December 18th, 2014
Spaghetti with Radicchio alla Carbonara
This is a meatless take on the classic Spaghetti Carbonara that typically features guanciale, pancetta or other (preferably unsmoked) bacon. Sautéed radicchio refined with dry sherry is the star here. Similarly supported by fresh eggs – and a good reasonable amount (a ton!) of black pepper, hence the name ‘Carbonara’.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara is one of those dishes that when done right is incredibly divine. And creamy. Dreamy and creamy. That’s what Spaghetti Carbonara should be. Though, now here’s the crux its creaminess shouldn’t come by the use of heavy cream. Since cream is not part of the original Italian recipes and – when done right isn’t necessary. Instead authentically its creaminess only comes from an egg-cheese mixture.
Then there’s another difficulty when preparing this dish to not end up with scrambled eggs because the sauce gets mixed under too high heat. Been there, done that. Very far from Carbonara. So the trick is to take the pasta mix off the heat or make sure the heat is at its lowest setting before proceeding with pouring the egg mixture.
Also another thing to consider is the spaghetti should be cooked not until al dente but slightly before al dente to not overcook them when mixed with the sauce. Ideally pasta should always be enjoyed al dente (end result). Overcooked pasta is no gusto.
When radicchio meets sherry
This recipe replaces bacon – typically guanciale (from the cheeks of the pig) or pancetta (from the belly) – with sautéed radicchio that’s been deglazed with some dry sherry. A simply perfect combination and welcome (meatless) variation.
Whole eggs or egg yolks only?
There are variations on either using whole eggs as the base or only using egg yolks. A sauce based on whole eggs only is lacking that divine factor. It’s somewhat creamy but missing the rich and velvety character hence the apparently popular add-in (cheat) of some cream. When using the yolks only it might get a little too rich (if that is even possible). A mixture of both – whole eggs and yolks is the answer and it’s actually quite common also.
A good ratio (or better say starting point for a ratio) of whole egg to egg yolk is about 1:2 – while calculating one egg yolk per person. So, for three people it’s 1,5 whole eggs and 3 egg yolk. Easy, easy. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a different use for the remaining 0,5 whole egg. Ok, bad jokes aside. Depending on the people and the size of the eggs use either one or two whole eggs. I’ll probably would go with two – and use only one egg yolk. There’s for sure a mathematical formula for the ideal ratio depending on the amount of servings or people. Unfortunately I’m not a math person. If you are one then please feel yourself challenged.
Leftover egg whites?
Throwing them away would be no good solution. You can always store them in the fridge and use them for breakfast the next morning for some scrambled eggs, maybe add another whole egg or just scramble the egg whites. Or make extra fluffy pancakes by beating the egg whites and then gently fold them in your pancake batter.
- 240g (8 ounces) spaghetti
- 125ml (½ cup) starchy pasta cooking water
- 1 TS coconut oil
- 2 shallots, finely diced
- 300g radicchio, cut into thin 1 ½ inch long stripes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 80ml (1/3 cup) dry sherry
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- ½ cup grated parmigiano reggiano (or a blend with pecorino)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ ts salt
- Dash ground dried chili or cayenne
- 1 TS chopped uncooked radicchio or parsley, for topping
- ts = teaspoon (5ml), TS = tablespoon (15ml)
- Bring a big pot of water (about 3l) to a boil, add 2 ts salt and cook your pasta in it slightly under al dente (about 1 or 2 minutes less), drain it. Reserve a good half a cup of the starchy cooking water.
- Meanwhile in a medium bowl mix egg yolks and egg together with grated cheese. Add freshly ground black pepper and some salt to taste. For some little heat and also flavor kick in a dash of good-quality ground dried chili. Set aside.
- Heat up a large pan with 1 TS coconut oil at medium high heat, add the diced shallots, stir quickly for 30 seconds or until translucent.
- Then add your radicchio, let it wilt down for a minute. Stir and sauté everything for about 5 minutes or until the radicchio has softened and become translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze with dry sherry and let everything simmer for a minute or two (the sherry will infuse the radicchio and the alcohol will cook out).
- Add the reserved half a cup of pasta cooking water to your pan, mix well and then add your drained slightly undercooked pasta. Turn and take your skillet off the heat (important!).
- Now stir in your egg-cheese mixture until everything is combined and coated. Serve immediately topped with either some raw radicchio or chopped parsley.
- The (two) remaining egg whites can be stored in the fridge and be used the next morning for breakfast scrambled egg whites, e. g.
- The Basic (cutting board, chef’s knife).
- Medium bowl – for the egg and cheese mixture.
- Big pot – for boiling the pasta.
- Large pan – for making the sauce and mixing it with the pasta.