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
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
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.
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.
When the water in the first pot is boiling briskly, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente.
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.
To make the sauce, beat the eggs in a bowl with a fork; then stir in the parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.
Drain the cooked pasta well, reserving ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
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.
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.
Taste the spaghetti and adjust the seasonings. Depending on the pork you used, you may need to add more salt.
Wedge Salad is a typical salad served at classic American steak houses as a starter to your meal. It’s traditionally served with crumbled blue cheese and blue cheese dressing, but blue cheese isn’t one of my kids’ favorite cheeses. I love wedge salad, though, so here’s a version I make for them without any blue cheese in it. If you find you’re really missing the blue cheese flavor, go ahead and sprinkle some crumbled blue cheese on your salad. It’s all good!
(Makes 4 servings)
1 small head iceberg lettuce
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 slices sturdy white bread, crusts removed
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
garlic salt, to taste (optional)
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
chives, minced (for garnish)
Cut the lettuce into 4 wedges and place them in the refrigerator to keep cold until ready to use.
Fry the bacon until crisp, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
Dice the white bread into small cubes, a little less than a half-inch big.
Melt butter or margarine in a skillet and fry bread cubes, stirring often, until golden and crispy.
Season bread cubes with garlic salt to taste, if desired.
Assemble the salad by placing one wedge of lettuce on each of 4 salad plates.
Pour some dressing over each wedge.
Top with a little tomato, onion, bacon, and croutons.
Garnish with minced chives, if desired.
BACON BUTTERMILK DRESSING
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Place all ingredients into bowl of a food processor and process until combined.
Chill until ready to serve.
NOTE: Dressing can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept chilled in the fridge.
Did you know that February 2nd is National Tater Tot Day? It’s an easy day for me to remember because it’s also my only brother’s birthday. Tater tots are an iconic American food that was created in the early 1950’s. The founders of Ore-Ida were trying to figure out what to do with all the little leftover pieces of potato that they had tons of everyday. They chopped up the potato pieces, mixed them with flour and seasonings, then forced the mixture through the barrel of an extruder, slicing off little one-inch pieces as the mixture came through. And so the tater tot was born.
Actually, when the little potato nuggets were first created, they didn’t have a name for them so the owners of Ore-Ida decided to have a name-the-product contest among their employees. The name “Tater Tots” was submitted by a young mother named Clora Lay Orton. Everyone loved the name and she won the contest.
It’s hard to believe that when the inexpensive tater tots were first sold in stores in 1956, they didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. Today, Americans consume approximately 70 million pounds of them per year! It’s safe to say the lowly tater tot has finally found its place in society, from school cafeterias to the ever popular food truck. It’s certainly found its way to our dinner table!
CHEESY BACON TATER TOTS
1 bag frozen tater tots
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
6 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2 stalks green onions, chopped
Bake tater tots according to package directions.
While tots are baking, combine sour cream and ranch dressing in a bowl.
Drizzle sour cream mixture over baked tater tots.
Sprinkle cheeses over the top.
Place under broiler until cheese is completely melted.
Remove from broiler and top with crumbled bacon and green onions.
Return to broiler for 2-5 minutes to warm up the bacon.
My friend, Pooh, told me about this salad that she and her daughter tried making for dinner one night. It was from a Williams Sonoma cookbook and it sounded really good so I decided that I would try it, too. The salad ingredients were delicious, but I didn’t care too much for the dressing so I altered it to come up with a creamy dressing that was more to my liking. The family liked it better with my dressing, too.
BLT SALAD (Serves 4)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
8 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups croutons, homemade or store bought
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Spread out the bacon pieces on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake the bacon pieces until crisp, about 12-15 minutes.
When the bacon pieces are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer to paper towels to drain and cool.
Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and blending until well-combined.
Place the lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and croutons into a large salad bowl.
Drizzle with dressing and toss to mix well.
VARIATION: You could make a BLTA salad, as pictured below, by adding one avocado to the recipe. Cut the avocado into cubes, squeeze a little lemon juice over the cubes to keep them from darkening, and then toss the avocado into your salad. Yum!
[Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking Together, by Erin & Tatum Quon (Oxmoor House, 2009)]
What could be more satisfying than a hearty bowl of corn chowder? Corn chowder is an American soup with recipes for it dating back to the 1800’s. It’s delicious made with fresh corn kernels when corn is in season. But when corn isn’t in season, you can still turn out a delicious pot using canned corn.
I started adding carrots to my corn chowder just as a way to sneak more veggies into my kids’ diets, but you could omit the carrots if you prefer. Sometimes I leave them out (as pictured below) and the soup still turns out fabulous.
8 slices of bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
5 cups canned chicken broth
1-1½ lbs. yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish made of mashed potatoes and cabbage or kale. I make this dish only once a year — on St. Patrick’s Day. There was one year where I decided to make something different (i.e. less fattening) for a change and almost had the family in revolt. As my daughter, Spunky said, “We only get to eat this once a year! Don’t take it away!” Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.
When I originally learned to make this dish, I was taught to serve it with a whole cup of melted butter! You mounded the Colcannon in your serving bowl, then made a little well on top that you filled with the melted butter just before serving. It looked like a little volcano. I’ve since altered the recipe by cutting the butter down to 4 tablespoons which I just stir into the whole pot. You’re already using the bacon grease so I don’t think the large amount of additional butter is necessary, but you’re welcome to try it the original way if you feel adventurous. Either way, it’s delicious!
6 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 pkg. (16 ozs.) bacon, cut in half-inch pieces
1 small or 1/2 medium head of green cabbage, cored and sliced thin
1 cup whole milk
4 tbsp. butter or margarine
salt and pepper, to taste
2 stalks green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)
Place potatoes in a stockpot, fill with just enough water to cover, and boil until potatoes are tender. Drain very well.
While potatoes are boiling, fry the bacon in a skillet until crisp.
Using a slotted spoon, remove crispy bacon from skillet and set aside.
In the same skillet, fry the cabbage in the bacon grease until tender.
Mash the potatoes, leaving them still a little chunky.
Stir in milk, margarine, bacon, and cabbage. If mixture seems too dry, add more milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Depending on how salty your bacon is, you may not need to add any salt at all.)
Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with chopped green onion, if desired.
I made these appetizers for a party and they were a big hit! They’re sooo good and easy to make. The recipe does use up a lot of bacon because I use one slice of bacon for each little roll, but they’re so yummy it’s worth it. If you want to, you could lighten them up by using lowfat cream cheese and turkey bacon. Or you could cut the bacon strips carefully in half lengthwise so each roll would have just a thin strip around the middle like a belt.
The trick to making these is to pre-bake the bacon till it’s cooked but not quite crisp. You want the bacon to still be pliable so that you can wrap them easily around the bread rolls. A toothpick does a good job of holding the ends closed together. Then bake until the bacon becomes nice and crisp around the bread. Don’t forget to pull the toothpicks out before serving. Give these appetizers a try. I guarantee you’ll love them!
12 ozs. cream cheese, at room temperature
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup roasted red pepper, diced
¾ cup scallions, sliced, white and green parts
1 loaf (about 20 slices) soft white bread
3 lbs. lean bacon
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Arrange bacon in a single layer on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.
Bake until cooked but still pliable.
Drain bacon strips on paper towels and set aside.
In a bowl, mix cream cheese and parmesan together until smooth.
Stir in the peppers and scallions until well combined; set aside.
Trim the crusts from the slices of bread.
Spread each slice with filling, covering completely.
Roll bread up, pressing down just enough to make it stick to itself.
Slice the rolls into thirds. If your bacon strips are thin, slice rolls into fourths.
Wrap a strip of bacon around each roll, overlapping the ends a half inch and trimming off any excess. Save excess bacon for another use.
Push a toothpick through the overlapping ends to hold them closed.
Lightly grease another baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
Arrange rolls on baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes (5 minutes longer if baking from frozen), or until the bacon is crisp and the tops are golden brown.
Remove from oven, pull out and discard toothpicks, and place on serving platter.
Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
NOTE: Bacon Roll-Ups can be made ahead of time and frozen until ready to use. Just follow recipe through Step 12, then place the bacon-wrapped rolls in the freezer for up to 6 weeks. The rolls can be baked from frozen. Just take out what you need when you have company and bake at 350°F until crisp.
VARIATIONS: If you’d like to try some variations, you can substitute swiss cheese for the parmesan, or add 1-2 tbsp. horseradish to the filling, or try using diced cooked shrimp and pineapple tidbits in place of the peppers and scallions.
I love Fine Cooking magazine. I’d only been married a few years when the magazine first came out and I bought my first issue. Oh the recipes….. the photos!….. I was instantly hooked! I subscribed to it right away and asked for a subscription renewal every year at Christmas. It was the best Christmas gift ever. Then they came out with their magazine archive on DVD-ROM. Every recipe from the first issue to the present all on one disc. How practical is that? Of course, you still need to subscribe every year after that to keep your archive up-to-date, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s so worth it when you consider the yearly cost of a paper subscription, the ease of searching for recipes on the computer as opposed to flipping through pages of issues, and the fact that the discs take up so much less storage space.
Anyway, I had some butternut squash and it was such a chilly night that I thought it would be a good time to serve a nice, warm, hearty soup for dinner. The recipe for this soup was published in an issue of Fine Cooking from 2005. Their description of it – “smoky bacon, herby sage, and sweet apple give this squash soup layers of flavor” – sounded just like what I was looking for so I thought I would give it a try. It was yummy. I served it with a green salad on the side and it made for a simple yet filling meal. Oh, the recipe is also paleo-friendly which my brother-in-law will appreciate since he’s following a paleo diet right now. I’m going to have to make it for him one of these days.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH APPLE & BACON
(Serves 6 to 7)
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips
2½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch dice (about 6 cups)
1 small Granny Smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch dice
1½ tbsps. finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth
In a large stockpot over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Increase heat to medium high; add the squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned.
Stir in the apple, sage, salt and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes more.
Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pot.
Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft.
Remove from the heat and let cool a little.
Add about half the bacon back into the soup and puree, using an immersion blender. (You could also use a stand blender and puree the soup in batches.)
Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Bring the soup back up to a simmer.
Spoon soup into bowls and garnish each serving with remaining bacon.
All the uproar over Paula Deen made me think of her Tomato Bacon Canapes. I watched her make these on her show “Paula’s Home Cooking” on the Food Network years ago. I tried it at home and have made it several times since then. It’s delicious, albeit not exactly diet-friendly. If you’re looking for a low-fat appetizer, this isn’t it but it’s so good that you just won’t care. Who doesn’t love a BLT sandwich? This has all the ingredients of a classic BLT and then some! It’s delicious and is great for the occasional cocktail party. It’s easy to make and I have to admit, every last one has been wolfed down each time I’ve served it!
NOTE: I didn’t have mini phyllo shells when I made the canapés pictured, so I used regular phyllo sheets that I cut into little squares and pressed into mini muffin cups. I layered 2 little squares into each muffin cup, brushing each layer with a little melted butter, and then prebaked them at 350º for about 8 minutes until they were a pale golden brown before proceeding with the canapé recipe. You could save yourself some work by buying the ready-to-use mini phyllo shells but if they’re unavailable in your area, just cut regular phyllo dough sheetsinto little squares like I did.
TOMATO BACON CANAPÉS
1 pkg. mini phyllo shells
¾ cup finely diced tomatoes
2 tsp. finely diced onions
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
½ tsp. Paula Deen’s house seasoning (see recipe below)
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup packed shredded mozzarella cheese
2-3 strips of bacon, fried crisp and finely crumbled
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place the diced tomatoes in a colander or sieve.
Sprinkle with the onion, basil and house seasoning, and toss to coat.
Allow to drain, stirring occasionally.
Fill each phyllo shell with a scant tablespoon of the tomato mixture.
Stir together the mayonnaise and mozzarella.
Frost the top of each shell with a scant tablespoon of the mayonnaise-mozzarella mixture.
Top each shell with a little crumbled bacon.
Bake the filled shells for 10-12 minutes.
PAULA DEEN’S HOUSE SEASONING:
1 cup salt
¼ cup black pepper
¼ cup garlic powder
Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
My Old Goat made his special Chili con Carne for dinner tonight. He doesn’t really cook but he does have a small repertoire of dishes that he makes when I’m not around and kitchen duty falls on his shoulders. He makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich, his Chili con Carne is really yummy, and he’s especially proud of his burgers. He keeps tweaking his burger recipe trying “to perfect it” as he says, which is really funny to me because I think it’s already perfect as it is.
Anyway, I was actually home this evening but Old Goat suddenly got a hankering to make Chili so I told him to go ahead and knock himself out. I could always use a break from fixing dinner. Not that I got a break. Instead I ended up making some Bacon Cheddar Cornbread Muffins to serve with his chili. These muffins are a great accompaniment to chilis, barbecues, even soups. They’re really easy to make because you start with a boxed cornbread mix. Give them a try at your next chili cook-off. I promise you’ll love ’em!
BACON CHEDDAR CORNBREAD MUFFINS
(Makes 16-18 muffins)
1 (15-oz.) box Krusteaz honey cornbread mix
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
3/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onion
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, stir together milk, oil, egg and full box cornbread mix until moistened.
Stir in corn, bacon, cheese and green onion.
Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 2/3 full.