Grubbin' with Gaga: Linguini alla Carbonara
This post is going to feature one of my favorite ladies, my grandmother. We call her "Gaga", but I must note that she was previously dubbed "Nana" up until the point when the youngest generation of my family deemed it necessary to rename her [Yes, I'm a bit bitter, but I finally caved and gave up the fight to keep "Nana" alive]. She is one of the main reasons I got into cooking in the first place, so it only makes sense that I feature her in my food-focused blog! For most of my childhood my grandparents on my fathers side lived in Florida, but luckily as I started my undergraduate degree they moved to Rock Hill, SC right around the corner from my college...
Some things you should know about Gaga: she is 75 years young, acts like she's 25, and although she's New Yorker at heart, I think she is the perfect depiction of a true southern belle. She makes the most fabulous food and over the past 10 years has become one of my most influential culinary muses. I admire the way that she appreciates food and anytime we share a meal together, whether home cooked or if we got out- it is a true experience. In college, when I would visit for our "weekly dinners", I couldn't help but to just watch her as she cooked. It was so interesting to see someone so comfortable and knowledgeable in the kitchen. She would press fresh garlic cloves, squeeze halves of lemons, snip fresh herbs off her plants and roll and mince them with these crazy looking devices I'd never seen.
Witnessing the love she had for this hobby and having the opportunity to learn from her while she created these beautiful meals to feed her family was monumental for me. It sparked a flame in me, and I knew one day I wanted to be able to provide for my family in that same way. My grandfather, her love of 46.5 years, would always compliment his "Gina" on her delicious meals. He recently passed away after a 10 year long battle with Alzheimer's, and although he could rarely recall the names of the foods we'd eat, he never ever forgot to praise my grandmother after a meal- stating, "She's so good, isn't she?". [He also began to hit on her when she would visit him and tell her "If I weren't already married, I'd want to marry you!", but that's another story for another day] ;)
For four years while my dad was in high school, my grandfather was stationed in Naples, Italy at AF South (Armed Forces NATO). When my family visited this beautiful country last summer I asked my grandmother what her time was like living there. Her response: "How can I put it into words? It was like I had been there in a previous lifetime. I walked off the plane and was overwhelmed with what I saw. Apartment balconies hung end to end with laundry drying in the breeze in this bustling city, and it was so loud! So many of the other Americans on the flight were upset with the sights and overwhelming sounds but I embraced it. The buildings had so much character- scarred and pockmarked- so honestly depicting their resilience to war. I loved every minute of my four years in this amazing country. It helped my transition to have quickly made so many close friends with Italian families that ultimately became a part of ours. We ate, danced and learned to make wine, tomato sauces and authentic Neapolitan dishes. We shared from our gardens, shared our problems and shared our joys with each other. It was a time I will cherish forever." She's sure got a way with words doesn't she?
The other night we had a little slumber party with my cousins as a "going away" to the oldest who is about to leave for her gap-year in Africa and New Zealand. I told my grandmother I wanted her to teach me how to make one of her favorite Italian dishes and she decided on Carbonara. This is a go-to dish on my dad's side of the family that I'd yet to learn to make- and who doesn't love creamy pasta with loads of cheese, bacon and garlic? (If you don't this probably isn't the post for you!) I will warn you- there is nothing healthy about this dish, and I respect the recipe too much to even try any substitutions and alternatives. The one ingredient we did not end up having was green peas which is usually a staple to a typical Carbonara dish, so feel free to add these. Also, I cooked chicken on the side to add to mine for additional protein.
Linguini alla Carbonara
- 1 lb natural nitrate free bacon
- 2 Tbs EVOO
- Roughly 1/4-1/3 C heavy whipping cream (you can add more if the sauce gets too thick)
- 1 egg per person (we used 4)
- Green peas
- 2 cloves freshly minced garlic
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1/2 chopped onion
- 1 box of linguini [or spaghetti]
- Salt & Pepper
- Fresh basil chopped
- About 1 C grated parmesan cheese
- Cook bacon over medium heat in skillet until well done; set aside on paper towels *Leave about 1/2 of the grease in skillet!
- Add 1 Tbs butter to the same skillet you used for the bacon until melted, over medium heat
- Add freshly minced garlic to butter until fragrant, then add chopped onion
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl whisk eggs, cheese, cream, salt & pepper
- Once onions are browned and cooked through, crumble and add in all of the bacon and stir until combined well
- Cook pasta per instructions for 'Al dente' and once finished drain with a colander
- Before returning your cooked pasta to the pot, add 1 Tbs butter to the bottom of your pot or enough to just "coat" the surface
- After returning your cooked pasta into the pot, slowly add in your egg/cheese/cream mixture, stirring frequently (You may have to add more cheese to your egg mix if it seems to thin or "watery")
- Add the onion/bacon mixture and combine well
- Serve with an additional sprinkle of cracked pepper, parmesan and minced basil, ENJOY!
We also made a big side salad to have with our pasta with some of my grandmothers homemade vinaigrette she whipped up. I don't have the exact measurements as she doesn't follow specific recipes but you can taste it as you go until you get the desired taste!
- Dijon Mustard
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Lemon Juice
- Salt & Pepper
- Dried Basil
Thank you guys so much for reading, I hope you'll try this recipe sometime! It is such a comfort food for me and honestly takes no time to prepare... and as the Italians say, Bon appetit!
Stay tuned for more posts!