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A LOT OF FLAVOR AND A LOT LESS GUILT

In the old-old days, Pasta Carbonara used to be one of my favorite emergency meals. The traditional recipe contains little more than some onions, bacon, cream, an egg, Parmesan cheese and pasta. These items were easy to keep on hand, and the simple recipe turned out a rich, elegant dish that my family and friends were always glad to eat.

Then came the days of worrying about fat and cholesterol, not to mention the health warnings about barely cooked eggs. My recipe got filed away for years, until I spotted turkey bacon in the supermarket. Could these quasi-bacon strips provide the smoky flavor for a good carbonara without fat and calories?

There's good news and mediocre news. On the flavor front, yes, we could tell a difference between carbonara made with the two types of bacon. However, with a few vegetables added for flavor and texture, our recipe for Carbonara Primavera with turkey bacon is absolutely yummy -- and a lot healthier.

Comparing an equal amount of turkey and pork bacon by weight, using two national brands, we found there's less fat (2.5 grams for turkey compared to 6 grams for pork), half the calories (35 compared to 70) and less sodium (180 milligrams compared to 290). But the cholesterol remains the same for both, at 15 milligrams.

To make our recipe even healthier, we omitted the egg and replaced heavy cream with half-and-half. Today's recipe saves 134 calories and 14 grams of fat per serving over our traditional recipe. But the very best news is that in 20 stress-free minutes, start to finish, you'll have a lovely meal for family or friends.

Carbonara Primavera

Spinach leaves with dressing

Italian bread sticks

CARBONARA PRIMAVERA

12ounces penne pasta

6strips turkey bacon

1large onion (for 1 cup chopped)

20already-peeled baby carrots (for 1 cup sliced)

2teaspoons olive oil

1package (8-ounce) already-sliced mushrooms

2teaspoons bottled minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1cup frozen green peas

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

3/4 cup (1 3-ounce package) shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and black pepper to taste
Place the pasta in 2 1/2 quarts of already-boiling unsalted water. Cook until just tender, 9 to 11 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the bacon in an extra-deep 12-inch, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until crisp, about 4 to 5 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and coarsely chop the onion, and set aside. Slice the carrots into 1/4 -inch circles, and set aside.

Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Heat the oil in the same skillet. Add the reserved onions and carrots and cook for 3 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the mushrooms, garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and release their liquid.

While the vegetables cook, crumble the bacon into bite-size pieces and set aside. Add the peas, half-and-half and Parmesan cheese to the vegetables in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well, until the cheese melts and the sauce is heated through.

Stir the drained noodles into the skillet. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon on top. Toss to coat the noodles with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at once. Makes 6 servings.

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