Peppery Pasta Carbonara

Dan and I are on the third day of not eating refined sugar for two weeks (something we cruelly impose upon ourselves regularly), and the first few days are always the hardest. So, I figured a naughty treat like pasta carbonara was in order. Although to be honest, this isn't really that naughty, and I'm not sure an Italian would call this true carbonara, as there was no egg used to cook the pasta in, nor did we use guanciale or pancetta. No, folks....this was weeknight counterfeit carbonara with....(gasp!) whole wheat spaghetti. I know. Sinfully inauthentic. Sacrilege. Blasphemy. Quite good, though.

The recipe used was one adapted from Gourmet, and it called for bacon as a quick alternative to guanciale. I found some organic, hormone and antibiotic-free, humanely raised (yes, important to us if we're going to eat meat) bacon at Henry's, and decided on the whole wheat spaghetti because we aim to eat whole grain as often as possible, and actually, it tastes better to me. We made a couple of minor changes, like omitting the poached egg on top and not cooking the pasta in the leftover bacon fat (!). 

The result was gratifying, and dare I say heavenly? Although to be fair, you could wrap bacon around some cardboard and I'd probably eat it. For my veggie friends, I'd recommend adding sauteed broccoli rabe or something along those lines. Maybe even fresh peas when they're in season. Mmmmm.

We opted for a simple salad of greens and heirloom cherry tomatoes on the side to keep things light. Well, okay, to make ourselves feel a little better about eating a dish with bacon, butter and a bit of cream. 

                    5 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch pieces
                    1/2 package whole wheat spaghetti
                    3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter
                    1/4 milk or soy milk (unsweetened)
                    1 tablespoon cream
                    2/3 cup grated Parmesan plus additional for serving
                    1/4 teaspoon pepper
                    2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer it with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain it well and shake off any excess water.

Melt the butter into the skillet used to cook the bacon. Add the spaghetti, milk, cream, and a rounded 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened and almost completely absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bacon and parsley and toss. If you feel that the mixture is too dry, feel free to add a splash of olive oil, although we didn't find this necessary. Add the cheese during the final moment of cooking. Season with salt and pepper.

Revel in the joy of buttery, creamy pasta.

Repent in the morning.

Makes 2 servings.

Adapted from Gourmet, October 2009.

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