The Weekend Gourmet: This One's Worth the Splurge...Spaghetti Carbonara with Chicken, Lemon & Walnuts F

Friday, May 27, 2011

This One's Worth the Splurge...Spaghetti Carbonara with Chicken, Lemon & Walnuts

There’s no denying it -- summer is officially here! Memorial Day weekend may be the mental kickoff of summer for most people, but in Texas? It’s already been downright hot -- with a few short breaks -- for a few weeks now. That means there's been lots of lighter fare on the menu at Casa Garcia: fresh corn on the cob, seafood, and lots of fresh fruit. But sometimes? A girl just needs something that’s off-the-charts decadent. That happened earlier this week -- I was in the mood for some comforting and creamy pasta. I had some of my favorite spaghetti (Rustichella d’Abruzzo) and a bit of diced pancetta in the kitchen, so I decided to try making spaghetti carbonara.

I’d never actually made carbonara before, so I went off in search of a good recipe. A recipe from my go-to pasta gal Giada De Laurentiis immediately caught my eye: it included roasted chicken and was topped with lemon zest and chopped walnuts just before serving. This was my kind of pasta! I made a few adjustments to the recipe. I used seared chicken breast and swapped half-and-half for heavy cream. Yes, I was splurging...but I had to draw the line somewhere. The sauce was still very rich...but feel free to use heavy whipping cream if you want to really really indulge a bit!

Oh. My. Lord. Was this ever an amazing pasta dish! The sauce was velvety, the pancetta cubes gave it a nice smoky-salty flavor, and the chicken sort of pulled it all together. Fresh basil and lemon-lime zest were great additions that really brightened the flavor, and I loved the crunch from the walnuts. I paired this dish with a simple green salad on the side...just to make feel a little less guilty for my evening’s caloric consumption. But truthfully? I wanted this pasta to be the star of the show. Man, was this ever good...

Spaghetti Carbonara with Chicken, Lemon & Walnuts
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Step 1:  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook a half-pound of spaghetti according to package directions. While the spaghetti is cooking, make the sauce.

Step 2:  Add 1-2 tbs. of extra-virgin olive oil to a large skillet with high sides. Heat on med-high for 2-3 minutes, until hot. Add 4 oz. chopped pancetta to the pan. I really wanted the flavor of the pancetta to stand out, so I used a thick slice of pancetta cut into 1/4-inch cubes. After the pancetta has started to brown -- about 3-4 minutes -- add 2-3 minced or grated cloves of garlic. Stir to keep the garlic from cooking too quickly.


Add 1 lb. of sliced chicken breast to the pan and cook until golden-brown.


Step 3:  Combine the following ingredients in a large measuring cup: 1 1/4 cup half and half, four egg yolks, 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup chopped basil, and salt & pepper to taste. Whisk well to combine and set aside. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the pan. Turn the heat down to med-low. Toss pasta to combine with the chicken-pancetta mixture, then pour the egg liquid in the measuring cup on top. 


Step 4: Stir well to combine. After 5-6 minutes, the sauce thickens and coats the spaghetti with a velvety sauce. Be careful to keep stirring, and lower the heat if you need to...you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs! Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the carbonara with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and the zest of one lemon and one lime. Use tongs to serve the carbonara on warmed plates. 


Let’s be honest, here: this rich pasta isn’t exactly "everyday eating"...it’s sinfully rich and delicious. A once-in-a-while special treat, if you will. The next time you feel the urge for a splurge coming on? I hope that you'll keep this recipe in your back pocket and give into temptation. I promise that you won’t regret it...but maybe you should eat a salad for lunch the next day just to balance things out ;)!

I hope everyone has a truly wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I'm personally looking forward to a nice break from work and a few mornings to sleep in. Before I forget? The winner in the Stonehouse 27 giveaway is #5:

Louanne from Louanne's Kitchen

Congrats...I'll be in touch to get your shipping info!!

16 comments:

  1. This looks soooo good! I am going to make this for dinner next week :)

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  2. oh wow, this looks great! i love all of the flavors in there + it would make a wonderful date night meal. i might sub pulled chicken in instead of sliced chicken breast, as that's what we generally prefer, but otherwise, i'd keep everything the same. NOM!

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  3. @Amy: The original recipe calls for roasted chicken, so you could easily get a roasted chicken at the store and use the breast meat. I just happened to have some boneless breast in my freezer, so I used that.

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  4. I love Carbonara ... it is perhaps my fave pasta dish ... so rich and creamy! Yours is a bit different from my recipe, but oh! Lookin' great!

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  5. I try to limit pasta meals but this is really irresistible! Gotta have it ! Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

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  6. Looks fabulous, Wendy! I haven't made carbonara in years, but I need to soon. We had pasta with a cream sauce last night...not the healthiest, but a nice change :)

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  7. I'll just go for a nice long run before hand :) This looks amazing, and pasta is perfectly healthy in small servings so I will use whole grain variety and not feel guilty at all. Thanks for the beautiful recipe!

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  8. Thanks, all! The leftovers were also very good the next day. I reheated with a smidge more half-and-half over med-low heat until it was warmed through. Came out great!

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  9. Great recipe and post-as I scanned the photos of the pans of food-I got progressively hungry. It does look rich-but I believe everybody deserves an indulgence once in a while.

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  10. Wow! Wendy this looks so very flavorful. You are right it must be worth the calories!! Yum!

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  11. A calorific splurge no doubt but really worth it I am sure.

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  12. I love carbonara but I usually keep out the heavier stuff. I love Giada I've been watching her since I was a teen. Thanks for sharing! =]

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  13. This looks delicious. I haven't made carbonara for years! It's true that the calories are high in a dish like this, but I think portion control is most important. I like the addition of walnuts too.

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  14. Wendy -- this looks delicious! I appreciate that you wanted to link up to Friday Favorite Finds, but the link party is for linking directly to a list of recipes that you have bookmarked to try; not to a homepage or to a recipe that you've made. I'd love to have you share your finds next week, if you are interested, please join us!

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  15. Your Pasta Carbonara looks so good. Pasta Carbonara is the first dish that my husband cooked for me when we first met, so it has a special place in my heart. We will have to try your version with the chicken, lemon and walnuts!
    Now we use TJ's turkey bacon, instead of the pancetta.

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  16. This looks so good! This would be worthy of a splurge any day!! Have a great Memorial Day!

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