I dream about Pasta Carbonara, for reals. However, being a model for 11 years has trained me to avoid certain dishes. Carbonara, with its bacon, cheese, and (sometimes) even cream, is one of those things that I never allow myself to indulge in. I have been known to jealously watch other people slurp up their carbonara, or look longingly at pictures of the dish in cookbooks, and quickly turn the page to seek out lighter, healthier fare. Sigh.
Then, about a year ago, I ate some leeks that were so incredibly creamy and delicious and it got me thinking: Can I sub out some of the cream and Parmesan used in carbonara for shredded leeks?
Now, granted, carbonara is never going to be a “healthy” dish – it’s got a good amount of bacon and Parmesan in it… but still, could I tweak slightly and make a dent?
When I searched online, it seems I am not the only person to have had this thought, but no one I could find shredded the cooked leaks in a blender so they became a thick, creamy paste to add to the dish.
I recently went away for a long weekend in Hudson Valley and used my friends as guinea pigs for this. Every single one of the woke up the next morning and the first thing they said as they came downstairs for coffee was, “I woke up thinking about that carbonara.” Pardon my French, but it’s fucking good.
This recipe makes a lighter carbonara than others I have had, without losing the creamy, delicious texture (it also has absolutely no cream in it). The leeks also add a lovely subtle flavor that brightens the dish. (I had extra leeks left over and used them the following morning in an omelet and it was delicious!)
I used Alexandra Cooks blog as a base reference for this recipe, but switched things up a bit.
MELTED LEEKS CARBONARA
Mise en Place: I hope you have your mise en place all ready before you start cooking!
1 CUP OF DICED PANCETTA OR BACON (Note: We diced uncooked pancetta into ¼ inch slices. Then, once it was cooked/crispy, we chopped it down even further into smaller pieces.)
3 UNCOOKED EGGS, whisked
½ CUP PARMIGANO REGGIANO (plus a small handful for finishing touches)
3 LEEKS, CHOPPED
1 PACKAGE OF PASTA (whatever shape you like)
ZEST FROM A WHOLE LEMON
JUICE FROM ½ A LEMON
PARSLEY for garnish (optional)
You’ll also need to have a DISH WITH PAPER TOWELS ON IT to drain the pancetta/bacon
You will need to save 2-3 Tablespoons of bacon fat once the bacon is cooked.
Also you will need to save ¼ cup of boiling water before you drain the pasta!
Bring water to boil, but DON’T cook pasta yet – you’ll need the pasta to be piping and freshly cooked!
Break eggs into a bowl and whisk, add parmesan to the bowl, set aside.
Place diced pancetta/bacon in flat pan over high heat and let cook until brown and crispy (about 10 mins-15 mins)
Move bacon to dish with paper towels to drain
Remember to save 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat before you discard the fat!
Put 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat back into same flat pan and cook the leeks until they are completely soft, (10-15 minutes), stir frequently so that they do not burn!
Once leeks are completely soft, put them in a blender and blitz them until they look sauce like.
Add blended leeks, lemon juice, and bacon bits to the bowl with the eggs and parmesan, stir to mix together.
Put in pasta in boiling water to cook
Before draining pasta, save ¼ cup of the boiling water!
Drain pasta and IMMEDIATELY add the pasta to the bowl with eggs, bacon, parmesan, lemon juice, and leeks.
The high heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and you can GRADUALLY add ¼ cup of boiling water to keep up heat and add moisture, if needed.
Garnish with parmesan, lemon zest, parsley
Stuff your face immediately!