Recipe: Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara

Whip up this delish dish from local author Joy Manning’s new cookbook, Almost Meatless, for a healthier version of this Italian favorite

This pasta dish is known for its simple sauce that comes together quickly when whipped eggs meet the hot pasta. Carbonara is often grouped into the naughty foods category because the basic components of the recipe include cream, eggs, bacon, and cheese. But our recipe uses a dash of milk, just enough bacon for a hint of smoky flavor and crunch, and lots of fresh, vibrant peas, asparagus, and basil. Timing is the key to the creamy sauce; be sure all of the ingredients are ready to combine with the pasta as soon as it is al dente. Toss the spaghetti constantly in the eggs and cheese mixture for about 30 seconds to coat the pasta and prevent the eggs from scrambling.

Serves 4 to 6

3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound English peas, shelled (about
1 cup), or 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 pound spaghetti
4 ounces asparagus, sliced diagonally
1/8 inch thick (1 cup)
10 fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
5 eggs, whisked, at room temperature
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish (2 ounces)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the bacon, cooking for about 5 minutes, until crispy. Transfer the cooked bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel and set aside. Return the pan with the rendered fat to the stovetop for future use.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the peas into the water and cook them for 5 minutes. Transfer them to a strainer with a slotted spoon or a spider basket. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat the bacon fat in the sauté pan over medium heat. Add the peas and asparagus, and sauté for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs and milk. Have the egg mixture, vegetables, and bacon ready to toss with very hot pasta.

Quickly drain the pasta and transfer immediately to a large serving bowl. Pour the eggs and cheese on top of the pasta, and toss vigorously to coat the strands and gently cook the eggs, forming a creamy sauce. Add the vegetables, and bacon, and continue tossing to incorporate them. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Portion the spaghetti on plates and ladle any sauce left in the bowl over each serving. Grate additional cheese on top if you like.