This spin off the classic pasta carbonara takes all the traditional ingredients of cured meat, eggs, cheese, and garlic, but is prepared with gnocchi instead of pasta.
I actually didn’t know what pasta carbonara was. I was familiar with the title of it, and was vaguely aware that the sauce was not tomato based, and that maybe bacon was involved. Turns out pasta carbonara is from Rome, is traditionally made with spaghetti, and uses a combination of guanciale (Italian cured meat), raw eggs, and cheese (parmesan or pecorino romano) to create a nice and creamy sauce. However, you can see it made with slight variations – different types of pasta; sometimes made with bacon; some recipes utilize the whole egg, while others use only the egg yolks. I thought it might be a good idea to make this traditional pasta with gnocchi, which are basically fluffy potato clouds. Grocery stores are nice enough to stock pre-made gnocchi for us, so that’s what I used, and I just needed to boil them in water for a couple minutes. But feel free to make home made gnocchi- I’m willing to bet it would be that much more amazing.
Doesn’t a sauce made of bacon fat, egg yolks and cheese just sounds like the most indulgent treat?? Well, it is! This recipe is pretty straight forward; the only tricky part is getting the egg yolk to cooperate with you without cooking/curdling. But don’t worry, it’s easy to avoid scrambled eggs in your pasta. All you need to do is temper your eggs with some of the hot pasta water (well, gnocchi water in our case). You slowly mix a stream of hot water into your egg yolks, whisking constantly to raise the temperature without cooking it. Then you add the tempered eggs to the hot pasta, and this way, the eggs won’t be cooked by the residual heat. Easy!
I followed this recipe by Rachael Ray (LOVE her!) but used bacon instead of pancetta, gnocchi instead of pasta, and all parmigiano-reggiano instead of a combo of parnigiano and pecorino. I also skipped the olive oil (she uses it to cook the pancetta) because in my mind, bacon releases more than enough fat of its own. I would consider using some oil if you choose to use pancetta or guanciale, though. Last thing, I added a fried egg on top because fried eggs make most things better, and there are eggs in the dish, so why not put it on top too.
One note: I found that there was an excess of sauce, and that it seemed to be extremely liquid-y (or so I thought). At first I panicked because there was so much liquid (almost soup-like), but after a few minutes, it kind of vanished…That told me two things: 1. Your gnocchi will absorb the liquid (and all the delicious flavor), so just be patient with it and give it some time; 2. You should probably serve this dish soon after you cook it because I imagine after it sits for a long time, the gnocchi will continue to absorb the liquid and become bloated (and soggy) gnocchi.
If you’ve never made carbonara before and are confused about the whole egg tempering process, here’s a video that’s only a couple minutes long, but gives you a good visual on the whole process.
This dish hits the two major categories that I look for in a stellar dish: flavor and texture. I’m telling you, when you cook whatever pork you choose and throw the garlic in the fat, the smell is amazing! That garlic-infused bacon fat then simmers with the wine, building extra layers of flavor. Then when you toss it all together with the egg, cheese and parsley? To die for. Now let’s talk texture. The cheese and egg work together to create the perfectly creamy but light sauce. Then you have the crispy bacon pieces running throughout. And all of this is eaten on cloud-like fluffy potato balls. Do yourself a favor and go make this! It’s a great dish to make for your friends because it’s easy to make, you’ll impress everyone, it’s SO delicious, and you can definitely make a big batch of it (double or triple the recipe if you need!) The original recipe says it’s for 4-6 people, but I’ll be honest and say I could probably eat the whole bowl on my own. Somebody would probably have to roll me into bed that night, but my tummy would be so happy!
- 1/3 pound bacon, pancetta, or guanciale; small dice
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3 large egg yolks
- salt and pepper
- Fried egg, optional
- 1 pound gnocchi, store-bought or homemade
- 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano** (see note), grated (plus extra to garnish)
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- While water is coming to a boil, brown your bacon, pancetta or guanciale* (see note) in a large skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add chopped garlic and black pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Add wine, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally.
- While the wine sauce is reducing, in a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Cook your gnocchi until it's al dente (about 1 minute shy of it being cooked). Gnocchi is done when it floats to the top. Reserve 1.5 cups of cooking liquid, and drain the gnocchi.
- Temper the eggs. Add one cup cooking liquid in a slow stream to your eggs, while whisking.
- Add cooked gnocchi to bacon/wine mixture. Mix in tempered eggs, grated cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately with extra cheese, parsley and fried egg if desired.
- *If you're using bacon, use one with a mild flavor. If you're using pancetta or guanciale, you may need a little oil to cook it in.
- **The original recipe calls for 1/2 parmigiano-reggiano and 1/2 pecorino romano