lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

Ahhh….pasta carbonara. So few ingredients yet a rich, incredible dish that every pasta lover should have in their recipe arsenal. I’ve had this post written for a long time but getting the photos has been another story. I can promise you that making this is WAY easier than documenting it, mostly because it’s so delicious that whenever I make it we just want to dig right in and eat it – it’s definitely a pasta dish best when served fresh.

lola rugula pasta carbonara

pasta carbonara recipe

  • 1 lb. bucatini or spaghetti (I prefer De Cecco) + 1 teaspoon of kosher salt for cooking pasta
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus an additional 1/4 cup for serving
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, cubed or sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

A couple of notes before you start:

  • Start your pasta cooking, have your egg & cheese mixture mixed together, your garlic minced and your parsley chopped before you start, then you’re not rushing or pressured when the dish is ready to put together.
  • One of the keys to a carbonara sauce is cooking the sauce while the pasta cooks. This ensures that the pasta will be hot and ready to toss with your sauce when you need to. This will also ensure that the eggs cook just a bit, which accomplishes two things – not eating raw eggs and making a creamy sauce that clings to your pasta.
  • Instead of draining my pasta, I use tongs to scoop it out and toss it right in with the garlic pancetta mixture. This may be a little messier but it’s faster and ensures I have reserved hot pasta water when I need it.

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, blend your eggs and cheese together well using a fork or whisk
  2. Bring your pasta water to a boil, add salt and pasta and stir well. Bring back to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or according to directions on package, while completing the steps below.
  3. In the meantime, once the pasta has been cooking for about 3-4 minutes, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Add pancetta and cook until fat is rendered and the pancetta begins to crisp up, stirring often, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and stir constantly over heat, about 2 more minutes.
  6. Shut the heat off of the pasta if needed, while you complete the sauce.
  7. Using tongs, pull pasta directly out of the water and toss into the pancetta garlic mixture, tossing it all together.
  8. Quickly add the egg and cheese mixture, tossing well again.
  9. Using a ladle or measuring cup, add about 1/4 cup of hot pasta water to the cooked pasta mixture and keep tossing.
  10. If needed, add more water in 1/4 cup increments until creamy sauce forms. You may end up adding close to a cup of water. Toss well after each addition.
  11. When you have a creamy sauce, plate pasta immediately, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper, additional Parmesan, and chopped parsley.
  12. Serve and enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

This dish is really all about timing because obviously, there aren’t a lot of ingredients involved. Again, having everything chopped, mixed and as prepared ahead of time as possible makes this much easier to throw together.

Invest in the best cheese you can for this, as it’s really the star of the dish.

Once you have this down, you’ll find yourself making it pretty often. It’s a perfect pasta dish for an easy weeknight dinner, a romantic dinner for two or a dinner party with friends or family.

Want to make carbonara with bacon instead? Go for it! I’ve done it and it’s delicious. I’ve also tossed roasted, chopped asparagus into this and it’s divine. Don’t limit yourself – you can use this as a base for all kinds of ideas.

Mangia!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

shredded beef and pork ragu

I’ve had a craving for a meaty ragu ever since the weather started to turn cold and, as is typical with me, I was inspired to go with what looked beautiful at the meat counter as opposed to what I traditionally do with my meat sauces. My local grocery had some lovely beef bones with lots of meat on them and hefty country-style pork ribs on sale, so I grabbed a couple of the soup bones and a 3 pack of ribs and carted them home.

I also picked up a 4 pack of Italian sausages because, honestly, that’s just the mood I was in. Apparently, my body already thinks it needs to bulk up for the winter ahead.  🙂

This makes a humongous family or dinner size batch so if you want to reserve some of the ragu for freezing, only cook one pound of pasta and then freeze the rest of the sauce.

lola rugula pasta and ragu

shredded beef and pork ragu recipe

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 beef soup bones with meat – about 3/4 lb. each
  • 3 pork loin country-style ribs, bone-in, about 1 lb. total
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 large garlic cloves
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth, preferably homemade
  • 6 cups whole, peeled cooked Roma tomatoes with their juice
  • 18 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 Salsiccia sausages (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups warm half and half
  • 2 lbs. bucatini or other thick pasta
  • Freshly grated Parmesan for serving
  • Fresh parsley, minced, for serving

Season beef and pork all over with salt and pepper.

In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add beef bones and brown on both sides, about 10 minutes per side, until well browned. Remove to a plate.

Add pork ribs and brown well on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove to plate.

If excessive grease, drain off leaving 1 teaspoon in pan. Be sure and try to leave all the crispy bits, because that’s where the flavor is. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat.

Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Saute over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes.

Add red wine, stirring and scraping the crispy meat bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce until wine has almost evaporated.

Add beef stock and bring to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add back beef bones and pork ribs.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste, hand-smashing the tomatoes as you add them.

Add grated nutmeg and stir everything together well, until tomato paste is well-incorporated.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 hours.

Using tongs, carefully remove beef and ribs to a plate.

If using, add sausages to the sauce.

Using 2 forks, shred the beef and pork from the bones. If desired, also scoop out any remaining marrow from the beef bones. Discard bones and any excess fat, and add beef, marrow, and pork back into the sauce.

Simmer for 1 more hour or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is nice and thick.

While the ragu is nearing its finished time, pour half and half into a small pan and heat until warmed through.

Cook pasta and drain.

Add hot half and half to sauce and stir well.

Toss hot pasta with sauce. Transfer everything to large bowl or platter, sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and minced parsley and serve.

lola rugula ragu with shredded beef and pork

Like most homemade meat and tomato sauces, there’s some prep and long simmer time involved but it’s totally worth it. This is a rich and hearty sauce, full of flavor.

The sausages may take it into overdrive but again, so worth it. My husband made a fantastic sandwich with one of the sausages, some sauce, and French bread. What could possibly be bad about that, right?

As I always say, don’t be afraid to play with your food. If you’d rather lighten this up a bit, why not try using chicken and pork, or even some ground or shredded turkey.  Or try replacing the sausages with chicken or turkey sausage. Don’t be a slave to specific recipes – mix them up to fit your tastes and lifestyle.

Winter is coming, so make it a warm, delicious one.

Enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

Asian-inspired Spicy BBQ Meatballs with Rice Noodles and Pickled Veggies

It’s easy to get stuck in a food rut, so I often try to play around with new ideas. This time, I had in mind an Asian-inspired bowl of pasta and meatballs, so to speak, but as a fun dish packed full of flavor. Thai chili  garlic paste adds some serious heat

This dish has layers of flavor, so there are a few separate components here that are going to come together in the end; don’t be daunted by the multiple steps, this is a great Asian-inspired noodle bowl.

lola rugula asian inspired pasta and meatballs

First up are quick-pickled vegetables. These are very basic and easy quick-pickled veggies; you can add a myriad of spices and herbs to these, but this is really all that’s needed to add some brightness to the finished dish. Don’t be afraid to change the veggies up to your liking – cauliflower, zucchini, celery…whatever you like!

easy quick pickled vegetable recipe

  • 4 large scallions, julienned
  • 2 baby sweet peppers, julienned
  • 5 baby carrots, julienned
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and seeds scooped out and discarded, julienned
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all of the ingredients into a small glass dish and stir well to combine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour or refrigerate overnight.

You can scoop out the veggies for this recipe and discard brine or add fresh veggies for another batch of future pickles.

Asian-inspired spicy barbeque sauce recipe

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Thai chili garlic paste
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 cup water

In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until sauce starts to slightly thicken. In the meantime, make your meatballs.

garlic and ginger meatballs recipe

  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 2 large scallions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 2-inch piece peeled ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil, for frying

Place ground pork in a bowl. Mince together scallions, garlic, and ginger and add to pork. Add sesame oil and stir well to combine. Form into small, 1-inch balls.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and let heat for at least 2 minutes. Add meatballs and brown on all sides, for about 12 minutes total.

Remove from skillet and, using tongs, add them to your hot barbeque sauce.

rice noodles and cilantro

To a medium-size pot of boiling, salted water, add a healthy handful of rice noodles. Stir well and cook at a low boil for about 4 minutes. Drain.

In the meantime, chop up a handful of fresh cilantro for serving

plating (or bowling, actually)

  • Divide the rice noodles into 4 bowls
  • Scoop out a few meatballs and sauce and place on top of noodles
  • Add a spoonful of pickled veggies to the side
  • Sprinkle with fresh cilantro

Serve while noodles and meatballs are hot.

lola rugula garlic and ginger meatballs with asian bbq sauce

I just can’t emphasize enough how bright and full of flavor this is, while still being pretty simple to bring together. If you don’t have mirin, just switch it out with some light, not-too-sweet white wine.

I tried to keep this simple because that’s how I typically roll, but afterward, I thought that some toasted sesame seeds would have been a nice addition to this.

If you just can’t stand cilantro (and I understand that many of you can’t) just add some fresh parsley for that bright finishing, herby touch. Chives or scallions will also work. For the pickled veggies, add what you have on hand – cauliflower, asparagus and even jalapenos (if you need more heat) will all work.  And this is honestly spicy. If you want to take down the heat, just use 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce or plain old barbeque sauce in place of the Thai chili garlic paste. I always tell you to not be afraid to play with your food and here’s a great example of that.  Have fun with your dishes and don’t be afraid to try new things.

If you like this recipe, I bet you’ll also love my Udon Noodle Bowl recipe and my Veggie Spring Rolls recipe.

Enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

green garlic meatballs

One of my favorite spring garden treats is young, tender green garlic. I always pull up some of it to enjoy – I add it to rubs, sauces, salads and more. Green garlic has a more mild taste than mature garlic and can be used just like scallions in most dishes.

This past weekend I made a large batch of meatballs; some for dinner and the rest for the freezer. I love having meatballs in the freezer – they make a weeknight dinner of pasta or subs a much easier endeavor. And since there’s nothing I love more than garlicky meatballs, my homegrown green garlic make these meatballs extra delicious. I also added a couple of garlic cloves, for a super intense garlic flavor. Vampires, you’ve been warned.

So, if you grow garlic or see green garlic at the market and have wondered what to do with it, here’s a delicious idea.

lola rugula how to use green garlic

green garlic meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 cup finely chopped green garlic
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix everything together well, but not over mixing or smashing everything together too much. I use my fingertips more than my whole hands to blend it all together because I find that over-mixing and mashing it all together makes a denser meatball than I prefer.

Preheat oven to 350

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

Begin rolling the meatballs and placing them on the prepared baking sheet. This recipe made about 80 golf ball sized meatballs, 40 meatballs per sheet. If you want them larger, increase the cooking time; smaller, decrease the time.

Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes, turn, and then bake another 20 or just until they start to brown.

lola rugula green garlic meatballs recipe

See that beautiful green garlic in those meatballs? It really adds a fresh garlic flavor to these and I think you’ll agree.

Don’t know what to do with green garlic? Now you do! Never be afraid to play with your food – the results are delicious. Enjoy!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

linguine with shrimp, fresh tomatoes and basil

Hallelujah, spring is upon us!  Even though it’s hardly been a brutal winter here in Northern Illinois, I’m still excited for longer and warmer days. This weekend was a much-needed stay at home treat for me, as there’ve been many personal issues that have had me more stressed than usual. lately. I’m a big believer in taking time for yourself. Physical and mental rejuvenation is vital, not only for your own sense of well-being but for also having the strength and peace-of-mind to take care of those you love. Today was that day for me. My feel-good dish of the day was fresh pasta with garlicky shrimp and fresh tomatoes and basil.

lola rugula pasta with shrimp recipe

This recipe was mostly just inspired by 3 things:

  1. I was really craving shrimp
  2. I was really craving something healthy and fresh-tasting
  3. I had some Roma tomatoes that I really needed to use

Looking for a quick and easy weeknight (or even weekend, in my case) dinner with pasta and shrimp? This definitely fits the bill.

lola rugula linguine with shrimp and tomatoes

pasta with shrimp, garlic, fresh tomatoes and basil recipe

  • 9 oz. fresh linguine (I keep Buitoni pasta in the freezer when I don’t have homemade on hand)
  • 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (divided – you’ll use 2 Tbsp. for the shrimp and 2 Tbsp. for the sauce)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped (divided – you’ll use half for the shrimp and half for the sauce)
  • 1 lb. raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 small sweet yellow sweet peppers, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 1 generous cup loosely-packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced. Retain a few fresh slices for serving, if desired.
  • Salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water for sauce.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, over medium-high heat, heat half (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil. Add half of your chopped garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and heat. Add remaining garlic and yellow peppers and cook about 3 minutes, stirring often. Add scallions and cook, continuing to stir, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes and their juices, and stir well. Cook for about 7 minutes, until tomatoes start to release all of their juices. Pour over reserved shrimp.

Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to sauce pan and scrape well, loosening bits from the pan. Continue to cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes.

Add drained pasta to pan and stir.

Add plate of shrimp and tomato sauce to pasta and toss well.

Add fresh basil, stir and remove from heat.

Serve immediately, with reserved basil.

Easy, right? This dish satisfied me today on many levels, with the fresh tomatoes and basil bringing in thoughts of spring when I needed it most.

Pasta is so versatile – you can toss it with a bit of olive oil and so many, many things. Carbs get a bad rap sometimes but when you pack your pasta dish full of veggies and protein, you really can’t lose. Toss in some fresh herbs and you really do have a beautiful, flavorful dish that everyone will love.

Happy spring everyone!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

homemade gnocchi

I have a lot of fun making homemade pasta. It may not always look perfect but it’s always more delicious than the boxed, refrigerated or frozen stuff. That’s not to say I don’t ever cook with dried or refrigerated pasta, but it’s fun to play with making it fresh. Oh, and did I mention it’s always delicious?

I’ve been on a homemade gnocchi kick recently and my recipe creates fluffy pillows that have flavor all on their own. One of the keys to great homemade gnocchi is to not overwork the ingredients or dough. If you spend a lot of time smashing or kneading everything, you’ll take away the lightness that creates a light, fluffy gnocchi.

lola rugula easy homemade gnocchi recipe

Do you see how beautifully imperfect they are? Please don’t sweat the small stuff. The reason for the ridges in gnocchi are to help hold onto the sauce you put on them.  They don’t have to be perfect ridges or equal ridges…just make some ridges, pour some sauce over them and sit back and enjoy your talent at making homemade gnocchi.

This recipe makes 4-6 healthy servings – for me it makes enough for a dinner for 2 and an extra portion for freezing. How to freeze gnocchi? Easy! When you’re done rolling them, just lay them on a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze for about 2 hours. Then toss them into a freezer-safe container or bag and freeze. To cook frozen gnocchi, just add to boiling water and let them all come to a slow boil for 3 minutes or so. No need to thaw or anything…it’s a beautiful thing!

A potato ricer, at least for me, is the key to making terrific gnocchi. It’s also good to rice the potatoes while they’re still hot, as this helps keep your gnocchi fluffy.

homemade gnocchi recipe

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Scrub potatoes and place them in a large pan. Cover with cold water by a couple of inches and bring to a low boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 35-40 minutes, until the skins begin to split. Drain potatoes and let them cool just 5 minutes or so. Using a towel or paper towel to hold them, quickly but carefully peel them. One by one, place the potatoes (cut them in half if needed) into a potato ricer and rice onto a clean, dry surface. Let the riced potatoes cool completely, at least 1/2 hour.

In the meantime, beat the egg, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool, sprinkle them with the parmesan. Bring everything together to form a “mountain” of potatoes and cheese. Form a well in the middle and add the egg mixture. Using your fingers to lift everything up from the bottom, gently mix everything together. 1 3/4 cups of the flour and gently mix

Sprinkle the mixture with 1 3/4 cups of the flour and gently mix it all together and form into a ball. Gently roll the ball into a long tube and slice into  8 equal sections.

lola rugula how to make homemade gnocchi recipe

Dust your work surface with some of the remaining flour and, using your hands, roll a section into about a 1/2 rope of pasta. Using a knife or pastry cutter, slice the rope into 1 inch pieces.

Laying a 1 inch piece of dough in one hand and holding a fork in the other, use the fork to gently roll indentions into the piece of dough. You may find it easier to dip the fork in flour first. Don’t make yourself crazy making perfect indentions…as you can see by the first photo, I don’t get too worked up about it and they still come out pretty good. My husband, who has Sicilian roots, is naturally a pro at gnocchi rolling, so I enlist him whenever I can. You can also buy gnocchi rolling boards to make this process even easier.

Repeat these steps with each section and piece, until done.

lola rugula homemade gnocchi recipe

To cook your gnocchi, bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi and let them float to the surface. Continue to boil for about 2 minutes. Drain the gnocchi and serve immediately with your choice of toppings.

We have 2 favorite ways of enjoying our gnocchi – with my homemade fresh tomato sauce or with just butter, freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

lola rugula how to make homemade gnocchi

My gnocchi may never be perfect but it’s perfectly light and delicious. If you do freeze some of it, it’s best to use it within a month or so – I find that freezing fresh pasta for any longer than that can significantly deteriorate the quality of it.

Well, are you ready to roll some fresh gnocchi? I hope so! If you have any questions or comments, be sure and let me know. Remember to never, ever be afraid to play with your food. Happy pasta making, everyone!