Jamie Oliver’s Bacon and Asparagus Carbonara
Pardon for the lack of table setting when photographing the dish – we couldn’t wait to dig in!
I got to “know” Jamie Oliver a very, very long time ago (when I was about 14/15?) through one of his cooking shows, and I just love the way he hosts his cooking show. He rarely measures his ingredients (except when he’s baking), a lot of time showing off his knife skills (wish I could do the same!) and he’s always grabbing whatever is near him and adding it to his pot of magic. His spontaneity and energetic style of cooking makes him one of my favourite chefs – ever since I would never miss a single episode of his cooking show, and would always be armed with a piece of pen and paper to copy down recipes that I would like to try. I have always wanted to buy his cookbooks but they are too costly for a student like me back then. So I would go to the library and lug his thick and heavy cookbooks back and absorb all the beautiful food photos and delicious recipes – and then wishing I have the skills and equipment to make them.
Regrettably I have only managed to post one recipe of his (back in 2009! I will update on it soon!) on this site… Many recipes that I’ve tried in the past are not satisfactory enough to be blogged here while some ended up as flops (due to my poor cooking skills). These recipes were somehow forgotten and not re-attempted – until now!
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes by Jamie Oliver, and the first would be this carbonara. (Yum, yum, yum!)
Most carbonara served here in Singapore are very cream based – the pasta are swimming in lots of cream and milk and it’s just.so.gross. Maybe because I’m not a fan of cream and milk (different story for cream desserts and milk products), I really detested this version of carbonara. The true authentic carbonara should be made of egg yolks – and I had my first taste of real carbonara in Rome. The carbonara in Italy are extremely tasty and creamy because of the egg yolks – which is the main reason why I never got sick of their carbonara.
When I returned back to Singapore, I searched for good egg-yolk-based carbonara recipes and tried them out, but many times I ended up scrambling the eggs… Until I learned the trick that to cook a perfect carbonara is to turn off the heat before pouring in the yolk mixture – and it worked!
Now that I’ve learned the trick, I know I’m going to make carbonara on a regular basis – I’ll just keep the egg whites left from the recipe to practice baking macarons.
Jamie’s carbonara with bacon and asparagus is well-loved by X and I and it was a great comfort food that can be whipped up in less than 30 minutes (and we all love fuss-free, easy and fast but scrumptious meals… Right?). The smokey and salty bacon combines with the crunchiness of the asparagus and the creaminess of the pasta… it’s so good that we polished the whole dish off within minutes! It may not be authentic Italian as there’s still some cream added (not sure how strict a true Italian carbonara should be), but this recipe is definitely a keeper!
First boil a pot of water and heat a large frying pan (big enough to accommodate all the pasta and ingredients) over medium heat.
While waiting for the water to boil, chop up some good quality bacon.
Then combine some cream, egg yolks, and Parmesan cheese.
Add in a knob of butter – the hot pasta will melt the butter later.
Chop up some asparagus – I actually wanted to throw in the stalks first then the heads, but ended up throwing them all at one go.
When the pasta is cooking, start frying the bacon – crispy is what we are looking for.
When the bacon has started to crisp, add in the asparagus and cook until asparagus are tender but still slightly crunchy. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Yes it’s oily. Yes it’s fattening. But I promise you I’m not going to make this dish very often.
Okay, maybe not, but at least I’m making all the fats worthwhile!
Drain the cooked pasta and add it immediately into the bacon mixture and toss.
Turn off the heat and drizzle in the egg yolks mixture, tossing continuously.
Add in some pasta water if the mixture’s too thick for your liking.
Plate and dig in immediately!
Are you hungry yet?
Jamie Oliver’s Bacon and Asparagus Carbonara (serves 2 to 3)
adapted from one of Jamie Oliver’s TV shows a very, very long time ago…
2 fresh egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
180 to 270 grams penne, depending on number of people you are feeding (or linguine or spaghetti)
200 grams streaky bacon / pancetta, chopped
100 grams thin, baby asparagus, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish (optional)
First, boil a large pot of water. Season the water with salt – 1/2 tablespoon of salt per 1 litre of water. While waiting for the water to boil, grab a large frying pan (large enough to accommodate all the pasta, bacon and asparagus) and set it over medium heat.
Combine the egg yolks, cream and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Whisk to combine with a fork and stir in the butter – the heat from the pasta will melt the butter later.
When the water has come to a boil, add in the penne and cook until al dente, per package’s instructions.
Immediately after adding the pasta, add the chopped bacon into the frying pan – no oil is needed as the bacon will render lots of fats during cooking. Fry over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until browned and almost crispy.
When the bacon is starting to crisp, add in the asparagus (if you’re using thick asparagus, add them in slightly earlier as they’ll take a longer time to cook). Stir-fry until the asparagus are tender. Season with freshly ground black pepper – do not add salt as the bacon and Parmesan cheese are very salty to begin with.
Once the pasta is al dente – remember, the pasta will continue to cook for a while after removing them from the heat – reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and drain the pasta. Dump them immediately (do not rinse them with cold water!) into the bacon-asparagus mixture and toss to coat the pasta with the the bacon fats (very, very sinful I know!)
The most important step now: turn off the heat. Drizzle in the egg yolk mixture and toss / stir the pasta continuously until the pasta is coated with lots of creamy yumminess. If it’s too thick, add in the pasta water – tablespoon by tablespoon, until it reaches the consistency you desired. Don’t return the pan to the heat as it would cook the eggs.
Serve immediately (cold carbonara are yucky).
 Timing is very essential when making this dish – your pasta should be freshly cooked out of the water and added into the pan immediately after draining, so the pasta heat will heat the egg yolks mixture into a creamy concoction.
 Use the best quality and freshest egg you can find for this dish – quality matters!