Asparagus Carbonara

I’m jumping the gun a little and posting my Friday Yakima Herald article early. Ironically, it’s posted early on their web site so I guess it’s alright.  This recipe was so easy and quick and should you get your hands on some asparagus one more time before it disappears for the season, you must make this dish. I’ve been craving it all week and just might have to make it again this weekend.

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It was one of those rushed Tuesday nights. I’m sure you know the one: basketball and flag football practice, gymnastics, work and chores, errands and a couple of household pets waiting for their dinner right alongside the three grumpy kids lined up on kitchen stools hungry and agitated from a long busy day. Insert your own list of to-do’s and busyness and you and I are in the same boat.

It would have been easy to throw a frozen pizza in the oven or slap some peanut butter on bread and call it dinner. And quite frankly, there are absolutely those days, but just as often I scour the refrigerator and pantry to come up with something, even when it’s on the fly.

On this particular night, in the midst of the hustle, I needed a few minutes to chop and slice, stir and sprinkle. I needed the house to smell like cooking onion and garlic and I wanted my children to eat something green even if they were going to complain. I eyed a few pieces of bacon, some almost-but-not-quite sad asparagus from last week’s farmers market and a package of spaghetti noodles. I could work with that.

People ask me why I cook and oddly it’s the crazy nights that crystalize why it means so much to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the slow and easy days where I can putter in my kitchen. But let’s be honest, that’s not the every day. Most days look more like Tuesday nights; a little rushed, sometimes frazzled, a hungry family wanting food fast.

Using my hands and my imagination I can create something from almost nothing. I can feed my family and friends mostly healthy food, much of which grows right here in my Valley. This ability to make something; tangible, essential, hearty reminds me I can create and do so much more than I often let myself. That’s why I cook. This easy take on carbonara is a fast 20 minutes. You’ve got a pot and two skillets going all at the same time. You chop and stir, drain and taste and suddenly dinner is ready.

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Asparagus Carbonara

  • 4-5 slices center-cut slab bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces
  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles
  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends cut off, trimmed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 shallot or ½ small walla walla sweet onion, diced
  • 2 gloves garlic, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 large eggs (1 per serving)
  • ¼ cup, thinly sliced basil
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Set a large pot of water over high heat. At the same time heat a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and cook the shallot and garlic for two to three minutes until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the bacon to the frying pan and cook for another 3-5 minutes until the bacon is cooked through. Turn the heat off to the pan and using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and onion mixture letting it drain on a paper towel.

When the pot of water boils, stir in a big handful of salt and the pasta. When the pasta is halfway done, add the asparagus. When the pasta and asparagus are cooked through (the asparagus will be bright green and tender but not mushy) drain away the water reserving ¼ cup of pasta water. Going back to the frying pan, turn the heat to medium-low and stir in the butter and pasta water, adding the bacon and onions into the sauce. Using tongs, mix the pasta and asparagus into the sauce until the entire dish is well-coated. Salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh basil and parmesan cheese. Remove from heat and set aside.

Using a small fry pan, heat the pan over medium-high heat. Spray the pan with a little cooking spray or melt a little butter in the pan. When the pan is hot, crack the egg, making sure not to break the yolk. Cook for 2 minutes or until the egg white is firm but the yolk is still very runny. Using a spatula, remove the egg from the pan and start again until you have one fried egg per person.

To serve, dish the pasta into individual bowls and lay an egg over the pasta. Garnish with more fresh basil and parmesan and a good sprinkle of black pepper.

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