Saturday, October 29, 2016

Sheet Pan Spaghetti Carbonara

Plan to pick up your favorite fall vegetables at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market this Sunday. Last week, Camas Swale Farm had these magnificent brussels sprout stalks teaming with delectable sprouts and useful for reenacting Star Wars scenes on the walk home.

We've had a busy few weeks and I've been looking for inspiration for quick dinners. In my childhood, a common such meal in rotation was spaghetti carbonara. The sauce for this is just eggs beaten in a bowl with parmesan cheese and plenty of black pepper, and then cooked by being tossed with hot spaghetti as soon as it is drained, and then topped with bacon pieces. This was the one of the first dishes my mother learned to make from her French roommate when she was a starving student in Paris, and then she passed on the recipe to her subsequent roommate and my future aunt. A generation later, it was one of the first recipes my sister, my cousins, and I all mastered as teenagers. The recipe morphed in our household to include onions, peppers, and carrots, sauteed along with the bacon. 

Now a generation later, spaghetti carbonara seems to have receded from restaurant menus and cooking magazines. Perhaps it has been vilified by fears of Salmonella or lost favor with changing cultural paletes. When I've made it a few times for my children, who've been raised on roasted kale chips, they found the vegetables sautéed in bacon fat too greasy for their taste. Last week I reengineered the dish by roasting the ingredients on sheet pans in the oven rather than sautéing on the stove. And I incorporated brussels sprouts into the dish, which are a natural partner of bacon. It all came together in the time it took to boil water and cook spaghetti and the kids deemed it a good alternative to breakfast for dinner.

Sheet Pan Spaghetti Carbonara
serves 4
2 dozen brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved or quartered if big
2 carrots, sliced on an angle into ovals
1 small onion, chopped into 1/2 sized pieces
olive oil for drizzling on vegetable
salt to taste
6 slices of bacon
2 eggs
1/2 cup graded parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
plenty of black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

1. Start preheating the oven to 425 degrees. It works well to use one large sheet pans and two smaller sheet pans or baking dishes that can fit side by side. If you are using sheet pans, place them in the preheating oven. Set a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Chop the vegetables. Remove 2 eggs from the refrigerator to warm up to room temperature.

2. On one small sheet pan or baking dish, spread out the bacon slices and place in the oven. Toss the chopped onions in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread these on another small sheet pan and place in the oven next to the bacon. In the same bowl, toss the halved brussels sprouts in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and spread them on the large preheated sheet pan and place on a second rack in the oven. In the same bowl, toss the sliced carrots in a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Keep an eye on the items in the oven. In about 10 minutes, you should flip over the bacon and vegetables. In another 10 minutes, the bacon should be crispy and the onions should be soft and slightly charred. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain and scrape the onions into a bowl. Put the carrots on the onion sheet pan and return to the oven. The brussels sprouts should be done shortly after, and the carrots should cook in about 10 minutes, with one flip halfway through. Add the cooked vegetables to the bowl. Taste and add a little more salt if needed.

3. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions. In a large serving bowl, crack the eggs and beat. Add in 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and black pepper. Position the bowl close to the sink with good pair of tongs handy. When the spaghetti is ready, drain it and immediately dump it in the egg bowl and toss to coat the spaghetti strands with cooked cheesy egg. Add the roasted vegetables to the serving bowl and crumble over the bacon and toss again (or keep the vegetables and bacon separate and allow everyone to serve themselves). Serve immediately with graded parmesan cheese.

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