I generally do not like Carbonara. In fact, I have recipe books with notes written on the pages of the recipe, “Do not make again. Ever. Even if you think you might like it.” But Ben’s “bacon forward” creamy carbonara at Marzano lit a little fire under me to try it again.
And then there’s this: tonight, I’m completely, utterly, beyond comprehension exhausted. Last night, we hosted a dinner for the high school wrestling coaches as an end-of-season celebration. It was very fun and I got to hold a sweet, little, two-week-old boy, Gavin. A spent Sunday afternoon preparing, and last night completed the meal: mezze platter, Pastitsio from Ina Garten, Greek salad with cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, kalamatas, feta and a red wine vinaigrette. Surprisingly good Greek pita bread from Costco. Green Salad. It was a successful feast.
Nevertheless, tonight I’m tapped. I came home from school, finished the cleanup, put on some jammies and collapsed on the sofa. My intent was to send Ben to the local Rocket Alley for turkey-bacon-ranch wraps, but I didn’t have the energy to ask out-right and he wasn’t cluing into my hints. So I was faced with the ubiquitous dilemma: What to cook for dinner?
I’ve struggled with this question before. Tonight, it came down things I would prefer to cook that are simple vs. what I actually have on hand. Chicken with smashed potatoes? No potatoes. Beef stroganoff? No sour cream or fresh mushrooms. There were other thoughts not worth mentioning. The bottom line is that I was missing one ingredient for each thing, and I’m not a fan of throwing together “whatever’s in the fridge.” I thought about the easy things I could pull from on-hand. Bacon. Pasta. Canned mushrooms (for emergencies only, I swear, and this constitutes an emergency). Italian flat leaf parsley that needs to be used. Leftover whipping cream from the Pastitsio. Half a red onion. Parmesan, which I always have in the fridge. So Carbonara came to mind and a search for “creamy carbonara recipe” returned some delicious-looking options. The recipe I’m trying tonight is from The Recipe Critic and I was delighted to see that I’ve been to this blog before with some successful results.
I cooked and hid the bacon from my son so he doesn’t sneak through and take a piece…or two or three, all stealth-like. Pulled the “artisan” pasta that I’ve saved for the right moment. Prepped the remaining ingredients. Boiled the pasta. (Saved the bacon for a BLT for lunch tomorrow. This week is a bad eating week.) Served it up in pasta bowls with extra parm & chopped parsely.
Here is the verdict. It was good. It wasn’t spectacular. Definitely not the Marzano version, but my guys liked it. Super-surprisingly, the teenager had second helpings. This is a rarity. So I’m not giving up on the creamy carbonara quest. Perhaps next time a bit more bacon, one less egg, a little more parm, no veggies.
Cooking, like anything, is about practice.