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Delicious Versatility

Chicken, salad, pasta. Three families of dishes with endless possibilities. I feel like salad might be the loosest family of the three. After all, you can throw together tuna and mayo and voila! You have tuna salad. How does that even work? I'm going to start calling everything a salad from now on. The dictionary says a salad has to have a dressing. Okay. Steak and eggs with hot sauce. Steak salad! Pancakes with strawberry and syrup. Pancake salad! Salad's got carte blanche on the food world! It's a conspiracy...or something.

Anyway, chicken and pasta aren't quite as bad as that, but they are incredibly, beautifully versatile. Chicken can be fried, baked, grilled, and barbequed. Serve it with rice, noodles, salad (there it is again!), or even alone. And then there's pasta. What can't you put in pasta? There's a whole country dedicated to this magnificent food, not to mention restaurant chains, internationally successful corporations, and Kitchen Aid mixer attachment. Some is cheap (spaghetti, elbows, etc.) and some is expensive (cavatappi, pappardelle, and so on) and I have seen the accompanying sauces made from pumpkin, butter, tomatoes, and eggs. Finally, with all the new varieties of pasta that have come out in the last few years, you can even make it really healthy or not. Today we're going not. :-)

Claire's Spinach Carbonara
Courtesey Claire Robinson

1/2 lb slab bacon, cut into 1/2" chunks
1 lb fresh or dried spinach fettuccine
1 whole lg egg, plus 2 lg egg yolks, at room temp
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 cup baby spinach leaves

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat and salt generously.

Put the bacon in a large high-sided skillet and cook over medium-high heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve bacon in the pan.

When the bacon is about halfway cooked, drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook about 4 minutes for fresh or according to the package instructions if using dried.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg and yolks, 1 cup cheese and pepper together in a small bowl.

When the pasta is ready, return the skillet with the bacon to medium heat. Using a ladle, slowly whisk about 1/2 cup pasta cooking water into the egg and cheese mixture until loosened. Reserve some additional cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet.

While tossing continually, slowly drizzle the egg mixture over the pasta until it is completely coated. Add more cooking water if pasta seems dry. Add the spinach leaves to the pan and toss until combined. Transfer the carbonara to a serving bowl and serve immediately with more cheese sprinkled over the top.

Cook's Note: The key to perfect carbonara is working while everything is piping hot; this assures the egg will cook and produce a silky, creamy sauce that sticks to the pasta.

I have a special place in my heart for Claire Robinson's Five Ingredient Fix. Maybe it's laziness. The less prep, the better. That's a lot of green on my island. Makes you think this is going to be healthy doesn't it? Think again.

Bacon! LOVE bacon! Bacon was what got Mike on my side about food. I've been trying to convince him of the benefits of organic, local food for years. Finally, we bought some thick cut, certified organic bacon and he took everything back.

Dang! Look at all that cheese! This right here is our sauce. Don't fret about the eggs. They'll cook when you mix the sauce with the pasta. Just make sure the pasta is hot, hot hot!

I'm drooling again. You know what's going to happen with the bacon grease? It's going in the dish? What? Didn't you read what we're making? Carb-onara...

Remember, get your pasta in when it's scorching hot. I tend to use two tools to mix my pasta. It works for me, but you mix your pasta in whatever way works best for you.

Hey, look! Spinach! And a lot of it. See, this recipe's not completely bad for you. This massive pile will wilt down into nothing, though.

See? I don't have nice platters. Good Christmas gift idea, Heather. :-) At least I have nice plates.

Seriously, folks, this meal is so amazingly good. Probably because it's not that healthy, haha. My great grandad, Pe, always used to say that if it's tastes bad, it's good for you. The opposite principle applies here. It's definitely not an everyday dish, but serve it up for a splurge night with the girls or for a date. Make it special. Enjoy!

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