The Simple Pasta Carbonara Recipe That’s Great for Dinner Parties

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The kitchn Pasta Carbonara Recipe

Saturday night we had our friends and their two adorable children (brothers almost 2 and 4) over for dinner. We served pasta carbonara, two gorgeous salads, and garlic bread. A simple yet satisfying meal. It was the first time I made pasta carbonara and I was surprised at how easy it was. Although the online recipes kept warning me not to let the signature egg and cheese sauce turn into scrambled eggs when it hit the hot pasta. That part was easy. The hard part was deciding to have everyone over for dinner in the first place.

We had just been out of town for a few weeks and felt like we were still recovering from giant piles of laundry and a cluttered house. As a consummate homebody, I look forward to the weekends we get to spend at home. But one of the things that makes our house feel like a home is having friends over for dinner. And before our trip, that had not happened for a long time.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had been holding me back all this time. The only thing I could think of were a handful of excuses like: we’re too busy, the house is a mess, I don’t know what to make, what if it’s not good enough? Cooking for others is something I really enjoy. Thought I’m still a novice, it’s a skill I want to improve.

In the end, I decided that there will always be a list of excuses. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be memorable and meaningful. And, if your friends are truly great people (like ours), they will help make sure everything else goes smoothly. Even if that means bringing over a space heater when your heat suddenly stops working the night of your dinner party. The only things that truly matters are the memories you create around the table and the time you spend together because these moments seem more infrequent as you get older.

So, after a good pep talk with myself, I decided to make pasta carbonara. It’s something we had and loved while in Rome and I was intent on recreating it. I followed this recipe from the kitchn. I love the recipe because it includes a lot of tips from famous chefs. And it’s incredibly simple, focusing on a few high-quality ingredients as the stars. It proves that a dish doesn’t have to be complex to be impressive.

I thought the recipe turned out great, but there were a few things I could have done to improve it:

  • Add more pasta water

After stirring in the egg and cheese mixture, the recipe recommends adding some reserved pasta water. I should have added more because the cheese started to get a little sticky and the pasta ended up resembling a mac and cheese more than a pasta dish.

  • Serve right away

Between all of the stirring that must happen after the pot of pasta comes off the burner and getting everyone set up at the dinner table, it’s easy for the past to lose some of its heat. It tastes best when served hot, so I would recommend calling everyone to the table before taking the pasta off the burner.

  • Get the bacon a little crispier

The bacon was good but I should have gotten it a little crispier, using a pan that gets hot quickly like a non-stick or my All-Clad. A crispier piece of bacon will stand out in the pasta better, both in taste and appearance.

Three Easy Healthyish Dinners

Dinner has become one of the daily rituals I look forward to the most. Cooking a meal allows me to get a little creative, have a little fun and unwind from a long day. My mind gets to let go and focus on a fairly conquerable challenge. And once at the dinner table, the beau and I get to share our days, sometimes over a glass of wine. But, planning and making time for dinner can sometimes be stressful. With all of our life commitments, making a fresh and healthy meal every night can be tricky. That’s why I’m slowly but surely developing a stable of tried and true healthy yet easy weeknight dinners that I can turn to when things get crazy. And I’m hoping you can enjoy them too!

Here are three that meals that I’ve been making lately:

Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Cauliflower, and Carrot Salad
  • Marinated Pork Tenderloin from Market District (Tuscan Herb); cook according to package instructions
  • Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower from Skinny Taste (Add 1/3 cup of cheese to make them cheesy)
  • Tangy Carrot Salad from Skinny Taste: peel 3 to 4 carrots into ribbons, add kosher salt, pepper, 4 teaspoons of olive oil and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Shrimp, Tomatoes, and Zoodles
  • Roast shrimp with olive oil, minced garlic, pepper, salt, and tomatoes at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes 
  • Use spiralizer to make zucchini noodles and saute for about 3 minutes

Tilapia, Quinoa Salad, and Brussels Sprouts 
  • Season tilapia with salt and pepper and coat with flour; saute for 3 to 4 minutes on each side 
  • Roast Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes 
  • Cook quinoa using package directions; mix in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, kosher salt, pepper, 12 cherry tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley

Pizza party

The other night I needed something easy and fast to cook for dinner. I had had enough of home made pizza in my youth, but decided to give it another try. I used a Boboli thin crust (much better than their thick crust), layered on the olive oil, garlic salt and pesto sauce and topped it off with spinach leaves, a mixture of shredded and fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. I cooked it on 400 for about 10 minutes. The crust was buttery and flaky and the pizza without a red sauce felt refreshing, as if I was eating something healthy. Add a bottle of wine and it’s not a bad night!

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 I am absolutely loving these belts. They would be great to pair with brights for spring and summer. Oh and they are reversible. So that’s like two belts in one! 
Happy Shopping!

Turkey Meatballs with Giada

I was thinking about comfort foods the other day, and one that immediately came to mind was meatballs and spaghetti. I was surprised that I hadn’t made such an easy and affordable recipe yet. Instead of making the beef-based version, I thought I’d try this ground turkey version from Giada di Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian cookbook. Although it’s not as satisfying as my mom’s homemade version, it’s little bit easier on the conscience. The parsley and Romano cheese did gave off an amazing smell. Isn’t half of the taste in the smell anyways?

Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken

As far as New Year’s resolutions are concerned it’s the second week of 2012 and I have stuck to making one new recipe a week. Two recipes! Impressive right? This week I wanted to test drive the new crock pot, a Christmas gift from Mom and Dad. Thanks again guys! I decided to make this Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken recipe I saw on pinterest. The blog post has since been taken down, but there are only three ingredients: 1 bottle of Archer’s Farm Hawaiian Style BBQ sauce from Target, 4-6 chicken breasts and 1 can of diced pineapple. Put the chicken in the crock pot, top with the pineapples and then the barbecue sauce and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. According to the original blog post you can put the chicken in frozen. I partially defrosted mine but next time I think I will put it in completely frozen because from the time I leave for work to the time I get back, it  has been more than 8 hours. I could not find the Archer’s Farm barbecue sauce at my Target so I substituted it with another brand. I would like to try that some time. The chicken comes out juicy and tangy and I love the sweet pineapples as a compliment.

Green Beans with Lemon and Oil

I like to try to incorporate veggies into my nightly dinners. Since I have been pretty much rotating between two of my favorites, brussel sprouts and butternut squash, I thought I would try this Gourmet Green Beans with Lemon and Oil recipe for something new. It also fulfills one of my New Year’s resolutions. I was never really a big fan of green beans. They are pretty bland unless a ton of salt is added to them, which is why I was intrigued by this recipe. It also looked really affordable and easy to make. Two more requirements for the new year. I’m a big fan of lemon so I loved the flavor of this dish. The texture and taste of a chilled green bean is interesting though. It reminds me more of a summer side. I can’t say that I like it or dislike it. I am somewhere in between on that. Maybe it is an acquired taste. I would give this recipe a try again.