Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara | Pinky's Pantry
Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of the most delicious pasta dishes the Italians make. With just four main ingredients, it’s a breeze to prepare. People worry about having raw eggs in the sauce, though I think the eggs cook with the heat from the spaghetti. I’ve never had a problem, but if you’re really concerned, you could use pasteurized eggs or omit the eggs altogether.

Traditionally, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is made with guanciale. Guanciale is an Italian bacon made from pork cheeks or jowls. It’s delicious, but unfortunately, I can’t get guanciale where I live. Thankfully, you can substitute bacon or pancetta. Half a pound of bacon is good for a pound of pasta, but my family likes lots of bacon so I use a whole pound. I never have leftovers when I make this dish.

SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

  • 1 lb. spaghetti noodles (can also use fettucine or linguine)
  • 1 lb. bacon (or pancetta or guanciale), sliced into ½-inch strips
  • ½ small onion, diced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus extra for the boiling water
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, set another large pot over medium heat and fry the bacon until crispy; then remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
  3. In the same pot, sauté the onions in the bacon grease until the onions become translucent; remove pot from heat and add the bacon back in with the onions.
  4. When the water in the first pot is boiling briskly, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.
  5. While the spaghetti is boiling, prepare the sauce. It’s important to make the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the noodles will be hot when the sauce is done. The heat from the noodles is what cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.
  6. To make the sauce, beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork; then stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
  7. Drain the cooked pasta well, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
  8. Slowly drizzle the reserved hot pasta water into the egg mixture, mixing well. This tempers the eggs, so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
  9. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the pot with the bacon and onions; then pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss until the noodles are well-coated with the sauce.
  10. Taste the spaghetti and adjust the seasonings. Depending on the pork you used, you may need to add more salt.
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Chicken Spaghetti

Chicken Spaghetti | Pinky's Pantry
My Mom occasionally made Chicken Spaghetti for us when we were growing up in the Philippines. I don’t remember what she put in her Chicken Spaghetti, but this is my version created from the faded recollection of a much-enjoyed childhood dish. The ingredients don’t sound very “native” to the Philippines, but Filipinos love cream of mushroom soup and Velveeta cheese which were brought over by the Americans during World War II and which have remained Filipino favorites to this day (along with the ever-popular Spam, of course). LOL!

This recipe makes a really big casserole so it’s perfect for a party or a potluck. Feel free to cut the recipe in half if you’re feeding a smaller group of people.

CHICKEN SPAGHETTI

  • 1 lb. spaghetti noodles, broken into thirds
  • 1 cooked rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded (about 3-4 cups)
  • 1 lb. bacon, diced into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 small cans (4 oz. each) sliced mushrooms, undrained
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 lb. velveeta cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • ½ cup water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
  3. Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook just until al dente.
  4. Pour into a colander to drain.
  5. Put bacon in the same pot you used to cook the spaghetti and fry until crispy.
  6. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  7. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease from the pot.
  8. Sauté onions in the bacon grease until they start to become translucent.
  9. Add red bell pepper and sauté until crisp-tender.
  10. Stir in the mushrooms with juice, mushroom soup, velveeta cheese, and water.
  11. Cook, stirring, until velveeta is completely melted.
  12. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  13. Remove from heat, then stir in shredded chicken, cooked spaghetti, and bacon.
  14. Pour into an extra large casserole dish, or two medium size ones.
  15. Sprinkle top with shredded cheddar cheese, then grated parmesan cheese.
  16. Bake 30 minutes or until cheese is melted on top.

Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

Japchae | Pinky's Pantry
One of No. 1’s best friends growing up was a little Korean boy named Eugene. He was a good, polite boy and so smart. His mother was a sweet, soft-spoken woman who worked for a bank and who cooked wonderful Korean dishes. I love Korean food. I always wish I could’ve asked her to teach me how to make some of their dishes but the opportunity just never came up. Thankfully, the Bay Area abounds with Korean restaurants.

Whenever we go to a Korean restaurant, I always order Bulgogi – Korean barbecue beef. It’s my favorite and it always comes with a serving of these noodles on the side. Japchae is a Korean noodle dish made from sweet potato noodles called dangmyeon. It’s hugely popular in Korea. I love it. It’s delicious and a lot easier to make than it looks.
Japchae | Pinky's Pantry

JAPCHAE

Steak:

  • ½ lb. rib eye steak
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. mirin
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  1. Slice steak very thinly. It’s easier to do this if steak is partially frozen.
  2. Combine ingredients for steak marinade in a small bowl.
  3. Add steak to marinade, stirring to coat well.
  4. Set aside to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Sauce:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame oil
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  1. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. Set aside until ready to use.

Noodles:

  • 1 pkg. (500g) Korean sweet potato noodles
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
  • ½ large onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ozs. fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 4 ozs. spinach, washed and dried
  • salt, to taste (optional)
  • 1 green onion stalk, green part only, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • canola oil for frying
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. When water is boiling, add noodles and boil for 7-8 minutes or until cooked to desired tenderness.
  3. Drain into colander and run cold water over noodles to stop them from cooking.
  4. Snip noodles with kitchen scissors in a few places so they’re not too long.
  5. Set aside to drain well.
  6. If you want little strips of scrambled egg, beat the egg in a small bowl.
  7. Heat a teaspoon of canola oil in a wok or large frying pan.
  8. Pour in egg, swirling pan from side to side to spread thinly.
  9. Cook on one side, then flip over to cook other side.
  10. Remove from pan, slice into thin strips, and set aside.
  11. In same pan, stir fry marinated steak until just cooked.
  12. Remove from pan and set aside.
  13. Stir fry carrots and onion until onion is translucent.
  14. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes more.
  15. Add the spinach and toss to combine, cooking until slightly wilted.
  16. Return the meat to the pan, then add the noodles and sauce.
  17. Toss all together until heated through.
  18. At this point, taste noodles and season with salt if necessary.
  19. Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
  20. Serve hot or cold. Can be reheated in the microwave.

NOTE:

  • You can use any cut of well marbled meat if you don’t want to use rib eye. Just make sure to slice it very thinly.
  • If you want to make this dish vegetarian, omit the beef entirely.
  • If you can’t find fresh shitake mushrooms, you can substitute dried. Just soak them in a bowl of hot water for at least 30 minutes to reconstitute. Remove the mushrooms from the water, squeeze them a little bit to remove excess water, then trim off the tough stems and slice the caps thinly.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to 2 days.
Japchae Noodles | Pinky's Pantry

These are the sweet potato noodles I used. I bought them because they were on sale. They were very good.

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni & Cheese | Pinky's Pantry

It’s National Customer Service Week this week and to celebrate, we had a floor-wide potluck at my office today. As I searched my pantry and fridge yesterday trying to decide what to make, I saw that I had all the ingredients needed to make some good old Mac ‘n Cheese. I remembered seeing a recipe for it in my new Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook and as someone who loves nothing more than trying out new recipes, I couldn’t resist trying this one. The recipe was very good. It wasn’t what I would call a “grown-up” Mac ‘n Cheese, probably because it had American cheese in it, but it definitely was one that would appeal to kids of all ages. It certainly appealed to my kids. And it was wiped out pretty quick at the potluck.

Though Macaroni and Cheese is considered a classic American dish, it actually has its roots in Italy where some version of it was probably being made for as long as they’ve been making pasta. From its early days where noodles were tossed with butter and cheese to the version that we all know and love today, the dish went through many variations. In 1937, Kraft introduced the little blue box of dried pasta and powdered cheese that is beloved by virtually every American kid today. However and wherever its origins, Mac ‘n Cheese epitomizes the quintessential comfort food. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can jazz it up in myriad ways. You can vary the cheeses, from purely cheddar to a blend of gruyère, fontina or parmesan; you can add bacon, ham, even lobster! The possibilities are endless!

Macaroni & Cheese | Pinky's Pantry

BEST POTLUCK MACARONI AND CHEESE

  • 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • salt
  • 5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 (12-oz.) cans evaporated milk
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 8 ozs. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 5 ozs. American cheese, shredded (1-1/4 cups)
  • 3 ozs. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse bread, melted butter, and Parmesan in food processor until ground to coarse crumbs, about 8 pulses. Transfer to bowl.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt and cook, stirring often, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup macaroni cooking water, then drain and rinse macaroni in colander under cold running water. Set aside.
  3. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in now empty pot over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns light brown, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in evaporated milk, hot sauce, mustard, nutmeg, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until mixture begins to simmer and is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and reserved cooking water until cheese melts. Stir in macaroni until completely coated.
  4. Transfer mixture to 13 by 9-inch baking dish and top evenly with bread-crumb mixture. Bake until cheese is bubbling around edges and top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.