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Peas with Onions and Guanciale

Peas with Onions and Guanciale


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Ingredients

  • 1 pound cipolline onions or pearl onions
  • 1/2 pound 1/8-to-1/4-inch-thick guanciale or pancetta slices, diced
  • 2 pounds shelled fresh peas, blanched 5 minutes, or frozen peas, thawed

Recipe Preparation

  • Blanch onions in large saucepan of boiling salted water 5 minutes. Drain, cool, and peel onions.

  • Sauté onions and guanciale in large skillet over medium heat until fat is rendered, guanciale is golden, and onions are brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add peas; heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl.

Reviews Section

Piselli e Guanciale – Peas and Bacon

Piselli e guanciale, otherwise known as peas and bacon.

This is another gem of a recipe that comes from my favorite cookbook, Breaking Bread in L’Aquila. We modified this one to substitute bacon and changed the cooking order so that the bacon and tomatoes stay firm.

One of the best parts of this recipe is that it is so simple. We can’t find fresh peas here in Austin, TX, so we always go with the frozen peas. As for the protein, we go with bacon. I mean, who doesn’t like bacon. I know guanciale isn’t the same as bacon but it’s the closest you can find here in Austin. We also found that adding the bacon at the end gives a crispier bacon which gives a nice texture since the rest of the dish is so soft.

We made this batch for a Sunday dinner with friends where we made pasta and mixed the piselli e guanciale with the pasta.

This should serve 6 – 8 people.

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of bacon (or guanciale), chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 pound of peas, frozen or fresh
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

Start by cooking the chopped bacon in a frying pan. Once it is fully cooked, remove the bacon but leave the oil in the pan. Add your chopped onion to the frying pan with the bacon grease. If you need extra liquid, add the olive oil. You only need the olive oil if you don’t have enough bacon grease to use for your sauted onions. Heat the frying pan with the bacon grease and olive oil over medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, add the onion and saute until the onion starts to turn translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.

Stir the peas into the sauted onions. Continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the peas are warmed and still plump. Now, add the cooked chopped bacon and the tomatoes and mix together. Taste the dish and then season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve warm as a side dish. Alternatively, you can use this mixture as a topping for pasta as a main course.


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Pasta With Peas, Guanciale, & Goat Cheese


This is another easy pasta dish that can be pulled together in mere minutes. You can create the sauce in the time that it takes for you to heat the water and boil the pasta. This is a dish that I used to make when my children were small as at that time, my son was a picky eater but loved pasta in cream sauce. When my kids were young, and I needed a quick, filling meal, I often would throw together a quick meal by cooking packaged tortellini, throw them into a sauce made with heated heavy cream, grated cheese, and peas. I ever had leftovers when making this dish.

This is my adult version of pasta alla panna as I added crispy pieces of diced guanciale, baby peas, and goat cheese, creating a dish the entire family will love. I used farfalle, or butterfly pasta in this version as it is another way to get kids to try this dish. What child wouldn’t want butterfly pasta? I like to serve this dish with grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper for the adults. Because many of the ingredients in this dish are salty to begin with, do not add additional salt until the dish has been completed. Guanciale is a type of Italian cured pork made from the cheeks of a pig, but if you cannot find it, pancetta or even bacon would work out okay. I added a sprinkling of lightly toasted pine nuts as I like to add texture to my dishes and I have them in my kitchen, but you can certainly skip the pine nuts if you like.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2019


Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Black-eyed peas are traditionally eaten for good luck on New Years Day in the Southern US. I also think they are great any time of the year. I haven’t tried it but I think you could substitute 2 cans of black-eyed peas for the fresh ones.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried black-eyed peas, rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight
  • 6 cups water, or more as needed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chop half and cut the other half into chuncks
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and diced (if desired)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 pound sausage (any type), cut into cubes
  • 1 14oz can of chicken broth
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped the leaves and stems
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Instructions

Drain the peas and rinse under cold running water. In a large soup pot, combine the peas with the water and bring to a boil, skimming and discarding any scum that rises to the top.Add the 1/2 onion that you cut into chunks and 2 of the garlic cloves. Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the beans are tender but not falling apart: check occasionally and add water if necessary to keep the beans covered.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the remaining onions and salt and pepper to taste and cook 6 to 8 minutes, until carmelized.

Add the green bell pepper and jalapeno peppers (if desired) and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Add the remaining garlic and sausage and cook about 5-10 minutes, until the sausage is brown.

Stir in the cooked peas, chicken broth, cilantro, cumin, oregano, coriander and ginger. If you want it a little spicier, you can add a dash of cayenne pepper, chili pepper or some Cajun spice. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you want the soup thicker you can either leave uncovered while you simmer or add corn starch.

Serve this alone or over steamed rice. It is also really good with cornbread!

This is an original recipe from Brian which is partly based on the Black Bean Chili.


Recipe Notes

Who would have thought that simplicity could be so complicated? Carbonara is an almost magically simple recipe, but the popularity of the dish coupled with the moderate difficulty of sourcing some of the ingredients has led to it being widely modified over the years. As such, you'll find a lot of variations, often with little information about how or why the original recipe (if there is such a thing) has been modified. You can jump right to cooking the recipe below if you're ready to cook, confident that the recipe I've provided is a simple and authentic one. But if you need or want to swap out ingredients, or you're wondering why certain ingredients are included or excluded, these notes should have you covered.

What's NOT Included:

Cream, peas, onions, and garlic. Great ingredients. Wonderful in pasta. And completely absent from this recipe.

If you're already a die-hard fan of carbonara in its simplest form, feel free to skip ahead, but for those of you wondering why these ingredients are up for debate at all, let's take a look. First and foremost is cream. I'm not entirely sure how cream has found its way into so many versions of carbonara, but it is the one ingredient in this little list that is (to my mind anyway) completely unnecessary. The silky creaminess of carbonara is its signature characteristic, but this is derived entirely from the use of eggs. I have my suspicions that cream has made it in as a sort of fail-safe or shortcut, but all it does is sell the eggs short. I mean, take a look at my photos - all that silky, smooth creaminess you see comes from eggs! Let them do their magic on their own.

Next up: peas. They're tasty, and fresh peas are good with lots of pastas, but I feel like they're included in carbonara to alleviate some sort of vegetable-guilt. We feel like we're being healthier by putting something green in the mixture. I suppose that's true in a way, but I personally think we're all better off embracing the Italian approach to pasta - i.e., eat a bit less of it, and serve other dishes. Save those peas and serve them on their own. Now if you really adore peas and you're just dying to put them into your carbonara, go nuts - but make sure you factor in how and when to add them. Because of the time- and heat-sensitive way that carbonara is finished, you don't want frozen peas cooling things down for you. I haven't tried this myself, but I think if you were to add peas to the pasta water for the last minute or two of cooking, you'd keep things tasty and easy to work with. You don't want to over or undercook them, so take into account whether they're fresh or frozen.

Lastly, garlic and onion. These two are a little more contentious, and you will encounter some Italian recipes that do insist on one, the other, or both. They both build flavours very nicely, and their importance in Italian cooking is paramount, but I personally think that they distract from the simplicity of the guanciale and cheese flavours. I absolutely adore garlic, and I don't hesitate to use a lot of it in most situations, but I feel like it's a distraction here. Still, if you want to include either of them, it's not a big deal - finely dice them and saute them (gently - you don't want to burn them) along with the guanciale. And speaking of guanciale.

Carbonara made with guanciale (top) and pancetta (bottom).
Visually very similar, but quite different in taste!

Guanciale & Substitutes

First off, let's talk about what guanciale is. Guanciale is a very simple cured pork product made from the cheek or jowl of a pig (the name actually comes from Italian guancia, meaning cheek). It's generally rubbed with some simple spices before being air-cured. It is not smoked. There's very little meat in guanciale, and a lot of fat that renders readily during cooking. That fat in particular is a key factor in the overall character of the meat. It's got a distinctive and somewhat strong 'porky' flavour that tends to divide people a bit. It's a bit tough to describe a distinctive flavour of course, but the fat in guanciale is much more distinctively pork-flavoured than, say, bacon fat.

Guanciale can be quite tricky to get a hold of, but it's becoming a little more readily available thanks to the rise of small-scale artisanal butchers and salumi makers. I live in the Vancouver, BC region and I was lucky enough to find whole guanciale cheeks for a wonderfully affordable price at Oyama Sausage Co. If you're in my neck (or jowl) of the woods, I'd start there. Wherever you live, try searching for local butchers and salumi makers. Well-stocked Italian shops and markets are also a solid bet (and a good place to get the cheese and/or guanciale alternatives listed below). If you definitely can't find guanciale, there are some great alternatives to investigate. These aren't going to be a one-to-one substitute in terms of flavour, but they each bring their own merits to the recipe.

  1. Pancetta is an Italian cured, generally unsmoked meat made from pork belly. This is probably the best bet, in that it's easier to find, appropriately fatty, and not smoked. It's flavour is less distinctly 'porky', which means it definitely tastes different from guanciale (which is a selling point for those who find guanciale too strong tasting). If you have the option, buy a thicker piece of it instead of thinly cut slices. This will give you the option of cutting it into small cubes for cooking/rendering. Note that smoked pancetta (pancetta affumicata) has a distinctive flavour somewhat closer to bacon.
  2. Capocollo (aka Coppa) is a heavily marbled cured pork product made from muscles found around a pig's neck. It's usually a bit more expensive but it makes an acceptable alternative here, especially if you like somewhat leaner meat. As with pancetta, you want to see if you can get a thicker cut piece that you can dice into pieces, as the default is for this product to be cut quite thin.
  3. American-style side bacon (aka streaky bacon) made from pork belly is VERY different from the other cured pork products I've listed above, as it is smoked. It's certainly delicious with cheese and pasta, so you can use it in this recipe, but don't expect it to taste like a traditional carbonara. It does, however, have the advantage of being quite easy to find, and suitably fatty. If you do go with bacon, try to choose something that's been air-cured, thicker cut, and kept simple (i.e. no bourbon, maple, or other flavourings added). Avoid using back bacon (incidentally called Canadian bacon by Americans, but not by Canadians), as it's much meatier and lacks the necessary fat. If you can find jowl bacon, I think you could probably try using it here - though once again, expect a difference in flavour thanks to the smoked aspect.

Both pancetta and capocollo are generally available at well-stocked grocery stores in North America, but you might have to look at an Italian specialty store depending on where you live.

Guanciale (top and bottom left) is made with pork cheeks and is mostly fat.
Pancetta (bottom right) is a little meatier, but still fairly fatty.

Cheese Options

The most traditional/classical cheese to use for carbonara is Pecorino Romano - a hard, salty, sheep's milk cheese. Sheep's milk cheeses in general often have a distinctive and unique flavour profile that distinguishes them from cow's milk cheeses, and the Italian pecorino cheeses are no exception. The older the cheese, the sharper this flavour becomes. As with guanciale, this unique flavour profile is part of what makes 'true' carbonara so distinctive and unique. That being said (and once again, as with guanciale), the strength of this flavour can be a bit divisive, causing some to prefer carbonara made with a blend of cheeses, or other cheeses entirely.

Good Pecorino Romano cheese can be somewhat tricky to find in some markets, but it should still be easier than finding guanciale for most people. If you need to substitute, or you're looking to experiment with a flavour combination that you particularly like, there are a few good options out there:

    1. Other pecorino cheeses - Any of the pecorino varieties can be used here fairly interchangeably, with two major caveats. First, and as you'd expect, the different varieties have different flavours- similar, mind you, but different. Second, and most importantly, you can only use the hard, aged pecorino cheeses (generally aged 12 months or more). Many pecorinos are popular as table cheeses when younger and softer, but those don't work well for grating in a dish like this. These younger softer cheeses are not exported in significant quantities, but you might encounter them if you're shopping at specialty Italian stores or cheese shops. The odds are good that if you're going to find any kind of true Italian pecorino cheese in a market outside of Italy, it will be Romano. Nonetheless, you could certainly experiment with the other aged pecorino cheeses. Pecorino Toscano (from Tuscany) and Sardo (from Sardinia) are both popular and will substitute well for Romano if well-aged. Pecorino Siciliano is not often found outside of Italy, and only sometimes aged enough to work in a recipe like this. A note on origins - despite the name 'Romano' (i.e. from Rome), most Pecorino Romano is actually made in Sardinia today.
    2. Parmigiano-Reggiano - the classic Italian hard cheese, this one is a popular alternative (in whole and in part) and generally easy to find. Some find the distinctive sheep's milk flavour of pecorino a bit strong on its own, and so choose to blend it with this mellower (yet still sharp and salty) cow's milk cheese. I personally like a 60/40 or 50/50 blend Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano. You can also completely omit the pecorino entirely in favour of Parmigiano, though you'll obviously lose the distinctive flavour profile of the former.
    3. Parmesan-style hard cheeses - Cheeses made in the style of Parmigiano-Reggiano are popular with many cheesemakers outside of Parma, Italy, but they cannot legally be referred to by the same name. There are plenty of options to explore, including (but not limited to) Czech Gran Moravia, Argentine Reggianito, Grana Padano (see below), and some North American-made varieties. Do be careful with the latter though - there are some great, well-aged hard cheeses coming out of Canada and the USA, but many so-called parmesan-style cheeses are considerably softer and aged for a shorter period of time. The better quality ones aren't likely to cost much less than true Italian cheese either. Do take note that the parmesan-style alternatives I'm talking about are hard cheeses made in the style of Parmigiano-Reggiano and sold whole, and NOT pre-ground/powdery cheese that comes in a shaker. Shaker 'parmesan' (which can't even legally be referred to by that name in the EU any more) is a vastly inferior product, with added cellulose to keep it from clumping. Don't use it here.
    4. Grana Padano - another great Italian hard cheese, though it often languishes a bit in the shadow of its made-in-Parma cousin. Grana Padano is similar in may respects to parmigiano, with a nutty, sharp, salty profile. This cheese is a bit milder and less distinctive that Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a little less rich. It's also fairly easy to find and (generally) a little cheaper than Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino cheeses. If you want to blend something with pecorino, but don't want to overpower the distinctive flavour of that cheese, Grana Padano is a good option. I would go for a 50/50 blend if you're going that route, but you can play around and see what you like.
    5. "Romano" Cheese (American-style) - This (generally) American-made cow's milk cheese is meant to replicate Pecorino Romano somewhat in terms of use, but it's rather different in many respects. It's got some of the sharp, aggressive flavour of Pecorino Romano, but is much milder in general. It can also be softer in texture, and is often aged for a shorter period of time. American Romano cheeses are considered a plainer and less aggressive alternative to their Italian inspirations, ostensibly to better suit the American palate. I don't personally have any experience working with this cheese, but I wanted to mention it in particular because of the overlapping name and potential for confusion. If you're familiar with these cheeses, you could certainly give them a try, either alone or in combination with other cheeses.

    Lastly, I'll make a note for the vegetarians out there - if you're hoping to adapt this to a fully vegetarian dish, you'll need to omit the meat AND factor in the fact that most of these cheeses use calf rennet during their production. See the Vegetarian Option notes below for more.

    Pecorino Romano (left) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (right).
    Note the paler colour and large grains of the pecorino.

    Pasta Options

    Alright, at least this section isn't too contentious (I hope. I guess we'll see if the comment section bears that out). Spaghetti is probably the most popular pasta to use for carbonara, but you could go with any number of alternatives. In general, long pastas (fettuccine, linguine, bucatini, etc.) are the way to go because of the way they hold the sauce, but some people like to use penne, maccheroni, or other shorter pasta varieties too. In my opinion, bucatini in particular makes a great alternative, as the long tubes hold the creamy sauce really well. Plus it's fun to say bucatini carbonara.

    If you're gluten-free, feel free to substitute a good quality alternative pasta, but I would urge you to use something you're familiar with. Ideally, any gluten-free alternative should be as close to the flavour of a standard wheat pasta as possible. You don't want to distract from the classic carbonara sauce with something strongly flavoured. I've read good things about Barilla's gluten-free spaghetti, but I haven't tried it yet myself. If you've tried it, I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

    No matter what you end up choosing, make sure you salt your pasta water liberally (it should be briny tasting). This is one of those things that I really like to emphasize, because it makes a big difference.

    Vegetarian Options

    One could argue that leaving the meat out of this makes it an entirely different recipe (and one might also argue that the recipe in question would be the aforementioned pasta cacio e uova) but let's not get bogged down in specifics. If you want to make a vegetarian carbonara, you've got two important obstacles to consider.

    First, and most obviously, the guanciale. You can simply omit the meat of course. The end result will differ a great deal from standard carbonara given the impact that the guanciale has on the final flavour, but it'll still taste great. In theory (caveat: I haven't tried this) you could use a vegetarian bacon substitute. However, there are two big problems with this: one, these products vary enormously in terms of quality, and two, they're designed to approximate smoky cooked bacon, not unsmoked pork products like guanciale or pancetta. If you have a go-to bacon substitute that you love, you can totally try it out here - but I'd be tempted to try the simpler meat-less version first. With or without a meat substitute, you might want to add just a bit of olive oil to account for the fact that you won't have any of the rendered pork fat in the final dish.

    The second factor related to making a truly vegetarian substitute is the cheese. Traditional Italian hard cheeses like pecorino, parmesan, and grana padano are all made with calf rennet - an enzymatic cocktail produced in the stomachs of calves (and other ruminant animals). Because this type of rennet is an animal product, it means that these cheeses (and many others) are not technically vegetarian. If you yourself are vegetarian(ish), you'll have to decide whether or not this factors into your cooking. If you're cooking for a vegetarian, ask them where they land on the issue. If you do need to keep the dish truly vegetarian, there are some options, but they're a bit tricky. There is a type of rennet made from vegetables, or produced by special bacteria, but no traditional D.O.P. Italian hard cheeses use these. That being said, some of the North American-made parmesan-style cheeses do, and the packaging on these will generally make a note about being vegetarian-friendly. In Canada and the USA you can find pre-shredded parmesan and romano-style cheeses that are made with non-animal enzymes, but I haven't seen any whole (i.e. unshredded) products in Canada (I've read that Trader Joe's sells a whole, vegetarian parmesan-style cheese, but I haven't tried it and can't really comment on it any further). I personally don't like pre-shredded cheese, but if that's the only option you have it's better than nothing. Note that these cheeses are generally milder tasting overall than their Italian counterparts.

    Decadent, silky sauce without cream = egg alchemy.

    How Does This Work? (Eggs are Magic)

    The very first time I made carbonara I was floored. You expect the cheese to play a specific role (and it does), but little can prepare you for the fact that simply tossing hot pasta with whisked eggs will give you a smooth, decadent, creamy sauce. Carbonara does something with eggs that we otherwise tend to see more with desserts like curd, custard, and sabayon. The sauce is cooked by the pasta itself, kept in motion constantly, resulting in an emulsified, just-cooked egg mixture. The proteins in the eggs are denatured by the moderate heat of the pasta, and the constant movement keeps them from coagulating. Instead of bits of cooked egg, we get a phenomenal, crowd-pleasing, creamy-without-cream sauce. Magic, I tell ya.

    My recipe uses one whole eggs and two egg yolks (large eggs in all cases). I've tried a few different iterations and this is the balance that I like best. The egg yolks make a richer, more decadent sauce, while the added whole egg thins the sauce out and adds a bit of body without becoming too loose or gooey.

    For consistency's sake, try to use large eggs. If you have medium or extra-large eggs, I would just bump the quantities of the other ingredients down or up a little bit, rather than trying to calculate specific substitution ratios.

    Technique & Serving Size

    In the section above on eggs I mention just how the eggs are turned into this wonderful, creamy/cheesy sauce. In order to achieve this, you want to make sure that you're properly prepared, and that you factor in the serving sizes.

    You want to make sure that you read through the recipe carefully, ensuring that you're ready to proceed with each step in a timely fashion. The hot, just-cooked pasta has to go right into the waiting egg mixture, where it's then tossed and stirred until the sauce is cooked and creamy. If you drain your pasta ahead of time it'll be too cool and too dry (you want some of that salty/starchy pasta water in the mix). If you leave the cooked pasta in the water too long, it'll become soggy and overcooked. A pair of kitchen tongs are almost a must-have for this recipe, as they let you easily hold, toss, and stir the long pasta through the sauce. If you don't have tongs, you might actually be better off using a pasta like penne, as you'll be able to stir (rather than toss) it through the sauce more easily.

    I will note that my technique differs from many recipes, which call for adding the egg mixture to the hot guanciale/pasta. I personally find that you have more control over the cooking process and a lower risk of curdling the eggs if you use tongs to transfer the pasta/guanciale into the whisked eggs and cheese mixture itself. This does require a bit more wrist strength and dexterity to toss and move the pasta, but I think it works fantastically well. If you struggle with the technique you can stir the eggs into the hot pasta/guanciale instead - just make sure you work slowly and stir very vigorously.

    Do pay attention the serving sizes before you jump in. It's tricky to double this recipe, as you end up with a lot of heavy pasta that's tricky to toss evenly with the sauce. It's also harder to distribute the heat from the pasta evenly through the sauce, making it tougher to properly cook the eggs. If you're cooking for a larger group, I would personally recommend making two batches rather than trying to make a single extra-large batch. One advantage of the technique I use is that you can cook a double-batch of pasta and meat together, then simply do the egg/cheese mixing step twice. Halving the recipe is a little easier, but you'll need to take two things into account. First, it's tricky to halve one egg one whole medium egg and one medium yolk make a good substitute. Second, the smaller batch of sauce will cook a bit faster, and is more prone to scrambling if you don't toss fast enough. That being said, if you keep the pasta moving quickly you should be fine.

    Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1/4 portion of the total recipe). While this reflects the general suggested serving size for pasta, you might find yourself wanting a somewhat larger serving size. As a stand-alone pasta 'treat' this is more likely to serve 2-3. Adjust accordingly.


    The Jerk that put Peas in Carbonara

    Who was the man (or woman) that first decided to put the pea in the pasta carbonara? And Why? What could prompt such a thing and how did it become such a seemingly normal thing to do in America?

    Cap- The Jerk that Put Peas in Carbonara- Carbonara from Rome

    When visiting Rome, my husband and I took a food tour. Our guide was Massimiliano, a welcoming soft blue-eyed gentleman. We later learned that he worked with children with disabilities for a living. A very kind soul, indeed. Mid-way through the tour, we stopped into a little restaurant for some pasta tasting. Amatriciana and carbonara were on the menu. The pea conundrum immediately popped into my head.

    “Massimiliano, do you know why Americans started putting peas in carbonara?”

    He looked at me like I asked for a side of ranch for the pasta. Hurt, confused, shocked. He said something along the lines of, I don’t know why Americans do what they do. They just do whatever they want and ruin it. It seemed to anger him. This was the only point in the whole tour that his friendly and gentle demeanor broke and it was I that broke it.

    Immediately regretting I asked, I wanted to clarify, I just wanted to know if he knew why or how peas ended up there. I didn’t think that they should be there. But I was so embarrassed that I gave up. It was all in my head. No one even noticed I asked such a silly question and if they did, they did not care. It was a small group of seven. One other couple from the states, a couple from South Africa, and a single woman who asked too many questions. She had a hard time keeping up while wearing jelly sandals on a walking tour. What do they say in the South? “Bless her heart.”

    In hind sight, I guess it was a bit silly to think Massimiliano might know. If anyone knows, it’s someone in America. I tried to dig deeper into the subject but came up with absolutely nothing. Clearly, the first step was Googling “pasta carbonara”. The preview photos of each link were speckled with pea green. I could only frustratingly scroll past so many celebrity chef and blog sites with recipes that blatantly contained peas before giving up.

    Of course, I dug deeper after simply Googling its name. Still, all I could find was information on its origins and multiple claims of knowing the true traditional recipe, each one different. Personally, I really don’t think there is just one. If there is, how would that even be determined? It’d be like the great Philly Cheesesteak debate. A question with two different answers that are both correct.

    I have more of a casual method and less of a recipe:

    Boil a handful of spaghetti (or any other long noodle) in salted water

    Sauté some guanciale (pancetta if you can’t find guanciale) and reserve the meat, keeping the rendered fat on low.

    Whisk a couple of egg yolks (you can use the whole egg if you prefer) with some freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan Reggiano or both)

    When the pasta is al dente, add it to the sauté pan, remove from the heat, and quickly mix in the eggs and cheese until creamy.

    Mix in the guanciale, season with salt (and pepper if you wish), and enjoy.

    As you can see by my parenthesis, there are many substitutions and options. I know only three things if you want to try to keep it “traditional”: use guanciale (not bacon), eggs (no cream), and if the recipe you’re using has peas, just omit them. Or leave the peas in if you’re into that kind of thing. Just know that there are Italians everywhere that would be very disappointed in you.

    I guess we’ll never know who the first jerk to put peas in pasta carbonara was and why it seemed like such a good idea to so many others. If anybody out there does know, please enlighten me.


    What sets this Bucatini all’Amatriciana recipe apart?

    While onions are not considered traditional in bucatini all’amatriciana I love the slightly sweet flavor it adds to the quick-cooked sauce. This recipe is based on my favorite iteration of a dish that I’ve had at the Santa Monica restaurant, Ouovo. The addition of starchy pasta water makes for a glossy and almost creamy pasta sauce.

    I like buying a big chunk of guanciale and cutting it into lardons (strips of fatty cured pork) myself so that I can control the size. I prefer larger pieces of the cured pork jowl. When the fat is rendered and the pieces are crispy you still get a bit of tender fat in each bite. If you prefer less fatty pork, I’d recommend cutting it into smaller pieces.

    How is guiancale different from pancetta?

    Guiancale is cured pork with a high percentage of fat that comes from pig jowls, seasoned with salt, pepper, sage, rosemary and garlic. Pancetta comes from pork belly and is salted, seasoned, cured and aged for an extended period of time. Pancetta is more similar to bacon while guanciale has a flavor all it’s own, however, if you’re looking for a substitute pancetta or bacon will do in a pinch.

    What’s so great about bucatini?

    Bucatini is in my top 5 pasta shapes. I love how the sauce gets stuck in the hole in the center of the long thick noodles, but if you can’t find it, you can easily substitute spaghetti or linguine. Bucatini is thicker than spaghetti with a hole in the middle. It’s basically the shape of a pool noodle and is great for soaking up sauces, especially velvety sauces like this one, cacio e pepe or this bucatini carbonara with bacon and peas.

    How to make bucatini all’amatriciana

    • Step 1: Fry the guiancale until it’s crispy and the fat renders.
    • Step 2: Add the onions and sauté then add the wine to de-glaze the pan and simmer until almost evaporated.
    • Step 3: Drain and roughly chop the tomatoes then add to the pan and bring to a simmer. Stir in the crispy, cooked guanciale, black pepper and red pepper flakes.
    • Step 4: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
    • Step 5: Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 7 minutes. Set aside 1½ cups of the pasta water then drain.
    • Step 6: Add the pasta to the pan with the tomato mixture and toss with some of the pasta water.
    • Step 7: Remove from the heat stirring the noodles then slowly add the pecorino, continuing to toss the pasta to combine. Season to taste with salt and serve immediately topped with additional cheese.

    FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

    If you can’t find guiancale you can substitute lardons of bacon or pancetta. I’d recommend looking at Italian markets or asking at your deli counter.

    No but I love the texture and slight sweetness they add to this bucatini all’amatriciana recipe!

    The salty, starchy water that the pasta is cooked in adds flavor but also makes the sauce rich and silky. It helps to bind the sauce to the pasta.

    No, I don’t recommend it! You want this sauce to bind to the noodles – this is aided by the addition of the pasta water. Adding oil when cooking the noodles will make them slippery and the sauce won’t stick as well.

    Bucatini all’amatriciana or bucatini amatriciana refers to the spicy pasta sauce made up of pork cheek (guiancale), tomatoes, cheese and in some variations, onions. It’s named for Amatrice, a small Italian town outside Rome.

    I know there’s currently a bucatini shortage so it can be harder to track down dried bucatini. I make my own using my KitchenAid pasta maker attachment for my stand mixer though you can also substitute a similar noodle like spaghetti or a flat noodle like linguine.


    Beurre Manié and French Style Spring Peas

    This week I’m kneading things up a little bit (wait for it…) and incorporating a simple yet useful technique into the post. Cheryl picked up a package of shelled peas at Trader Joe’s so I made some French peas to go with our Sunday dinner roast. Since I’d made this dish before, I knew there was a recipe for it in my CIA cookbook (the school in my hometown not the spy agency), but I had forgotten about a certain trick used to thicken the sauce mixing in a butter-flour combo at the end to make a rich, smooth, buttery sauce which envelops the peas.

    As I re-read the recipe I noticed the butter technique looked awfully familiar to a something in Ruhlman’s Ratio for thickeners. Sure enough, there is a ratio for this particular trick, 1:1 butter to flour. Its technical name is beurre manié, which I believe translates to ‘kneaded butter’ (haha, see? get it now? kneading things up!). It’s different than a roux (also butter/fat and flour thickener) in that beurre manié isn’t cooked and it is typically used in finishing the sauce, not building it. As a cooking technique I think beurre manié is a very versatile and quick sauce fixer. Pan steaming some vegetables? Drop some in and your veggies have a nice buttery sauce. It can also be used to make a quick sauce for your roasted chicken, or anything else which gives you some pan juices. Just add a little stock to the juices in the pan, whisk in some beurre manié…voila, instant gravy. It may not work with all vegetables, but let’s just say the French, whose peas I was preparing, know a thing or two about technique.

    Of course, I improvised a little with the recipe. I opted to switch out the pearl onions for some minced shallot as a time saver. I like pearl onions but they can really be a pain to prep. Ok, not that much of a pain but if you’re making this to go with a weeknight dinner omitting the pearl onions saves a lot of time. I’d say it goes from taking like a half hour to make some peas to 10 mins, if that. I also didn’t have the Boston lettuce called for in the recipe so I used Romaine instead. Worked just fine. And since everything is better with bacon I added some of my guanciale which is hanging in the pantry. Come to think of it, I don’t know if these are French style peas any more, more like ‘Piselli alla Romagna.’ One thing I really wish I had on hand but haven’t seen any around yet: RAMPS. I’d use them for the onions and for the greens. Oh I think they would make this a true spring dish. I highly recommend finding and using fresh peas instead of frozen. This is also a case where I think it is preferable to use a little bit of stock for extra flavor instead of water.

    Side roam: See, this is why I like cooking much more than baking. I don’t find cooking as rigid as baking, you can take a recipe or technique and use what you have available. There are a lot of no-no’s in baking and one false move or even a tricky oven can ruin everything. At least with meats and vegetables you can fix mistakes and still get away with it! I just can’t improvise as much with baking. Baking is definitely a skill but it’s not my strongest (except pies). Ok, rant over.

    It’s not much of a reach for me to say this dish ROCKS! Peas are one of Cheryl’s favorite vegetable, if not the favorite so I really think I could have just boiled em up, seasoned, and served. However, this is a good example of how a simple technique can elevate a normal side dish. All mostly because of a little butter and flour kneaded together. Great trick to remember as farmer’s markets start to open up and we see more and more fresh vegetables.

    French Style Spring Peas (alla Romagna) (serves 4)

    • 2 C fresh, shelled peas
    • 1 Tbs butter
    • 1 medium sized shallot, minced
    • 1 Tbs flour
    • 2 oz guanciale or pancetta, small cubes
    • ½ C chicken stock (or veg)
    • 1 C shredded Romaine lettuce
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Beurre manié: with your fingers combine (knead even) an even ratio of butter and flour. For this recipe 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs of flour will be more than enough.

    In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat add the guanciale and shallots. You shouldn’t need any butter as the fat from the guanciale should be enough to cook the shallots but add some if you want. Cook until shallots are soft and beginning to caramelize.

    Add the peas, lettuce, and stock. Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until peas are cooked, about 4-5 minutes. In small pieces add the beurre manié and stir in. Add enough to give you the desired consistency of your sauce. You may only need about ½ Tbs of the beurre manié. It’s butter so easy to save any excess in the fridge. The bacon and stock should season it nicely but add some salt and pepper to taste if you like.


    What to Eat Now: Spring Onions

    4/30/14 By Editorial Staff

    You probably take onions for granted because they're around all year long. But pay attention right now and you'll notice that every member of the allium family--from ramps to leeks--is looking fly as hell.

    That's because, in the springtime, they're picked younger and sold smaller, greener and sweeter. So this is the moment to seek them out at farmer's markets, when they've got a gentler flavor and softer texture than the rest of the year along with a fresh, almost garlicky perfume.


    Got them? Good. Now, instead of using alliums solely to build the base of recipes, let them be the star.

    Dress young leeks with mustard-tarragon vinaigrette (see the recipe), a more delicate version of the classic-but-clunky French dish that starts with exceptionally tender (and pretty) baby leeks. They pair beautifully with a sharp, herbaceous sauce that's extra springy if you can pound in some green garlic.


    And what about ramps? Well, after you've Instagrammed your haul of wild green onions, we suggest wilting them with as many other spring onions as you can find, along with fresh peas and salty guanciale for a warm vegetable salad that's as beautiful as it is delicious (see the recipe).