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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Anything for a Carbonara… BA April '13 Page 18

As if we really needed any reason to make pasta….Our latest episode of carb loading took place last night after I stumbled upon a readers' favorite recipe for "Fettuccine with Pork, Greens, and Beans" on page 16. While I disagree with nearly everything about it, not least of which is the complete cultural ambiguity from which it comes, the mere mention of the word fettuccine sent my mind racing toward Carbonara (naturally) and dinner.

As I am apt to do, I instantly set my mind on an idea for the the dish and became obsessed. Throwing logic to the wind, I decided Porcini infused fettuccini with the normal carbonara accoutrements was the only way to satisfy my urge, never mind that porcinis are the most expensive and hard to find mushrooms around and we have no real way to infuse anything in our small townhouse kitchen….details details….

I effectively overwhelmed, inspired, and enraged P via text with my urgent need for porcinis in the middle of the workday, but I must have been convincing as by 2pm he was dispatched for Ceriello’s at Belvedere Square in pursuit of the elusive fungus, $30 later the mushrooms were confirmed in hand.

Having procured the key ingredient to my neurotic pasta endeavor, I now had to grapple  with the reality of turning the desiccated morsels into something “infusible”. Having recently sent my Magic Bullet to the appliance graveyard, I spent the better part of the afternoon brain storming the contraptions I might be able to pull together at home to grind up the porcinis. I got as far as using a muddler, stoneware bowl, and plastic wrap as a makeshift mortar and pestle when I remembered that we aren’t the only ones who fell for the Magic Bullet infomercial appeal. I inter-office messaged our neighbor confirming his possession of such an item and problem solved!

I picked up pancetta, peas, and some parmigiano reggiano after work and headed home beaming with pride in my problem solving prowess.

Perhaps it was karma for my prideful strut home, but the process of making porcini fettuccini taught me a lesson, and more forearms are still sore from it.

Lesson Learned – Dried mushrooms take on a LOT of water when they rehydrate, and I mean a LOT, and when you powder you are increasing the absorption surface area exponentially so its even MORE water – what that means is that having added the dry mushroom powder to the pasta flour, I spent twice as long kneading the dough, added much more water than I expected, and am 1000 milligrams of ibuprofen deep as I am writing this post due to the arm workout and the extra boxed wine I had to consume in the process.

All things considered, the dish was extremely successful. We fall deeper in love with the Imperia hand crank pasta maker we got for $50 at Home Goods every time we use it, I recommend this to everyone who enjoys gluten-bombing occasionally.

We served the Carbonara in the gorgeous sage green pasta bowls P recently picked out at Fishs Eddy in NY, and enjoyed two great reds in the process –  Tuscany: ’09 Fattoria di Lucignao Chianti Colli Fiorentini & Umbria: ’10 Azienda Agricola Barberani “Polago”

The true pleasure in this dish comes from the way that the rich, cheesy, silky sauce holds fast to the fettucini to deliver both the deep earth of the mushrooms and the savory smoke of the pancetta all in one bite! 

Make this and you’ll agree it’s not so crazy to do anything for Carbonara

Porcini Carbonara At Any Cost


  • 3 large eggs + 1 large egg
  • 1 cup parmigiano reggiano (shaved or grated)
  • Pecorino Romano to taste (grate)
  • 2 cups ‘00”’ or all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 2 oz Dried porcini mushrooms (ground into a powder)
  • 6 oz Pancetta (chopped or sliced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peas (shelled)
  • 1 ½ cups or about ½ lbs fresh crimini mushrooms (quartered)


  • Pasta:
    • In a large bowl, combine flour and porcini powder, mound mixture forming a well in the center (looks like a volcano).
    • Put eggs, evoo, and salt into the well. Using a fork, incorporate the flour into the well, move to using your hands until all the liquid is absorbed and you have a cohesive dough ball.
    • Add water as needed and knead for 10+ minutes until dough is smooth (the flecks of Porcinis should be visible).
    • Take breaks for wine.
    • Once smooth, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for about 30mins – Then run through pasta maker to desired thickness and width.
    • Cook in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 5 mins
  • Carbonara Fixins:
    • render pancetta and garlic in a large non stick pan for 10 mins while pasta dough is resting.
    • Add mushrooms once there is a good base of fat in the pan. Add peas once mushrooms have browned.
    • Add EVOO, Salt and Pepper as needed to taste to “lubricate” the mixture.
    • IMPORTANT – try to time the completion of the fixins to coincide with the cooking of the pasta, the pasta must be strained and hot when you add the eggs, cheese, and fixins in the next step in order to get the saucy texture right
  • Putting it together:
    • As soon as pasta is strained, pour back into pot, immediately add the single egg and parm cheese, stirring quickly to create a sauce (do not let the egg scramble).
    • Once evenly coated, add the carbonara fixins and incorporate.
  • Serve with fresh ground pepper and a little pecorino romano to taste.

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