Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cheap Bastid's Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

Here’s a recipe that’s become a favorite when we want a change of pace. This combines several favorite flavors all into this “one dish” meal starting with what is arguably the “superstar” ingredient—bacon. It takes about a half-hour from start to finish and it can be dinner or even a weekend brunch.

Spaghetti Carbonara is a classic Italian dish combining the smokiness of bacon with eggs, parmesan cheese and pasta. You just can’t go wrong with ingredients like that. And it definitely meets the Cheap Bastid criteria.

I checked out a whole bunch of different recipes for this dish. The one I’m using here is, quite frankly, an adaptation of Emeril Lagasse’s version of Spaghetti Carbonara because it’s the simplest. I’ve made a couple of changes (like using 2 eggs rather than 4). So give it a try and enjoy.

Spaghetti Carbonara

½ pound bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
Up to 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
2-4 large eggs beaten
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano or other parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (or dried if that’s all you’ve got)

Get out your pasta pot and prepare your salted water (about 2 quarts). Put your pasta pot on medium high to high heat and cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Get out a large sauté pan (or I really like using my wok for this) and cook the bacon until crispy over medium heat. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all of the oil except for 3 tablespoons. Add the garlic.
Season with black pepper. Sauté for 30 seconds.
Now put the bacon back in the wok and then add the pasta. Sauté for 1 minute. Season the beaten eggs with salt. Turn off the heat an
d add the eggs, whisking quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble. The eggs should blend into the pasta and bacon. I take a pair of tongs and turn, turn, turn the whole mixture to thoroughly incorporate everything. Add the cheese and re-season with salt and pepper and then turn, turn, turn some more. Mound into serving bowls or on plates and garnish with parsley.

This is tasty. With the bacon combined with egg and pasta, it turns into stick to your ribs comfort food. We like to have this with a garden salad so that it’s balanced with some fresh veggies and a bit of acid.

The Cheap Bastid Test: A half pound of bacon costs us $1. 2 eggs are plenty for us in this dish and cost about $.30. We use about ¾ lb of pasta or $.75 worth and quite frankly, we use a small shaker’s worth of parmesan from the Dollar Store for $1. Total cost is $3.05 and it makes enough for supper and a lunch. That means that it’s a skosh over $.75 per serving. Not bad at all. Hey, add another egg and the whole pound of pasta for another $.50 and it’s dinner for 4.

Now, there are those aficionados who will look askance at Cheap Bastid using dollar store parmesan. You are free to use whatever grade of this or any other ingredient you want but I’m not up for spending $3 or $4 on this one ingredient, which while important, would mean that I wouldn’t prepare the dish as often if at all. I can get about 75% of the flavor for about 35% of the price. I’ll take that trade-off.

That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good! Eat Cheap! Be Grateful!

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