Zucchini carbonara

Carbonara purists may recoil, but this is a great way to use up zucchini in late summer. Cubed and sauteed, a lot of zucchini can disappear into this dish, which makes excess zucchini a pleasure instead of a chore.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 5 cups)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 pound bacon, diced (150-225 grams or 6-8 medium-width slices)
  • 1/4 cup diced onion (1/2 small onion)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan, Pecorino Romano or a mix (about 100 grams or 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound (450 grams) pasta
  • Extra cheese, for serving
  • Minced parsley, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

  1. Trim ends of zucchini and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices. Cut again lengthwise into 1/2-inch sticks, then across into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside.
  2. Dice onion and mince garlic (or squeeze through a garlic press). Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, beat eggs well and mix in grated cheese. Set aside (don’t refrigerate, unless you are prepping for much later).
  4. Cut bacon into small pieces, using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Set aside.
  5. In a large skillet, cook the zucchini in two batches (zucchini should be in a single layer). Heat the skillet over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon of olive oil followed by 1/2 of the diced zucchini. Saute zucchini, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and partially browned (turn up the heat if it seems too watery, or down if it starts to burn). Season well with salt and pepper, then remove to a bowl. Cook the remaining batch and add it to the bowl of cooked zucchini.
  6. Put a large pot of water on high to boil.
  7. Heat the same skillet on medium heat. Add the diced bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it softens and the bacon fat melts. Add the onion and garlic and continue to cook until bacon is brown but not yet crisp. Turn off heat and set aside.
  8. Add salt to boiling water in the pot (at least a tablespoon; should be salty like the sea). Add pasta and immediately give a stir so it doesn’t stick. Test the pasta as time gets close – it should still have a bit of chew in the center. Save some of the water from the pot, then drain the pasta and add it back to the hot pot.
  9. Stir a splash of hot pasta water into the egg/cheese mixture and immediately pour it over the hot pasta. Stir well until egg mixture is heated and pasta is coated. Add bacon/onion/garlic and the cooked zucchini. Stir well and season generously with black pepper and additional salt to taste (because of all the zucchini, you’ll need a lot more seasoning than with regular carbonara). Add splash of pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Garnish with minced parsley (if you have it) and serve with grated cheese.

Serves 4-6.

Notes

  • Carbonara is traditionally made with pancetta (cured pork belly) or guanciale (cured pork jowl), neither of which is smoked like bacon. But bacon is a staple in the US, and to me carbonara is an indispensable bacon-and-eggs pasta dish to make when you have nothing else in the house.
  • Onion is not traditional to carbonara (garlic is more common), but with all the zucchini some extra aromatics are nice. Use more or less onion and/or garlic to suit your preferences.
  • When it’s not zucchini season, peas are also a good fit with carbonara sauce (only a cup at most).

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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