Pasta alla Carbonara: Default pasta, we all rely on it. Even Judy Rogers of Zuni Cafe.
Hers seems to be a particularly well-constructed Pasta alla Carbonara. It’s not quite the traditional version– at least in my mind because it has peas, ricotta and good ole American bacon in place of guanciale. But its authenticity and simple perfection cannot be denied. Judy put her version together based on a memory of a meal she had in Rome, hence the authenticity. And once you see the list of ingredients, and the careful way it is prepared– using a low, slow heat to render the flavorful fat from the bacon and into the sauce. I know you’ll agree with the notion of its perfection. So see, even classic Roman meals can be tweaked to become what I affectionately call Default Pasta here at Sippity Sup.
So what exactly is Default Pasta? Well, as the saying goes– “Quick boil some water!” No, I’m not having a baby? It’s Default Pasta Night!
At my house, Default Pasta makes regular appearances. In fact, I’d even go so far as to call these appearances star turns. That’s because learning how to bring forth quick, flavorful weeknight meals can be a lifesaver, and a Tuesday toe-tapper as you will see.
Because there are a lot of good reasons to master the concept of Default Pasta. Maybe you have not been to the grocery store for weeks and the fridge and pantry are pretty bare. Maybe you just want something simple and satisfying without too much thought or preparation. But never fear, because if you follow my rules for Default Pasta you can make any meal special.
Of course in my world (well, most of our worlds really) Default Pasta Night happens at the end of a long day, you are tired, hungry and just want to turn the TV on and sing and dance along with Glee. Singing and dancing with hot soup is hell on the carpet, and you are sure to burn your vocal chords. That’s where the Default Pasta rules come in and that’s what the pot of boiling water I used as my opening hook is for; cooking dried pasta, the greatest friend a Glee-ful Tuesday night cook has ever had.
Because if you have dried pasta around, even an old hunk of cheese rind can be turned into a quick, flavorful meal. You see that’s what Default Pasta is all about. It’s a quick, flavorful pasta dish (following a few simple guidelines) using whatever you have on hand. Provided you have pasta that is, ‘cuz it’s just not Default Pasta without pasta! In fact, that’s the first rule. Tonight my Default Pasta inspiration came from Judy Rodgers, but it still follows my tried and true rules for making Default Pasta at home.
Now I know this is Default Pasta, and the whole point is to send you off in your own direction. But for this particular pasta preparation, there are a few pointers I’d like to mention. I know you’re in a hurry to watch Glee. But don’t rush the bacon. Also don’t cook it in advance either. Oh, and don’t use breakfast leftovers no matter how convenient or tempting that sounds. The bacon needs to be both chewy and crisp. So pay attention and cook it slowly.
Rule 1: Default Pasta uses dried pasta. Fresh pastas are lovely, but they show a level of pre-planning and preparedness that belie the true intention of Default Pasta. Besides, I just prefer dried pasta, and these are my rules.
Rule 2: Always include something slightly rich. It can be meat or cheese or even stunningly good olive oil. But with out something rich, it’s just home made Chef Boyardee!
Rule 3: Whenever you have something luscious (in this case egg yolks) balance it with something bold (in this case a lot of black pepper). That’s not even a Default Pasta rule, that’s just a life rule, metaphorically speaking of course.
Rule 4: It’s not Default Pasta without garlic. It may be pasta, but it’s not default pasta. Learn the fine distinctions.
Rule 5: Vegetables are not mandatory, nor is meat. But if you are going vegetarian, choose something pretty. Color is your friend. Embrace it. Dead animals enliven most any pasta, but vegetarian pasta requires an artistic eye.
Rule 6: Please include something unexpected or slightly devious. In this case, Judy (and I) chose peas. You won’t see a lot of carbonara recipes that call for them. But I would accept anchovies as well, just don’t tell the dullards in your life that you put them in.
Of course, these rules are very broad and highly subjective, because that’s the point of Default Pasta Night.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD
Pasta alla Carbonara