The Somerville News Weekly is Excited to Announce Our New Weekly Recipe Column, Cooking with Jonathan!

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By Jonathan Jolicoeur

In this weekly culinary column, I will be focusing on one dish – giving the reader a quick history of the dish, the classical preparation of it, and of course, my own spin on the classic.

This week I feature Pasta Carbonara, which is of my personal favorites to cook, as well as eat.

Pasta Carbonara is an Italian dish that originated in the Latium Region of Italy, more specifically, the City of Rome. The name Carbonara is derived from “carbonaro,” which means “charcoal burner.” It is believed that this dish was the “coal miners pasta” due to the heartiness of the meal, the quick cooking time and the fact that its simple ingredients would most likely be on hand in any Italian kitchen, at any given moment.

Classic Pasta Carbonara

¼ lb​Pancetta (chopped)
8 oz​Spaghetti (cooked al dente)
2​Large egg yolks (beaten)
8 oz​Parmigiano Reggiano (freshly grated)
1 tbsp​Cooking oil
to taste​Freshly cracked pepper, salt

Using a medium saute pan, start off on medium heat (add cooking oil to pan first) – when heated, add the pancetta and allow the fat to render. When the pancetta becomes crispy, remove the pan from the heat and pour all but 1 tbsp of the fat out. Now, add the spaghetti, then the eggs, using tongs to toss the pasta until the eggs become creamy (caution: do not allow the eggs to scramble). Add the parmigiano reggiano and toss again to mix through the dish. Season to taste and then serve.

Jonathan’s Pasta Carbonara

¼ lb​Pancetta (chopped)
8 oz​Bucatini (cooked al dente)
2​Large egg yolks (beaten)
6 oz​Parmigiano Reggiano (freshly grated)
2 oz​Pecorino Romano (freshly grated)
4 oz​Hen of the Woods mushrooms (freshly picked)
1 tbsp​Cooking oil
1 tbsp​Fresh oregano (chopped)
1 oz​Pasta cooking water
to taste​Freshly cracked pepper, salt

Using a medium saute pan, start off on medium heat (add cooking oil to pan first) – when heated, add the pancetta and allow the fat to render. When the pancetta becomes crispy, remove the pancetta from the pan and then at the hen of the woods mushrooms – allowing enough time for them to brown. Once the mushrooms are browned, add the pancetta back to the pan, followed by the pasta cooking water. Quickly, remove the pan from the heat and add the bucatini, then the eggs, using tongs to toss the pasta until the eggs become creamy (caution: do not allow the eggs to scramble). Add the cheeses, then the oregano and toss again to mix through the dish. Season to taste and then serve.

This dish has had many interpretations over the years and it is both hearty and rich, which is why I like to add the hen of the woods mushrooms, pecorino romano and oregano. The pecorino romano adds a sharper cheese flavor and both the mushrooms and oregano add an earthiness to the dish – which for me cuts through the richness of the eggs and the pancetta.

Whether you choose to prepare the classic, my twist on it, or your own interpretation, remember that food is about bringing people together and that the act of cooking is about caring – and as long as your heart is in the dish you prepare, the people you are cooking for will appreciate it (and you).

If you have any questions for me or would like to see me cover a particular dish in this column, feel free to write to me, care of this publication. From my kitchen to yours, it is my pleasure to give you a peek into the mind of a chef. Thank you.

Jonathan Jolicoeur is a chef at A Tavola – an Italian restaurant on Church Street in Winchester – which focuses on “farm to table” style cooking. Jonathan was born in Somerville, lives in Woburn and has a degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

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