Lemony Pasta Carbonara with Leeks

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you had a great weekend. Ours with filled with sunshine, lazy mornings by the pool, lazy afternoons at the beach, bike rides in picture-perfect Coronado before the always fun concert in the park. And Olympics! I mustn’t forget that. We managed to keep our eyes open for the last 4 hours of the opening ceremonies and have been watching all sorts of random sports like archery since then.

A few weeks ago I made this lovely dish which is crazy simple and still mouth-wateringly (is that a word?) delicious. I recently discovered leeks and became an instant fan of them. They resemble giant green onions but have a mild flavor that turns slightly sweet when cooked. I’ve been adding them to all sorts of sauteed dishes, so when I saw this recipe where leeks were actually a main part of the recipe, I was sold. Plus, the recipe called for bacon. Everything is better with bacon.

If you’re like me, you probably always thought that carbonara pasta is made with cream. The authentic way to make this creamy pasta, however, is just with raw eggs, which surprisingly creates a creamy smooth sauce all on it’s own. I’ll admit that I was a tad bit nervous about getting sick from raw eggs, even if this IS how the Italians do it, so I just warmed the whole batch of pasta in the pan for a minute to ease those nagging fears. I added a sauted zucchini since I’m on a quest to add extra veggies to everything I cook these days, as well as used quinoa pasta for extra protein and less carbs (we actually like quinoa pasta better than regular pasta now; the taste is very similar but the quinoa gets less slimy or something. Try it.). The result — dinner that is as quick and easy as it is impressive and delicious. This will likely go into our regular dinner rotation.

Ingredients:
• salt and ground pepper to taste
• 6 slices bacon
• 1 zucchini, sliced and cut into halves (like half-moons)
• 2 leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and thinly sliced
• 3/4 pound short pasta, such as campanelle or orecchiette (I used a box of quinoa pasta instead)
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup), plus more for serving (optional)
• 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)

Prepare:
1. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from skillet. Be sure to WIPE the bottom of your pan off if any grease drips — you don’t want to start a grease fire! Add leeks and zucchini, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until leeks are golden brown, about 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. While your leeks and zucchini are cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to pot and cook according to package instructions. **Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Set reserved liquid aside..** In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and lemon zest and juice. Whisk 1/4 cup pasta water into egg mixture.

3. Drain pasta and immediately add to egg mixture, along with bacon, leeks, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle with more cheese and parsley if desired and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from http://www.alexandracooks.com

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