THURSDAY DINNER: Oven-Baked Risotto Carbonara

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We confronted the myths of carbonara as a sauce in a previous post here at Al Dente (namely that the long held belief that this pasta was a favorite of Italian coalminers is a fallacy and it turns out pasta tossed with fried pig and raw egg was actually a regional dish that gained popularity nationally there in the 1950s).

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The path of carbonara diverged at some point in the last 60 years, dropping the egg but keeping the bacon. Search Google for “carbonara” and any other word, and you will likely find a meat, fish or grain dish that involves crispy pancetta and no egg. And that’s fine, I suppose, if you don’t want to run the risk of eating raw egg (though pasteurized eggs are safe to eat uncooked), but it’s not authentic and it should not be confused as such.

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What caught my eye with Seasons and Suppers’ risotto carbonara (I seem to be using a lot of Jennifer’s recipes lately) was that raw egg that binds everything. Sure, you have the dairy and the starch from the cooked rice to do some lifting but the eggs bring additional elements in terms of flavor and texture to the pan.

WHAT WORKED: The egg, for all of the reasons I mentioned before.

WHAT DIDN’T: Jennifer’s recipes are really easy so this went together without a hitch.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy to medium, simply because there is a lot of stirring and pan watching that is involved. 

BEST FOR: A mid-week simple dinner or a hearty side dish to roasted pork dish.

SERVE WITH: A semi-dry white wine, like a riesling, or a lager.

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Risotto Carbonara
Adapted lightly from the original at Seasons & Suppers

  • 1 heaping cup arborio rice
  • 4 to 5 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced fine
  • 32 oz. chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano, plus more for serving
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 heaping tbsp. crème fraîche
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.

Add stock to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and keep warm on the burner.

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Set a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat and fry the pancetta. Render its fat, and cook until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Use a spoon or spatula to transfer to a plate. 

Add the butter to the pan and melt a little of it. Add the onion and stir to coat in the grease. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

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Return the pancetta to the pan, then stir in the rice so that it gets a thorough coating of butter and oil. Continue stirring the rice so it doesn’t stick or burn, while ladling in the stock to the rice pan. Season with pepper and stir until all of the stock has been added to the pan. Increase heat of the rice to medium-high, bring to a simmer, and immediately transfer to the oven. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, stir in the grated cheese and bake 15 more minutes.

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Towards the end of the risotto’s baking time, whisk together the egg and crème fraîche until smooth. Stir the egg mixture into the risotto until it is well-combined. Taste and adjust flavor with salt. Let stand 1 minute to thicken, then serve with extra grated cheese.

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