Italian Comfort Food, with a Taste of History

I’ve devised a work around pasta alla carbonara that complies with kosher dietary laws and is quite tasty.

A popular Italian comfort food dish, pasta alla carbonara generally presents problems for Jewish diners, given that it features pancetta (Italian bacon) and Parmesan cheese. But I’ve devised a work around that complies with kosher dietary laws and is quite tasty. The fact that it happens to be a lighter, healthier version is just a bonus.
Like many recipes, the history of this one is hazy. One story credits the “carbonara” or “coal miners” with developing the dish as something that could easily be prepared over a fire during their shifts with a few ingredients grabbed from the kitchen (or henhouse)
en route to work. The generous sprinkle of pepper is said to mimic the inevitable specks of coal that would drop into the dish as an occupational hazard while the miners were preparing and eating it. Another traces the name back to a secret revolutionary society called the “Carbinari,” which is credited with uniting the country of Italy.
Another theory claims that the dish was invented by necessity at the end of World War II. The Allied Forces, when liberating Italy, dropped food parcels containing American staples — dried eggs and bacon — throughout the country as a part of the relief effort for the formerly occupied land. The Italians took these ingredients, mixed them with the pasta and pecorino cheese they had on hand, and Carbonara was born. (Leave it to the Italians to make something so fabulous with such rudiments.) Thank you for this info.
But onto the recipe, which serves four generously …
Pasta Alla Carbonara
1 lb. fresh fettuccine pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 slices turkey bacon, sliced into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
4 eggs, coddled
½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
In a large skillet, heat oil and sauté turkey bacon and onions for about 10 minutes. Bacon should be cooked to a near crisp, and onions should be completely soft.
While bacon cooks, coddle eggs. Place eggs in shells in large bowl. Boil water, and pour the water over the eggs. Leave them for one minute, then run cold water into bowl over the eggs. Crack the eggs into a large serving bowl, add salt and pepper, and mix.
Pour cooked bacon mixture into eggs and stir, then cover while pasta cooks. (This helps the eggs “cook” a bit more.)
Boil pasta according to package directions in salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water in case sauce is too thick. Dump pasta over bacon/egg mixture and toss. If sauce doesn’t coat pasta, add a bit of the cooking water to loosen it up. Serve immediately.
Given the richness of this dish, even lightened up by using turkey bacon and omitting cheese, pasta alla carbonara is best rounded out with light, fresh sides. The following two salads complement the dish well. If there’s a chill in the air and your companions crave warm side dishes, I suggest a mélange of simply roasted or steamed spring vegetables.
Tomato Basil Salad
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes rinsed and cut in half (these tend to be tastier year round than their larger cousins, which are shipped from around the globe or forced in hot houses)
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, rinsed and sliced into thin ribbons
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsps. balsamic vinegar
¼ – ½ tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients; toss and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
Serves 4
Lemon Arugula Salad
1 package Arugula (5 oz)
juice of 1 lemon
¼ tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
sprinkle of garlic powder
2 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
Place arugula in salad bowl. Sprinkle dressing ingredients over the leaves, and toss thoroughly. Serve immediately.
For dessert, offer a fruit salad or selection of fresh berries splashed with your favorite liqueur. Alternatively, serve scoops of coffee or chocolate sorbet sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts, or a fruit sorbet garnished with chopped fresh mint.
Simple and elegant.
Buon Appetito! 


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