Italian, Pasta, Pork

The Best Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves: 6

Where does one start?

Spaghetti Carbonara is that dish that divides more than any spaghetti dish. Cream or no cream?

Or mine is the best or that is the best?

This is the traditional or this one is even more traditional?

Or that Italians don’t even do Spaghetti Carbonara and it is an invention of the Americans: Italians don’t do pasta like this.

I don’t mind a cream-based Spaghetti Carbonara and how couldn’t you? Anything with pasta and cream – at its best – is amazing.

Though it isn’t traditional in the sense that I cannot find any pasta Italian cookbook of mine that asks for even a touch of cream.

Equally though, I can’t find a Carbonara in any of these books.

Which I think means that Carbonara definitely shouldn’t have cream though it probably isn’t an Italian invention either.

Which leaves us here: what is the best ‘traditional’ Carbonara recipe.

For 8 years straight until he was 18, for his birthday, my middle brother Adrian asked nothing else of me than that I cooked this pasta for his birthday.

This recipe was something my mother would do after a day on our boat and as kids, and it simply never failed to wow us.

After years and years of telling Nat this Carbonara was the best she would ever have, she finally let me make it.

And Nat – and the boys – agreed, this is simply the finest Carbonara that exists.

This truly is the best Spaghetti Carbonara you will ever cook.

And this is from someone that makes a point of ordering every time it is available.

THE BEST.

Ingredients

9 slices bacon, trimmed and julienne
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp butter
½ cup julienned ham (or prosciutto)
12 tbsp grated parmesan
6 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Spaghetti

Method

  1. Brown the bacon and pour off any fat.
  2. Cook the spaghetti.
  3. Add the olive oil, butter and ham and saute for 5 minutes without browning.
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and beaten eggs, Place over the heat only to sufficiently to firm up the sauce.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the spaghetti.
  6. Serve with more grated spaghetti.
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Pork

Maple and Mustard Glazed Ham

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You get an A+ for effort.

Serves: Plenty

Nat’s sister Courtney (of Japanese Bean fame) had her engagement party last week.

120 of her closest friends and family, waiters darting around with wine and food, a million candles and fairy lights and animated conversations made for a wonderful and memorable night: everything the beautiful couple deserved.

A big part of the evening’s success came from Courtney’s fastidious focus from spending several years as an Events organiser; spreadsheets, meticulous planning, an innate understanding of the relationship between the increasingly lateness of a night, wine and food.

So I was delegated the glazing of a 10kg ham. A ham destined for around midnight with hundreds of soft, and otherwise illegal breadrolls and a creamy, wholegrain mustard sauce.

A do-it-yourself station where sir or madam was encouraged to match the wine or beer in their hand with a roll or two.

Anyway, here is the simple and very effective glaze I did. A tablespoon or two of finely chopped rosemary would have been a nice addition, though start with this glaze and you’ll be onto a very good midnight thing.

Ingredients

5 – 10kg ham
1 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp seeded mustard
30 cloves

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180c.
  2. Remove the skin from the ham, keeping as much fat on the flesh as possible. Discard the skin.
  3. Score the fat and pin a clove into each corner of a score, making a quilt pattern as you go.
  4. Mix together the maple syrup, brown sugar and seeded mustard and baste the ham all over the scored fat/flesh.
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Italian, Pork

Muffuletta

Serves 6 – 8

I saw this incredible Italian sandwich being made by the always talented Giada De Laurentiis on her TV show a few years ago.

I prepared it for a date night with Nat – moonlight cinema – and prior, there was quite a bit of running around; for focaccia, once the hero bread of every café and sandwich, has largely disappeared from pretty much everywhere in Sydney.

I must have gone to half a dozen stores in Leichardt, all of whom said that they sold out early, every morning, mainly to nonnas who came in at dawn.

Given that each bite of this sandwich is like eating an antipasti platter, perhaps the elimination of the oily focaccia was a good thing, though I reckon it would have rounded out what is otherwise an extraordinary sandwich, if not one that is slightly daunting.

The traditional round bread I used was great however, though pull back a bit on the oil. After a night in the fridge compacting, you want to ensure that the bread doesn’t disintegrate as you try to work out how on earth you are going to get on a bite on your muffuletta.

This is your next adult picnic sorted.

Ingredients

¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/3 cup olive oil
10 large pitted green olives, chopped
1/3 cup pitted, chopped kalamata olives
¼ cup chopped roasted red bell peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (500gm) round bread loaf (about 18cm in diameter and 8cm high)
125gm thinly sliced ham
125gm thinly sliced mortadella
125gm thinly sliced salami
125gm sliced provolone
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Handful of rocket leaves

Method

  1. Whisk together the red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano together and then gradually blend in the oil. Stir in the olives and roasted peppers. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  2. Cut the top 2.5cm of the bread loaf. Set the top aside. Hollow out the bottom and top halves of the bread. Spread some of the olive and roasted pepper mix over the bread bottom and cut side of the bread top. Layer the meats and cheeses in the bread bottom. Top with the onions, then the rocket. Spread the remaining olive and roasted pepper mix on top of the sandwich and carefully cover with the bread top.
  3. You can serve the sandwich immediately or you can wrap the entire sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator a day before serving; if you can, place something on top of the muffuletta to weigh it down and further compact the ingredients.
  4. Cut the sandwich into wedges and serve.
  5. Go for a long run.
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Pasta, Poultry

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves: 4

Almost everyone claims to have an amazing pasta recipe in their repertoire.

Often, this is a Carbonara.

For me, Carbonara is the king of pastas, be it spaghetti, fettucine or farfalle. Indeed, it is very rare for me to go past a Carbonara in an Italian restaurant, especially when I know it will be one of those terrible though amazing cream-based numbers with enough calories to whack an elephant.

This recipe – originally from my mother – is one I have been cooking since I was a teenager. In fact, for as long as I can remember cooking, I have been doing this number.

It is perfect after a long day at the beach or shopping. Bottle of wine, something on TV and you will be in absolute heaven.

Ingredients

9 slices bacon, trimmed and julienned
6 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons butter
½ c julienned ham or prosciutto
12 tbsp grated parmesan + extra to sprinkle
6 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Spaghetti or other pasta

Method

  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Brown the bacon and pour off any fat. Add the olive oil, butter and ham and sauté for 5 minutes without browning.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan and beaten eggs. Place over heat only sufficiently to firm up the sauce.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and pour over spaghetti.
  5. No regrets.
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Italian, Pasta, Pork

My Arrabiata

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So hot. So good.

Serves: 4 – 6

This dish has real significance for me.

It was the first meal I cooked when I moved out of home, a recipe I adapted from Neil Perry and adapt every time depending on what is in the pantry and the fridge. Try it with torn basil, a pinch of sugar, freshly chopped chilli, whatever you want.

The key is in the length of cooking. The longer you can sweat the onions and the more slowly you can reduce the sauce, the better and better it will be. Forget that stuff from the local pizza shop, add lots of chilli and two hours over the stove and this takes on a new dimension.

Add this recipe to your repertoire and know it like the back of your hand. It will make clear to your lady friend that you can turn a pack of bacon and a few things from the cupboard into an amazing, hot and smoky pasta: it worked for me!

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 good pinches chilli flakes
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, halved (half a punnet)
1 can tomatoes
1 tbsp capers, drained
2 tbsp black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
Good handful of ham, roughly chopped
10 rashers of bacon cut into lardons
Salt and pepper
Penne, spaghetti, whatever
Ground parmesan
Chopped Italian parsley

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat and add the onions, garlic, chilli flakes and good pinch of salt and sweat as slowly as you can without letting stick to the bottom of the pan; around 20 – 30 minutes.
  2. Separately, cook the bacon in a pan until golden. Drain and set aside.
  3. Add the tomatoes, ham, capers and olives, combine with the onion mixture and cook for a minute. Add the bacon and can of tomatoes as well as a can of water.
  4. Bring to the boil and then drop to a low simmer.
  5. Cook for an hour to an hour and a half and longer if you can. The key is to removing as much liquid from the sauce as slowly as you can.
  6. Check the seasoning and chilli and adjust as necessary.
  7. Cook the pasta, drain and combine with the sauce.
  8. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and parsley.
  9. Enjoy your reward.
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