Dinner for One: Rustic Pasta Carbonara. And Did I Tell You I Had A Baby?
Last night I dreamt that I had a baby.
But the baby — and the having of it — wasn’t actually the main focus of the dream.
The main focus of the dream was how I kept forgetting that I had a baby.
Like… I would go to the grocery store to buy milk and bacon, apparently, and suddenly I would remember that I left the baby at home. And did my dream self freak out about the fact that I’d forgotten my helpless baby and left it to fend for itself at home in the bassinet or whatever they call those frilly rocking things where babies sleep?
My dream self just said, damn… I forgot my baby and then continued comparing one brand of ultra thick-cut hickory smoked bacon to another brand of reduced-fat maple flavored. And if you even have to guess which one my dream self picked, then you really don’t know me as well as I thought you did.
And then I dreamt about blogging. I had all of these fantastic post ideas that of course my dream self neglected to write down for my awake self to remember because it’s apparently as equally negligent of its writing needs as I am. Anyway. As my dream self was typing out one such brilliant post, it dawned on me that I completely forgot to tell the readers that I’d had a baby.
It was such an insignificant part of my existence that it wasn’t even blog worthy.
So, somewhere in the middle of my post about people pods or my crappy taste in music or vaginas on my kindle or any other such nonsense, I typed something to the effect of, “Oh, yeah! And I had a baby. I can’t believe I forgot to tell you. Oops. So about this road trip…”
What does this mean?
Was it simply because my new co-worker brought her doe-eyed pudgesicle of a pants-pooper into the office and I went grocery shopping the other day?
Or could it be more?
Could my dream self actually be mocking me?
Does it know what a crappy parent I’d be and is attempting to prove it to me via segmented black and white subconscious thought streams?
I mean, really. I know I would be a terrible parent. I don’t need my self to tell me that. Mockery from my own Id?
Kind of effed up.
It’s like my subconscious thinks I carelessly flit from one thing to the next with little regard for whatever I just left behind, no matter how profound it may be.
So about this bacon.
I did buy some, and so far I’ve put it to good use. I would go so far as to say that bacon is probably a staple when cooking for one — it can be added to almost anything (salads, meats, fish, pastas, etc.) for an instant slap of delicious flavor. Just don’t go overboard with it.
For my first meal as a pseudo-single person, table for one, I knew exactly what I wanted to make for dinner.
Pasta alla Carbonara.
Sounds fancy, right?
Well. It’s not. According to Wikipedia, it may have first been made as a “hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers.” In the States, it’s sometimes referred to as “coal miners’ spaghetti.” It’s a simple, rustic, back-to-basics pasta dish that takes all of 10-15 minutes to prepare. The basic dish requires some type of pasta (usually spaghetti or fettuccini), some type of pork (bacon, pancetta, or the traditional guanciale), a hard cheese (like Parmigiano-Reggiano), eggs, and black pepper.
Of course, the internet is full of variation recipes that call for different herbs, spices, and a slew of other veggies and accouterments, and of course over time I’ve developed my own bastardized version that I’m sharing here. It’s a perfect “dinner for one” because you can add anything you want, and the amounts can be easily adjusted to make as little or as much as you’d like. You really can’t mess it up. The amounts below are guesstimates, and you likely will have leftovers. If you don’t want leftovers, just cut it back!
- 1/2-ish pound of dried pasta (I think I used a little less)
- 2-3 slices of bacon
- 1/3-ish cup of pasta water
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/3-ish cup of frozen corn
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1/4-ish cup of Parmesan cheese that you grate yourself, plus extra for garnish (I actually used a hard cheese called Grana Padano, which I had from another recipe, but good ol’ Parm will do the trick)
- Black pepper to taste
1. Boil a pot of salted water and add your pasta. Cook until al dente. In non-fancy terms, it shouldn’t be complete mush.
2. Stick the raw bacon in a pan and turn the heat to medium-high. My grocery store was out of the bacon I looooove to buy, Carolina Pride, which always cooks up deliciously even and perfect, so I was stuck with this:
This stuff, whatever it is, didn’t understand my style of set-it-and-forget-it cooking, so it decided to burn the second I walked away.
I’m pretty sure it’s the bacon’s fault — not mine. I cooked some more and used the burnt stuff, too.
Hey. Waste not, want not.
2. While the bacon is cooking, separate your eggs. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Just crack the egg, split it in half, and let the yolk slide back and forth between the two shell halves while letting the white drip out. Soon you should be left with just yolk!
Mix the yolks with a fork.
Steal some of your pasta water (1/4-1/3 of a cup) by dipping a measuring cup directly into the pot, and slowly add that to the egg while mixing with the fork. This tempers the egg slowly so it doesn’t get all crazy cooked and coagulated. You don’t want to end up with scrambled egg in your pasta.
Then grate some cheese into it and stir until it melts into the hot water/yolk mixture.
3. Once the bacon is cooked, set it aside and add some minced garlic and corn to the hot bacon grease.
Stir around for just a couple of minutes until the corn is lightly cooked and the garlic is fragrant. (This would be wonderful with fresh corn off the cob, but I use what I have. And what I have is frozen corn.)
4. Crumble the bacon, add it to the pan, and stir it around.
5. Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the pan, stirring everything with tongs or a fork to cook and combine.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yolk sauce. It will cook slowly, without scrambling, and give your pasta a rich, slick flavor. It’s incredible.
‘Scuse the intense blur, but you get the idea.
7. Add plenty of black pepper, dish onto a plate or into a pasta bowl, and pour yourself a glass of wine.
Toast to taking the time to cook for yourself. Be happy you’re treating yourself right, even when no one else is around to see it.
Sleep well, and dream about forgetting your baby.
We can’t all be perfect and sometimes the bacon does get burned.
Such is life.