Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Recipe: Pasta Carbonara With Peas

Pasta Carbonara prepared over an open fire

For you purists out there, this recipe is NOT an official pasta carbonara dish. I didn't add egg yolks.

When writing up this recipe I looked up pasta carbonara for clarification... and according to my friends over at Wikipedia: "...all agree that cheese, egg yolks, cured fatty pork, and black pepper are basic."

Instead of egg yolks, I made a quick pan white sauce... and I wasn't sorry. This recipe turned out so utterly tasty, and was so easy (even over an open fire), that it's tough to justify changing it. You could easily substitute 3 egg yolks for the milk, flour, and butter if it's important to you.

To be clear: I have nothing against adding egg yolks. I even had eggs with me when I created this recipe. But I opted not to use them.

You see, we were camped in the Valley of Fire in Nevada, and true to form, I was cooking over an open fire. I decided that a variation of white sauce would be more stable than the whole partially-coagulated egg yolk trick.

Before we get started... if you happen to find yourself north of Las Vegas on Interstate 15, I highly recommend camping out in the Valley of Fire. It's a hidden gem that's only 20 minutes from I-15, but is a little slice of red rock heaven. It calls to mind what Ed Abbey's Arches National Park of the 1960's must have been like before Industrial Tourism got to it.

Here's a picture:

Nevada's Valley of Fire State Park

Now, back to the recipe.


  • 4 ounces chopped bacon
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour (I use Bob's Red Mill gluten free)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup peas (frozen is fine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 14 ounces fettuccine (I use Tinkyada gluten free)

Boil water for your pasta. The pasta water should be well-salted (it should taste like a too-salty soup).

Once you've added your pasta to the boiling water, begin making the sauce by heating a large cast iron skillet on medium heat (or over a really low fire if cooking over open flame).

Once the pan is hot (just beginning to smoke) Add the chopped bacon, and saute for 5 minutes stirring every minute or so.

After 5 minutes, add the sliced onion. Cook the onion for another 5-7 minutes until well-caramelized, again stirring often to avoid burning.

When the onions are golden brown, add the black pepper, and then add the butter.

Melt the butter, and then add the flour and stir things around to combine. Next, add the milk and again stir everything around to create a thick white sauce. Add the peas. Taste your sauce! You almost certainly need to add some salt.

Add the cooked pasta and stir everything around to coat the noodles.

Take a fork, twirl up some pasta with sauce and other goodies, and taste your pasta before serving it! You very likely need to add pepper and salt.

Once you've adjusted the seasonings, serve your pasta immediately. It goes great with a beautiful sunset served over red-rock desert, crisp sandstone arches, and a healthy serving of silence. 


  1. I passed the turn off for Valley of Fire on our way out to the North
    Rim a few years ago. For some reason, I always forget about it when I'm looking for a quick getaway. Looks like I've got to put it back on the list.

    Oh hey, thanks to your inspiration, I've even started using the cast iron skillet on the gas grill when I'm too busy to start a fire. Oddly, it still appeases my inner cave girl.

  2. Hey Kirby,

    I too will use the cast iron on a gas (and charcoal!) grill... as well as over the open fire when camping. Glad your inner cave girl can be appeased. ; - )

    Yeah, definitely check out Valley of Fire. The Arch Rock Campground is your huckleberry for a more primitive experience.




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