Last-minute ingredients make a great carbonara

Chicago TribuneJune 20, 2013 

FOOD FOODFAST-CARBONARA TB

This tasty version of carbonara uses what's on hand — Italian sausage and asparagus.

BILL HOGAN — MCT

This is not a typical spaghetti alla carbonara. The traditional dish is a simple combination: spaghetti tossed with sautéed guanciale (pig's cheek, but often crisped pancetta or bacon are used instead), fresh eggs, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and lots of black pepper.

But arriving home on a Monday night after having just read a carbonara restaurant trend article, I couldn't let go of the idea for a carbonara dinner, even though I had no cured pork and just Parmesan, no Romano. But there was Italian pork sausage in the fridge and a few eggs from the farmers market.

And what about that bag of superfresh pea shoots? People sometimes stir peas into the dish; why not pea shoots?

And so the carbonara craving was satisfied. Since that dinner, I've subbed in asparagus for the pea shoots, and radicchio. And I've stocked the freezer with pancetta. But at least I know that pork sausage will work well in a pinch.

Monday night carbonara

1 pound spaghetti

4 fresh eggs

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Italian pork sausages, about 8 ounces

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths

¼ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat a large pasta pot full of well-salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti; stir. Cook at a rapid boil until al dente.

Meanwhile, break eggs into a large bowl; add Parmesan. Whisk to combine well. Set aside.

Cook sausages in a skillet until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes; transfer to a cutting board. Chop coarsely. (Or remove sausages from their casings; cook until browned and cooked through, breaking them up with a spatula as they cook.)

Heat asparagus to a simmer in a saucepan with the salt and enough water just to cover; simmer, 5 minutes. Drain.

Drain spaghetti well; add to bowl with egg mixture. Toss to coat all the strands; add sausage and asparagus. Season generously with pepper. Toss to combine; serve, passing more grated Parmesan at the table.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 706 calories, 21 g. fat, 220 mg. cholesterol, 90 g. carbohydrates, 37 g. protein, 875 mg. sodium, 6 g. fiber.

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