Say what? Spaghetti Carbonara? Thanksgiving? Have I been in a coma? Thanksgiving is long past and, besides, what about that turkey carcass?
This entry was originally posted on the morning of Thanksgiving, when most everyone was too busy to notice it. But I always think of the classic Roman dish around this time, because of an essay Calvin Trillin wrote years ago.
“I have been campaigning to have the national Thanksgiving dish changed from turkey to spaghetti carbonara,” reads the first sentence of the opening chapter of his book Third Helpings.
It struck me as a great idea when I first read in the mid 1980s and it still does. I’ve been tempted for years to take his recommendation, though I haven’t been able to convince the friends and family with whom I usually share the day.
“Maybe next year,” I always tell myself.
If you’re not having a traditional meal today, I wrote on Thanksgiving morning, if you don’t even know what you’re planning to cook yet, you might consider paying homage to Trillin. If you’re participating in a potluck and still wondering what to cook, you might try my Spaghetti Carbonara Souffle, which has all the scrumptious flavors of the tradition dish yet holds up well for transport. (I originally developed the recipe for Ravioli & Lasagne with Other Baked & Filled Pasta, which I wrote in 1996.)
Nearly two weeks later, I find myself still thinking about it. Spaghetti Carbonara is Italian comfort food not only at its best but also at its easiest; unlike slow-cooked soups and stews, Spaghetti Carbonara doesn’t take long to make. It you keep a well-stocked pantry, you might even have all the ingredients at hand. It’s perfect on a rainy Sunday evening when you don’t feel like going to the store.
Pasta Carbonara Souffle
- Butter, at room temperature
- Kosher salt
- 5 ounces dried angel hair pasta, broken into thirds
- 1 tablspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 1/2 cups half & half
- 7 eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
- Black pepper in a mill
- 3 ounces Italian fontina, grated or shredded
- 2 ounces (1/2 cup) Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- Italian parsley sprigs, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat the inside of a 2-quart souffle dish with butter.
- Fill a large pot half full with water, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, stir in the pasta and cook according to package directions until the pasta is al dente; it should take about 4 minutes. Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and immediately toss with the olive oil. Set aside.
- In a small saute pan, fry the pancetta over medium low heat until it is just crisp, about 10 minutes. Add the half & half and simmer until it is reduce by one-third, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until thin and pale. Add the parsley and season very generously with black pepper. Stir the egg mixture into the pancetta mixture, fold in the cheeses and season to taste with salt. Set aside.
- In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then add the pasta, stirring gently and lightly. Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the souffle dish, set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- To serve, divide among individual warmed plates and garnish with parsley spring.