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Friday, September 27, 2013

Pasta Problem

I try to avoid gluten, mainly because of what is says about my chicness, socio-economic situation, and sexual orientation - Thank you Surviving Whole Foods and Guido Barilla.

I jest, however, it is something I've tried to eliminate from my diet, for many reasons, all tied to personal neuroses.

That said, I will admit, I have a pasta problem...

Bread, crackers, cream based soups, really any starch... I can do without, but every once in a while I get a craving for pasta that no amount of self discipline nor flagellation can defeat.

That's when I go off the deep end...

My friends call them dinner parties, I call it gluten bombing (it's the guilt talking) but bottom line I make copious amounts of pasta and we all drink wine and groan about it in feigned chic

Having recently acquired a small hand crank pasta maker, these parties seem to be happening more and more often...queue the regret.

This post came to life after a drool worthy perusal of La Cucina Italiana's October "The Pasta Issue" - an issue I looked forward to every year with equal parts excitement and fear. Excitement for the decadent lasagna recipes and drool worthy pappardelle shots, it's food porn at it's best. Fear because of how I know it will affect the fit of my pants, enough said.

All bloating aside, and inspired as I was, I recently had three girlfriends over and decided to make Tagliatelle, a simple process that is not easily hindered by wine consumption (an important consideration for any recipe).

I'd picked up some slab bacon and shiitake mushrooms, and fresh spinach at various farmers markers the previous weekend, so naturally my thoughts went to a rich, bacony, and earthy vegetable laden Carbonara.

Ultimately, it ends the same way...both the company and the carbs are perfectly satisfying. After all, happy and full is never really a bad thing, we should all be so lucky.

So maybe when I say I have a pasta problem, it's not that eating pasta somehow damages me or negatively affects my well being (emotional fragility aside) but it's that I just can't get enough!  To me it's the penultimate comfort food, as fancy or as plain as you like it, able to take on as many flavors and forms as one can imagine, the perfect vehicle for any favorite cheese or seasonal ingredient, and always sure to please.

The trouble is, though it may be the starch that binds us and the one food impossible not to enjoy, it's also the hallmark of all that is uncool at the moment. The food we love to loathe...

I'm not going to wax philosophical or make some broad social commentary about the state of carbs today, I'll just say this; I love pasta and I'm not afraid to admit it - I hope that makes it easier for the rest of you to accept your pasta problem.

Before this becomes an all out confessional, I'll turn you over to the recipes...

Farmers Market Carbonara


  • 3 large eggs + 1 large egg
  • 1 cup parmigiano reggiano (shaved or grated)
  • Pecorino Romano to taste (grated)
  • 2 cups ‘00”’ or all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 2 oz Fresh Shiitake mushrooms (sliced)
  • 6 oz Slab bacon or pancetta (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peas (shelled)
  • 3 large bunches fresh spinach (rough chop)
  • 3 Red Serrano peppers (chopped into rounds)
  • 2 ounces fresh sage (chopped)


  • Pasta:
    • In a large bowl, mound the flour 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
    • 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 “Sauce” :
    • Render bacon 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 and sage once mushrooms have browned, and add spinach last so it just barely wilts.
    • Add EVOO, Salt and Pepper as needed to taste to “lubricate” the mixture.
    • IMPORTANT – try to time the completion of the "sauce" to coincide with the cooking of the pasta, the pasta must be strained and hot when you add the eggs, cheese, and sauce mixture in the next step in order to get the texture and an even coating right
  • Putting it together:
    • As soon as pasta is strained, pour back into pot, immediately add the single egg and parmigiano cheese, stirring quickly to create a sauce (do not let the egg scramble).
    • Once evenly coated, add the carbonara sauce ingredients and incorporate.
  • Serve with fresh ground pepper, pecorino romano, and the chopped red serranos to taste (I garnished mine with some fresh basil just because I wanted to)
On another occasion, just 5 days prior, I devoted hours to making a slow cooked pork 'bolognese' style ragu, equally rich and satisfying over tagliatelle. 

Pork Bolognese Ragu

  • See pasta recipe and prep above
  • 3lbs Pork Shoulder (Boston Butt)
  • Pecorino Romano to taste (grated)
  • 2 cups ‘00”’ or all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon EVOO
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 2 oz Fresh Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 oz Slab bacon or pancetta (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 ½ cups fresh peas (shelled)
  • 3 large bunches fresh spinach (rough chop)
  • 3 Red Serrano peppers (chopped into rounds)
  • 2 ounces fresh sage (chopped)

  • Pork Ragu:
    • In a crock pot, place 1 chopped onion, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, and 3 lbs of pork shoulder and pour crushed tomatoes over top. Cook on low 6 hours, add 1 cup red wine after 3 hours.
    • Pour off cooking liquid and set aside
    • Using forks, pull pork apart
    • In a sauce pan, combine carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and bacon, cooking until rendered and vegetables begin to soften. Add sausage and cook through.
    • Add tomato puree and incorporate
    • Pour saucepan mixture into crock pot, incorporate with pulled pork
    • Stir in reserved cooking liquid until you achieve the sauce consistency you prefer
    • Cover and allow to simmer as long as you like/need, flavors will continue to marry until you are ready to serve. If you added too much liquid, remove the lid for a while and allow to reduce slightly.
    • Once pasta is cooked, return to cooking pot and slowly add ragu until pasta is coated and sauce is evenly incorporated
    • Serve with parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano, or both!

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