Blog of an aspiring foodie

Comfort pasta

Posted by beer_chris on 9-March-2008

Bacon. Egg. Parmesan cheese. Pasta. Cream.

Maybe it’s the richness of the cream and the beaten egg. Heck, maybe it’s just the bacon, so smoky and delicious. Perhaps it is the magic combination of all of these factors, but there is just something about spaghetti carbonara that smooths out the edges of a rough day, warms up a cold body or just makes a person feel better when the blues strike.

I had never had this dish until my mother bought me one of the America’s Test Kitchen ‘year in review’ cookbooks about 4 years ago. Among the tested and perfected recipes for steak Diane and fried chicken cutlets was a recipe for spaghetti carbonara. The goal of the ATK recipe was to come up with a recipe that was warm and satisfying without being gloppy and overwhelming. In typical ATK fashion the recipe takes nearly 90 minutes to make, and includes a step to cook and completely cool the bacon.

Needless to say, it only took one try at this bacon creamy goodness and I was hooked. It became a normal weeknight staple dish for my home, and fell right in line with tacos made with Lawry’s seasoning and two-alarm chili as comfort food – the type of dish that would get on my weekly meal plan and inspire excitement in the house for ‘carbonara night’. Sometimes it would be dressed up with a nice side and a bottle of wine, other nights it was slopped into a bowl and eaten as a meal by itself. It’s a versatile dish in that way and that is just another reason to love it so much.

I put another mark in the column for carbonara as comfort food because I have never been satisfied with the dish when I have ordered it at a restaurant. Like my mother’s meatloaf, a good bowl of soup or a simple bologna sandwich I just cannot find a restaurant version that can do it justice. Like other comfort foods I think that has less to do with ingredients, recipes or cooking technique as it does with context. Comfort food is eaten as a salve for some type of injury – physical or emotional – and (at least for me) it is exceedingly rare to get that anywhere but home.

I made carbonara tonight. It’s been a rough couple of days – the blues are here, I can feel them in my brain and sneaking around everything I’ve been doing and working on lately. Carbonara seemed a good fit to try and take these issues head on, and although tonight’s is not my best offering at the dish, it really hit the spot – both in my head and in my stomach.


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