchy pasta water to stop the frying, remove the pan from the heat then wait for about a minute or until it stops sizzling. That way the residual heat from the pasta, the fixings and the pan will cook the egg just enough to add a silkiness to the sauce. It's not a custardy sauce, quite light actually. This recipe yields enough for five people (or four hungry people). I used two whole eggs and three egg yolks. If you're making this dish for two, you can get away with one whole egg. Think at least one yolk per person but less than a whole egg per person. You will be fine. 

I'm using penne here but you can use any pasta you prefer.


3 cups of uncooked penne rigate
3 Italian sausages
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
An equal amount (to zucchini) of asparagus, halved and sliced
2/3 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 cup cream
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
1 tbsp of olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Cook your pasta as per the package instructions. The meat, veg and sauce will take about the same amount of time.

In a mixing bowl, add the eggs, yolks, cream, Parmigiano and a generous amount of pepper. Whisk until thoroughly combined. No need for salt because it's already in the Parmigiano and should also be in your boiling pasta water. 

In a skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil and add your sausage. Sautée for about five minutes or until browned.

Add the zucchini and the asparagus. Sautée for an additional three minutes.

Add the minced shallot and garlic. Continue to sautée for three more minutes or until the pasta is finished cooking. 

Before you drain your pasta, add a ladle of the starchy water to the pan. This will stop the frying process immediately. Drain the pasta in a strainer over a mug or cup. You may need to add a little more of the pasta water later.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the tomatoes.

Add the pasta to the pan and stir to combine well. Dump in the egg and cream mixture and stir until well coated. In a matter of about 90 seconds all the residual heat should cook the egg just so without scrambling it. The sauce will be smooth and luscious yet light. You may have to add some of the reserved pasta water if yours is a little thick for your liking. The sauce shouldn't weigh everything down. If you'd like to brighten up the flavours of the sauce, you could squeeze the juice of half a lemon in at this stage and that will do wonders.

Have a final taste for seasoning and plate. Top with some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano before serving.

Easy, right? If you are concerned about the raw egg part of this dish, just make sure you use fresh eggs. If you follow this recipe you will be just fine. Stirring that sauce into the warm pan for a couple of minutes will cook the egg into the sauce. If you are still not convinced, then I don't know what to tell you. Don't make this recipe if it makes you nervous. Just know that you will miss out on this very delicious, very quick and very satisfying meal.

You can add as much or as little vegetables as you want. Fresh herbs will also work great in this dish, particularly thyme.

So give this a try, let me know what you think and we'll be seeing you again soon.


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