Saturday, June 15, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Forget the Faux

Sometimes you just want a creamy, rich bowl of pasta.
Cream..butter..eggs..minor heart attack.
Ok, we know those things are bad for us. So it is possible to have our cake, so to speak, and eat it too?
It seems some chefs think so, at least according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, you can, replacing salt and fat for more nutritional, yet as tasty, ingredients.
"So Mr. Armstrong began tinkering with preparations and proportions, experimenting with trading the calorie-dense and nutrition-light for more nourishing fare. In the process, he discovered that the flavors he could achieve without all the fat and salt weren't just passable; they were actually better."
Better? Really? The articles includes  a couple of recipes and I bravely decided to try the first, a vegan take off on Pasta Carbonara. An experiment and I will share the outcome, good or bad.

'Fettuccine Carbonara' 
created by Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va

This vegan riff on a carbonara  derives its deceptively meaty flavor from garlic that is roasted until it is mellow, complex and deeply savory. Puréed with white beans and vegetable stock, it makes for a rich tasting, but not heavy, sauce.
1 small head of garlic, plus 4 cloves, thinly sliced and lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces canned, cooked white beans or 1/3 cup dried beans, cooked
¾ cup vegetable stock
8 ounces fettuccine
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed or fresh peas, blanched
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut ½ inch off top of garlic bulb. Drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Roast until tender, 45-60 minutes.
2. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a blender or food processor and discard skin. Add beans and purée. With the motor running, add stock in a steady stream, using only enough to yield a creamy, sauce-like consistency. Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to instructions on package.
4. In a medium-size pan, heat bean purée until warm. Add pasta and peas and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Divide among four serving bowls. Garnish with toasted garlic slices and season with pepper to taste.

Faux carbonara

So, how did it turn out?
Oddly, with all that garlic it does not have a strong garlic taste. As anyone who has roasted a head of garlic knows, it become a sweet paste, quite mild. And it was very easy.
And it does not look bad, does it? 
Is there anything reminiscence of carbonara here, besides the fettuccine?
No, not really.
It is not bad but not something I can see pining for.
Those garlic chip...skip them IMHO. Bitter. Maybe I overcooked them.
And it is just cruel to have that photo of that panchetta at the top of the article and then give me garlic slivers. That is not panchetta!
I will also tell you, keep some of the pasta water on hand because once you add the sauce to the pasta that creamy looking sauce with tighten up something fierce. So just add a little pasta water, but by bit, until you like the texture.

REAL carbonara, at a charming Rome restaurant.

I guess this is why I am not a vegan. I like bacon and butter and cream. Sure, not every day, but every so often.....
Ya gotta die of something, right?
Why not panchetta and cheese?

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Thanks for the experiment! I wonder if you would have liked the pasta dish better if it were not hyped as a carbonara replacement. Fortunately I'm thin and healthy enough to eat the real thing a few times a year.

    1. True..true about trying to make a someone commented on the article, they should have just called it pasta with bean sauce.

  2. this sonds really good actually! I'm going to try it - even thogh I probably cold eat the original.

  3. Nice take on making it healthier. I was reading that natural ingredients such as cream or a substitution, butter over margarine, etc. can be better for your body if you use less of it. Moderation is the key when taking in rich foods. Love t hat roasted garlic!

  4. Totally agree with you on that one. My attitude is...make the real stuff, just don't eat it every week. It never quite tastes the same. If I want a burger, then dammit, I'm going to have one, not some turkey burger or veggie burger. Give me heavy cream and cheese baby.

    1. yes..but then YOU go running but I take a nap. lol

  5. This actually looks like a good alternative for me. I'm extremely lactose intolerant so can't have the real yummy version with the cream and butter. Going to have to give this one a shot!

    1. Yep, if I had a dairy issue I would try it. I will suggest that when you add the stock, make it thinner than you think, because it will tighten up.

  6. I had the most amazing Pasta Carbonara at a little restaurant in Rome. I'm with you though, sometimes you have to splurge and you can always try to eat well the rest of the time. Don't mess with a good thing.

    1. The place I had that was near the Vatican called Arlu..we had a little table outside, watching the folks go by...

  7. I do tend to like healthier dishes better if I'm taking them on their own grounds and not as substitutes for something that I really want. Most of the time I'm happy with my veggie pasta and stir-fried greens. When it's time for a treat, I like to go for the real thing.

    Joy's Book Blog

  8. You know, if they had just called it pasta with white bean sauce, expectations wouldn't have run so high...

  9. I think you are better to have small quantities of the real stuff than larger ones of "lightened up" recipes. Cheers

  10. I don't eat carbonara often enough to worry about it being bad for me.


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