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Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

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This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to Kate is Cooking and while the girl doesn’t like sweets, but does  enjoy alcohol (opposite of me on both accounts), I had so much fun perusing her delicious recipes. A lot of them spelled comfort, and I’m all about comfort food, especially this time of year as the weather turns cooler.

I like that Kate creates a lot of her recipes by taking what she likes from several different ones and combining them, as I’ve done that quite a bit myself. And I hope she is honored I did the same with the recipe I chose from her blog: spaghetti carbonara.Classic Spaghetti Carbonara | veronicascornucopia.com

Have you heard of it? It’s basically the Italian way of having breakfast for dinner – mixing eggs and bacon (guanciale if you want to be really traditional) into your pasta. It’s so creamy & yummy! However, the authentic way to make it is with a raw egg yolk sitting on top that you mix in as you eat to create a silky sauce.  Now, I love a runny yolk in an over-easy or poached egg, but I really had to push myself outside my comfort zone to follow through and try it with the raw yolk on top. I’m not scared of salmonella, as I’ve eaten my weight in raw cookie dough, French Silk Pie, and tiramisu without a problem, but just the idea of eating a straight raw yolk. Heebie jeebies!

Turns out, I prefer it with the whole egg mixed into the pasta, and as you can see by the golden hue of my pasta, I did go ahead and do it the way I was comfortable with, then just added a yolk on top to go ahead and try it. It does add a rich silkiness to the dish, and I say go for it if you’ve never tried it and aren’t afraid to.  But I like it just as well with it all mixed in – you choose which way you’d like.  Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, Kate, and expanding my foodie adventure horizons!

Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

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3 tablespoons Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon table salt
1 lb dried spaghetti
1/2 lb bacon or guanciale
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Bring 5 quarts of water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Cook the pasta about a minute less than the package directions, to al dente. You’ll want to reserve a cup of the cooking water before draining, but I will remind you of that later when the time comes. :)

While the pasta is cooking, cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide, or dice the guanciale into small pieces. Cook in a large skillet over medium high heat, along with the garlic cloves, just until the bacon begins to crisp. Don’t make it too crispy or it won’t meld with the pasta. When it’s done, remove the garlic (makes a great pre-dinner snack – just delicious!), and drain off all but 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

While the bacon is cooking, break the eggs into a large bowl or pasta serving dish. If you prefer to serve with egg yolks on top, separate the eggs and set the unbroken yolks aside with the whites alone in the bowl. Beat the eggs or egg whites with a fork until frothy. Add some freshly ground pepper and the cheese.

Now, to put this together. Drain the finished pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking water. Stir a small amount of water into the eggs to temper them and prevent them from scrambling when you add the hot pasta. Add more water until you’ve reached about 1/4 cup, then quickly stir in the pasta with a pasta spoon. Add the bacon and grease to the pasta and stir well. The egg, bacon grease, Parmesan, and pasta water become your sauce! If it is too thick, add additional pasta water until it is your desired consistency.

Mound the pasta in pasta bowls or onto plates. Top each serving with a sprinkle of parsley and an egg yolk if you reserved them to serve this way. Enjoy!

Recipe source: adapted from Kate’s Kitchen & Ruth Reichl’s recipe in Garlic & Saphires.

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Mom’s Goulash

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I never learned to make goulash – I just knew it had noodles, ground beef, and tomatoey stuff going on in it, according to my Mom’s memories of what her mother made. But she never made it so I just came up with my own way of making it which was sort of like the same way I made spaghetti with meat sauce, but just with macaroni noodles instead.  I have my favorite version of my own version posted here.

I finally had real (real as in the Americanized real, not the Hungarian real) goulash at my in-law’s house.  I’d been wanting to get my MIL’s recipe for a long time, because although Dennis never says “this isn’t like Mom used to make,” I’ve always wanted to cook his favorite meals that he grew up eating and goulash topped that list.  His Mom’s goulash is really, really good!  After enjoying it on Easter, I asked her exactly what she put in it so I could recreate it at home.  I’ve never turned out better goulash and Den’s favorite is now one of my absolute favorites as well. We could eat this almost every week!

Mom’s Goulash

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1/2 lb macaroni
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, diced
garlic salt, pepper, chili powder, & hot sauce to taste
2 (14.5 oz) cans whole stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons ketchup
Tomato juice as needed

Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. While it’s cooking, brown the ground beef and onion together in an extra-large skillet or in a dutch oven. Drain and season with spices to taste. In a large bowl, mash tomatoes with potato masher and add to beef along with the ketchup. Drain macaroni and add to the beef mixture, stirring well. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed. I didn’t need to add any tomato juice to mine, but if you like yours very juicy you can add as much tomato juice as you like. Phyllis adds it to her leftovers, which I would also recommend, because the noodles tend to soak up all the juice with time.

Recipe source: Phyllis Miller

P.S. Happy anniversary to my hubby! These have been the best 14 years of my life.

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs


Growing up, I practically lived on spaghetti.  It was the one “junk” food my Mom allowed us to eat (junk because it wasn’t whole wheat spaghetti).  Therefore it’s what I ate most of (because I hated health food)!  Spaghetti with Ragù sauce – I loved it.  But the best was when I made meatballs to go with it, which was a special treat because we didn’t do a lot of meat in our house.  I remember one time I was cooking my famous spaghetti & meatballs dinner for the family when I was about twelve and they all left me at home to cook while they went to the health food store.  I didn’t really love the health food store, but I still cried into my meatballs because I didn’t want to be left out.  Meanie old Davis family! haha

Anyway, this recipe is a lot different from the one I made growing up, but my recipe was little more than ground beef mixed with tons and tons of garlic powder, salt and pepper, rolled up and cooked in a skillet before being added to a pot of pasta with Ragù sauce on it.  I will always love meatballs made that way because that’s how I ate them growing up and have a fondness for it, but honestly these are better, the best I’ve had, actually, and I love the cooking method.  You don’t have to cook them separately, you just plunk them into the sauce and let it simmer away!  So simple.  It also makes the meatballs more tender and moist to cook them this way, and the flavor of the sauce and the meatballs both benefit from cooking slowly together.

The sauce is a very simple recipe and so, so good.  The amount of black pepper gives it a bit of a spicy kick so I’d cut it by half if you don’t like heat.  This is now my go-to spaghetti sauce (I’ve made it twice in the last week) and I hope you’ll give it a try!

Really Great Spaghetti & Meatballs

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Meatballs
1 egg
1 lb lean ground beef
1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1 (1 lb) package spaghetti

Remove ground beef from the fridge to allow it to come to room temperature while the sauce cooks.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan to coat. Add the onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat if they begin to burn. The more color that develops on the onion and garlic, the more flavor they’ll add to the finished sauce.

Once the onions and garlic are tender and caramel in color, add the crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste and stir until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Add the remaining sauce ingredients (oregano through pepper), stir, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover the pot, and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the bottom does not burn.

Make the meatballs: Lightly beat the egg in a large mixing bowl. Break apart the beef as best you can into the bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Use your hands to mix together until well incorporated, trying not to overmix, which could render your meatballs more tough. Shape the meat mixture into 12 balls (I always get 13), each about 1 ½ inches in diameter. Drop them into the sauce, stir gently so that they’re all covered in sauce. It might look like there’s only enough sauce for the meatballs and there won’t be enough for pasta, especially if you’re like me and love your sauce, but trust me, there’s enough. Let them cook, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

Once the meatballs are done, cook your spaghetti to al dente according to the package directions, drain, pile some onto plates, and top with sauce and meatballs.

Veronica’s Notes: your tomatoes matter. I bought very cheap tomato puree (and tomato paste, for that matter) from Aldi that was excellent but found that Walmart’s brand, which is higher in price, was horrible by comparison. Buy good tomatoes or you won’t have good sauce. Also, the original recipe used mint in the meatballs instead of parsley and I just wanted to mention that in case you’d like to try it.

Recipe source: Can You Stay for Dinner

Skillet Cheeseburger Macaroni

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You may be thinking I forgot it’s Thursday and I’m supposed to be thankful today, but you’re wrong!  I wrote this post  Tuesday night to be published Wednesday, but when I went to add the photos, I realized my memory card that had them on it was missing.  One minute it was in my laptop, the next it was just gone.  It took me almost twenty four hours to find it, and I’m super thankful I did, otherwise I couldn’t have shared this recipe, and many others, with you.  Hopefully you are thankful I found it too. :D

I came across this recipe in the latest Cook’s Country magazine and made it almost immediately since I had all the ingredients on hand.  It is a super simple and quick recipe to make, and unlike a lot of my fast & easy go-to dinners, does not include any boxed mixes or canned soups.  I don’t mind prepackaged stuff too much, but I do appreciate a quick & delicious dinner that is made from scratch!

I really enjoyed this, and Dennis liked it even more than I did.  I missed the sweetness from ketchup that is on a regular burger (this recipe has no added sweetener at all) so I actually dotted my plate with a little ketchup and enjoyed it much more that way.  Try it if you miss that hint of sweetness too.

Skillet Cheeseburger Macaroni

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 lb. 85% lean ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 cup finely chopped onion, divided
12 oz (3 cups) elbow macaroni
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dry mustard
Salt and pepper
6 oz. chopped deli American cheese (I used cheddar)
1/2 cup chopped dill pickles

Cook beef and 1/2 cup of the onion in a large 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Add macaroni, chicken broth, tomato sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is tender, 8-10 minutes. Stir in cheese, pickles, and remaining 1/2 cup onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Recipe source: Cook’s Country October/November 2013

Hungry for noodles? You might enjoy these simple recipes…

Simple Goulash

Penne alla Boscaiola

Soba Noodles in Peanut Sauce {Vegan}

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole

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I went through a comfort food phase last month  where, despite the heat, all I wanted were piping hot casseroles and soups.  Plain Chicken to the rescue, yet again!  This is one of the things which satisfied my craving for comfort food.  I resisted every temptation to change the recipe, except for using reduced fat cream cheese in place of regular, and while I will say there are some things I’d do different next time (as noted below), this was just so stinkin’ good.  Creamy pasta, topped with an easy meat sauce and Parmesan cheese. Just. so. good.

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti Casserole

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

12 oz spaghetti
1 (28 oz) jar prepared spaghetti sauce
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

In a skillet, brown the ground beef until cooked through; drain fat and stir in spaghetti sauce. Set aside.

Cook spaghetti according to directions on packet. Drain and place cooked spaghetti in bowl. Add cream cheese, Italian Seasoning and minced garlic. Stir until cream cheese is melted and the spaghetti is thoroughly coated.

Lightly grease a 9×13″ pan. Spread a small amount of meat sauce in the bottom of the dish. Put spaghetti on top of sauce and top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly.

*Veronica’s note: I would suggest covering your dish with foil while baking to prevent the cheese and spaghetti drying out like mine did. Also, you might reserve some pasta water to add in when you mix in the cream cheese – it is quite thick and dry and I think some extra moisture would make it creamier. I also plan to use more sauce next time – maybe up to even two jars.  What can I say, I like the sauce. :)

Recipe source: Plain Chicken

Easy-Peasy Cheesy Tuna Noodle Bowls

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I haven’t been wanting to cook lately.  And when I do, it’s super simple stuff like this most of the time–a stove top recipe that starts with a box.  While I’ve been making this for over a decade, this is the first time I considered sharing it.  I finally realized there are probably a lot of busy people out there who don’t mind using a convenience food item now and then if it means dinner in 15 minutes. You can easily double or triple this recipe to feed a family, and it still only takes 15 minutes!

My best friend’s Mom used to make this all the time and I thought she was a genius because the addition of tuna and peas really ups the health-factor of boxed macaroni and cheese, while still tasting wonderful.  I gobbled this up alongside her children, so I think it’s safe to say this is kid-approved.  The only change I’ve made is to add in extra cheese to help flavor the added ingredients a little more, and a little mayonnaise to make it extra creamy (the latter is a new addition and the photos show it without – it’s so much more creamy with it!).

So yummy, so easy!  So cheesy! :)

Easy-Peasy Cheesy Tuna Noodle Bowls

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 box macaroni and cheese
milk and butter as called for on box (usually 1/4 cup each)
2 ounces (or more) finely shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 can of tuna packed in water, drained very well
1 cup frozen peas, microwaved until hot

Cook pasta according to box directions. Meanwhile, heat peas in the microwave until hot. Drain the macaroni when it has the bite you desire, then stir in the butter until melted and combined. Add the milk , cheese, mayonnaise, and the cheese powder from the box and stir until blended and the cheese is melted. Add the tuna and peas, and stir until combined. Spoon into bowls and serve hot.

Serves 2-3

Penne alla Boscaiola {Lumberjack Mushroom Penne} & a Giveaway!

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A while back I was contacted by Ginny of Cooking With Chopin to participate in a blog tour for the A Family Farm In Tuscany cookbook (her mother published the book!).  I agreed because 1) I love Italian food, and 2) I love free stuff and I would get a free cookbook if I participated.  Just keepin’ it real, people.  If you like free stuff too, keep reading because you’ll have a chance to win a copy for yourself!

Photo by Dario Fusar, Organic Gardening

This is a beautiful softcover cookbook by Sarah Fioroni that follows the activities on her family’s farm in Tuscany throughout a typical year, such as making prosciutto in January & harvesting saffron in November, and of course there are recipes for each month that include seasonal ingredients. This is more than a cookbook, it is the story of Sarah’s heritage and daily life on Fattoria Poggio Alloro (Laurel Hill Farm), and she includes many simple, delicious recipes that her family makes every day.

Photo by Oriano Stefan

I’m usually drawn to cookbooks that feature colorful photos of the finished dishes, and that was my only  disappointment with this one.  The book is filled with colorful, stunning photos featuring the family, the farm & monthly activities on it, along with a smattering of food photos. However, the more I looked through the cookbook, the less I cared about the meager food photos.  I often read cookbooks like novels, and this one you actually can read like a book, as the stories shared in it flow along with the recipes from month to month.

I’ve been thumbing through this cookbook for several weeks and the longer I have it, the more I love it.  The recipes are simple everyday recipes, which isn’t usually what I think of in connection with Italian food.  I think of long hours in the kitchen and lots of ingredients.  But these recipes aren’t meant to impress you with their length or the time it takes to make them.  They are simple and they are good.  Make that delicious.  Everything I’ve made from the cookbook so far is just incredible.  I honestly didn’t know recipes with so few ingredients could be so good.

Take this Penne alla Boscaiola, for example.  (It isn’t a coincidence that I first chose one of the recipes that included a picture, though I have now ventured forth and tried one without a picture, the Tiramisu Poggio Alloro–do try it, it’s wonderful.)  It is so simple, calling for just a few basic ingredients and only one spice.  I did rewrite the recipe with my small changes, so I wanted to include a photo of the actual recipe so you could see what I’m talking about when I say this book is full of simple, delicious recipes.

Dennis’ reaction to this was, “This is really good.” *chew chew chew* “I mean really, really good.”  *chew chew chew* “I’m almost shocked at how good this is.”  I’m not sure if he meant my food usually isn’t this good, or he was just trying to express how incredibly delicious he found it, but either way, you get the idea of how much he enjoyed it.  This is a man that rarely comments on the taste of anything I make and I have to pull the reviews out of him like teeth.  Not this time.  And I whole-heartedly agree.  This pasta is shockingly delicious.  Shocking because it is just so simple!  How can it possibly be this good?  You’ll have to make it to believe it.  (And make it with the Green Salad from the cookbook, it is another shockingly simple & delicious recipe!)

Penne alla Boscaiola
{Lumberjack Mushroom Penne}

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/2 of a medium red onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
16 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced*
16 oz. pork sausage (I used Jimmy Dean Italian)
1 (29 oz.) can tomato purée
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

4-6 quarts water
1 teaspoon salt
12 oz. penne pasta (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook the onion with the olive oil in a large pot/Dutch oven over medium heat for about five minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook until cooked down and browned, about 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, then use your hands to break the sausage into smaller chunks and add to the pot. Cook for about ten minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through. Add the tomato purée, warm water, red pepper, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat.

In another medium pot, bring water and salt to a rolling boil. When the water is boiling, add the penne pasta and stir. Return to a boil and cook until pasta is al dente, about 7 minutes, using the package instructions as a guide. Remove and drain, then add to the large pan of sauce. Stir together and serve hot, topped with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 6-8

*Veronica’s notes: I didn’t use fresh garlic because I didn’t realize I was going to miss it until I tasted the sauce without it, so I just added a teaspoon of garlic powder. It was wonderful this way, but I included instructions for using fresh garlic since that is more authentic and most likely would taste even better. Also, a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes did not make this spicy at all so do not fear.  Lastly, if you are like me, you will be tempted to cook the sausage separately and drain off the fat before adding it to the sauce. But if you are like me, you will resist in the spirit of authenticity and be rewarded with delicious pasta that is surprisingly grease-free. I think the mushrooms absorb the fat, because there was absolutely no grease to drain after cooking the sausage with the mushrooms. Oh well, more flavor!

Recipe source: Adapted from A Family Farm in Tuscany.

Would you like to win a copy of A Family Farm In Tuscany?  Just leave me a comment telling me your favorite Italian dish (comments without this will not be counted in the drawing).  For an extra entry, “Like” my Facebook page and leave me a separate comment letting me know you did or do.  For a third entry, you can “Like” Sarah’s Facebook page and leave a separate comment telling me you did so. Giveaway is open until Wednesday (10/31/12)  at midnight CST, and I will announce the winner on Thursday.  Winner will have 24 hours to contact me or I will choose another winner.  Good luck!

This giveaway is now closed.  Congrats to the winner, Kelly D!

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