Smoked Bucatini Carbonara

Pen and Palate Smoked Bucatini Carbonara

illustration: tram nguyen

 

I spent last week in LA, where the plan was to do daily yoga, eat lots of kale, go surfing a few times, and otherwise stick to a very strict schedule of internet-free writing. Obviously, I did none of this. Instead, I spent the week sampling exotic ice cream flavors, wasting time on the internet, walking in search of everyday establishments like drug stores that seemed mysteriously few and far between, and gorging on carbs and Mexican food.

Of course, it was L.A., so the carbs and Mexican food were very “organic.” At one lunch I ate a straight-from-the-farm lentil sausage soup with about 5 pieces of incredibly delicious homemade whole grain bread. I treated myself to many bowls of exquisitely fresh guacamole. The tortillas were, unfailingly, straight off that fun little tortilla conveyer belt. But I was a little suspicious of all this “wholesome eating.” My jeans were still getting tight, were they not? What makes organic gluttony – which, for the record, is quite expensive – any better than good, old-fashioned cheapo binging?  I prefer my gluttony straight. Not tarted up in local sustainable sheep’s clothing.

Naturally, then, my favorite restaurant in Venice made no bones about its incredibly indulgent menu. (Okay, it made one bone: The place bills itself as a “snack bar” while then serving up three-course offerings of, say, burrata, crispy pork sausage, and pasta. It seemed rather disingenuous, unless people in L.A. eat just one course and call it a snack?) My friend ordered Superba’s claim to fame, a smoked bucatini carbonara with a poached egg, and I coveted it terribly. My friend was gracious enough to pretend not to notice I was staring at her food with maniacal crazy-eyes, and she offered to share. I was raised to be almost uncomfortably polite — if a friend’s mom gave me a ride home, I could not help but thank her super earnestly at least 4 times — but my love for a good carbonara renders me a helpless, spaghetti-sucking monster. In addition to my own gnocchi, I ate most of Christine’s dish. Sorry, Christine :(

Clearly I was haunted by this meal, so upon returning to New York I immediately set about trying to recreate it.  As a consequence, I now have tremendous respect for these Superba people. It took me three tries to get anywhere close to the dish I remembered, and to make matters worse I was trying to cut back on my pasta consumption for the week. I’d attempt the recipe, take two bites, feed the rest to my boyfriend, and then glare at him in a blind rage while he greedily scarfed it down.  I think we can all agree that I am a modern day Joan of Arc.

SMOKED BUCATINI CARBONARA

Makes 2 servings

2 eggs
8 oz. bucatini
5 dashes liquid smoke
½ cup freshly grated grana padano cheese (plus extra for garnish)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tbs mascarpone
½ cup pancetta
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper

Poach the eggs. I use the Smitten Kitchen recipe and it has always served me well.

Render the pancetta. I cut mine up into small (1/4 inch) pieces and then saute them medium-low until they’re a nice reddish brown.

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil. Add the bucatini.

Heat the mascarpone on low in a sauté pan big enough to contain the pasta. Add the heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, and the liquid smoke. Heat on low for about 4 minutes or until the pasta’s al dente. It should smell smoky. When the pasta is done, quickly drain and add it to the carbonara sauce. (Quickly because you don’t want it to lose its heat.) Mix them all together for about 30 seconds and then turn off the heat. Add the pancetta and the eggs. With a fork, pierce the eggs and then cut the whites up. Mix the yolk and whites thoroughly with the pasta for about a minute. The yolks will help bind the sauce to the pasta. Don’t worry about the poached eggs looking pretty; in this dish, you should barely even notice they’re there.

Serve warm, and garnish with lots of freshly ground pepper and your extra freshly grated cheese. Once finished, make your roommate or whoever is around roll you to the couch for a marathon session of the Good Wife. Then make them do the dishes. Save any leftovers for breakfast because, hey, pancetta + eggs = pretty close to something that is considered a socially acceptable version of that meal.

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