Beautiful Courgette Carbonara
This dish it is an amazing dish…good enough to serve guests. I have made it at our Taylor reunions—not an easy task in an unfamiliar kitchen when there are only tiny pots to cook pasta for a crowd (it took so long to cook the pasta in small batches). You will need a very large pan or mixing bowl so that you can mix it all together.
The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, At Home. He is a great cook to learn about (jamieoliver.com) because he fights to help people change the way they eat, and to get public schools in England and the U.S. to serve healthier meals. He also "helps young people gain a new lease on life by training them in kitchens to have employable skills, giving them a sense of achievement and self-worth" [quote from his website].
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 courgettes (zucchini), medium sized green and yellow (1-2 per person)
500g penne pasta (or linguine, but penne is the original pasta for carbonara)
4 egg yolks, large free-range or organic (1 per person to be served)
100ml double cream (1 oz per person)
Parmesan cheese, 2 good handfuls of freshly grated
Pancetta or bacon, 12 thick slices, cut into chunky lardoons
Fresh thyme, small bunch, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme, or variegated variety)
optional: a few courgette flowers
- Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgettes at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.
- To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.
- Heat a very large frying pan (a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Drain most of the oil. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.
- It’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)
- Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any courgette flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.
* I use Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (you can get it at Costco), Applegate Farms brand “Sunday Bacon” (it doesn’t have nitrates) from the health food store.