We have a special category for certain types of meals in our house: BHubb meals. As in, 'that's a BHubb dinner', which tranlates to 'that's the kind of dish that makes Brian, aka BHubb, a happy man'. Typically a BHubb meal is rich and heavy, and most often has some sort of pork product involved. Examples of BHubb meals from the past include Slow-Cooked Carnitas, Pappardelle with Spicy Pork Ragu, and Bacon Garlic Marinara with Homemade Meatballs. You see, sometimes I get on a salad kick, or a soup kick, and there will be weeks where most of our meals are one or the other. Those are most definitely NOT BHubb meals, because once Brian leaves the table he is rummaging for more sustenance in the pantry within half an hour. I am trying to be better about the balance between AHubb and BHubb meals in our house, and I must admit that I get a lot of satisfaction out of Brian's vigorous nod of approval after his first bite of a dinner made specially with him in mind.
I knew going in that this Orecchiette Carbonara would get such a nod. Brian already expected something delicious when he got home last night, as I'd asked him before he left for work to slice 6 long strips of bacon from the cured pork belly we had waiting in our fridge. His eyebrows went up as he said 'bacon, huh?!?', and happily got to work carefully releasing slice after slice from the slab. And once at the dinner table, true to form, with his mouth still full Brian looked to me, pointed at the bowl in front of him, and gave me that content bob of his head letting me know that this, for sure, was a Bhubb meal.
This is a dish that I feel certain will make a frequent appearance at our table. We almost always have each of these ingredients on hand, aside from perhaps the leeks which, in a pinch, could be substituted with sweet onion. Orecchiette can occasionally be difficult to find, but is worth the effort if you do. The tiny ear-shaped pasta is perfect for catching the peas and bits of bacon. If you have trouble, substitute shells or bowties.
- 6 slices high-quality, thick-cut bacon
- 2 medium leeks, white + pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 10 oz orecchiette pasta or small shells
- 2 large, high-quality egg yolks, room temperature
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- Cook bacon until crisp. We like to cook our bacon in the oven at 400° for about 15 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet, but cooking it in a skillet on the stove top is fine, too. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain, and set aside. Reserve 2 tbsp of the bacon fat, keeping it in the skillet or pouring it from the baking pan into a skillet. Once the bacon is cool, break it into small pieces.
- Add the leeks and garlic to the skillet with the bacon fat, and saute' over medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the peas and stir to heat evenly. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Whisk the egg yolks, parmesan, and cream together in a medium bowl. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.
- Add the pasta to the leeks and stir to mix over medium heat, just until all is heated through and the leeks are just starting to sizzle again. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour egg mixture over pasta. Stir until the sauce is just creamy and eggs are no longer raw, about 2 minutes. You can return the skillet to very low heat if the egg mixture is still runny, but be careful not to overcook. If the pasta needs to be moistened, you can add some of the reserved pasta cooking water back to the pan.
- Stir in the bacon and parsley, blending well.
- Serve with additional cheese and freshly ground black pepper.