Pizza Carbonara

You know food that tastes exactly like some other food?

I think of the chip aisle in the grocery store. The chip flavors I’m seeing are becoming simultaneously more preposterous and totally relevant by the day. My favorites at the moment that I would like to mention by name include Lay’s Dill Pickle Potato Chips and Flamin’ Hot Potato Chips.

But let’s take a look back, with a debt of gratitude to a food reporter over at Springfield, Massachusetts’ The Republican who tasked himself with the enviable job of ranking Lay’s promotional test flavors last year. Some of my favorites I was delighted to see were Bacon Mac & Cheese, Cappuccino, New York Reuben and Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese. Nice.

I would have paid some serious money to sit in those focus groups.

Just like Lay’s claimed to replicate the flavor of these foods, I 100% money back guarantee this pizza will taste exactly like pasta carbonara. Which isn’t too much of a stretch, because you’ll just replacing one starch with another. But the delivery method is undeniably irresistible.

Plus, this pizza covers all the primary food groups.

Carb vehicle? Check.

Cheese? Check.

More cheese? Check.

Garlic? Of course.

Egg yolks? Check.

Bacon? Check.

Butter? Don’t worry, we’ve sneaked some in there as well. Check.

I heard a comment mid-bite that this would be a great breakfast pizza, and the thought had never occurred to me. I might be giving an eggs benedict pizza a try – too far out of left field? I’ll keep brainstorming. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 1 large pizza.

  • Pizza dough, recipe below
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced 1 / 4 inch thick
  • 4 oz. Parmigiana Reggiano, shaved
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns, crushed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 strips cooked bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 / 4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter or truffle butter

F o r  t h e  D o u g h

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a pizza baking sheet.
  9. Sautee the garlic in the olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes on medium heat, until the oil is infused with the garlic flavor, being careful not to burn the garlic. Off the heat, add the butter or truffle butter.
  10. With a brush, coat the pizza dough with a thin layer of the oil, being sure to cover the edges. Next, add the sliced mozzarella placing pieces evenly across the dough. Then add a layer of chopped bacon.
  11. Put the pizza in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling hot.
  12. Remove the pizza from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes. Garnish the entire pie with the shaved parm reg and the black peppercorns. Place the egg yolks evenly across the pizza, and serve immediately.

Chinese Dumpling Ravioli with Soy-Cream Pan Sauce

Whoever first called them dumplings is a visionary – because the name dumpling sounds exactly like what they are. A cute little pasta package with filling. Adorable.

Dumplings are the broad term used to describe any dough-filled pocket that can be prepared in many ways – fried, steamed, stewed, fire-grilled – you name it.

Ones that come to mind are empanadas, tortellini or ravioli, pierogis and mandu. An understandably universal culinary concept, every culture has their own version of a protein or vegetable filled dough pocket.

I worship the filling inside Chinese takeout meat dumplings – always have. When it came time to put in requests for our family’s go-to takeout order, you could always count on me ordering wonton soup and dumplings.

This graduated to include crab rangoon, an upgrade to hot and sour soup in place of wonton soup, and some extra, extra hot General Tso’s chicken. “And don’t forget one of those mini containers of spicy mustard!”, I’d annoyingly yell to my parents mid-order.

When I imagined this dish, I knew I wanted to try a meat-filled dumpling. But what about the sauce?

I couldn’t recall every having a soy sauce-flavored cream sauce before. I doubted there was any way it wouldn’t go great with the ravioli, and I was right. Soy sauce is inherently buttery flavor-wise, as is the cream and actual butter that serves as the base of the sauce.

It was extremely good. Just like the no dairy with seafood rule, I can’t think of many dairy-heavy dishes in American-style Chinese takeout. But low and behold – it works incredibly well here.

The most daunting task will be rolling out the pasta, without a pasta maker. Which if you are in the same boat as me, is what you’ll have to do here.

It all turned out OK. The world didn’t end. And of course, rolling it out by hand contributed to a rustic appearance and heartier bite of the homemade pasta. I’m cutting myself some slack here as should you – I’ve only ever made homemade pasta in a cooking class, but do make gnocchi relatively frequently at home.

The Asian condiments used in the pan sauce are the same as those used to flavor the ground pork and mushrooms in the filling, so the dish tastes relatively uniform throughout. I toyed with the idea of adding parmesan cheese or ricotta to the filling, but ended up leaving it out. I bet it would have been even more delicious with a little dollop of cheese folded in. If you do, let me know how it tastes!

I know I’ll be making this dish again, because my boyfriend was cooing as he was eating it. However, by the time that rolls around, I hope I will have purchased a pasta maker attachment to make this pasta rolling task a bit easier. 😊

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 2.

F o r  t h e  P a s t a  D o u g h

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Flour, as needed
  • Water, as needed

F o r  t h e  F i l l i n g

  • 1 / 4 lb. ground pork
  • 1 scallion stalk, sliced
  • 4 large button mushrooms, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon mirin
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon hot sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

F o r  t h e  S o y – C r e a m  P a n  S a u c e

  • 1 / 2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 scallion stalk, sliced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Prepare the pasta dough. Sift and combine the flour and salt. Pour onto a hard, cold surface, creating a well in the center. Crack the three eggs in the middle of the flour pile, and fold using your hands until combined. Once in a dough ball, knead 10 times until the consistency is silky. If the dough is too hard and not elastic, add some water. If it is too sticky, add some flour. Place the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow it to rest.
  2. Heat the teaspoon of olive oil in a small skillet, and add all the filling ingredients. Sautee until the pork is completely cooked through, and the mushrooms are browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Once the dough has had a chance to rest, remove it from the fridge and begin rolling out with a floured rolling pin on a floured surface. Continue to roll out until the dough is less than 1 / 8 inch thick.
  4. Using a ramekin or other small circular dish, create imprints on the dough, and cut out 20 circles, enough for 10 ravioli total.
  5. Place 1 to 1 1 / 2 teaspoon of the filling on one side of each ravioli dough halve, and pinch the sides together moving in a circular fashion until all the raviolis are enclosed with the filling. Set aside.
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. In a separate large and shallow skillet, melt the butter, then add the rest of the soy-cream pan sauce ingredients. Let the sauce come to a low boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat.
  7. Add the ravioli to the pot, and cook for 5 – 7 minutes until the pasta is tender. Remove the ravioli from the pasta with a slotted spoon and put it directly into the pan sauce.
  8. Plate the ravioli, garnishing with extra scallions and hot sesame oil.
  9. Final step – enjoy this way too much. 😉

Overstuffed Olive & Pimento Grilled Cheese

I was big on dirty martinis from an early (note: legal) age.

This olive juice craze gave rise to many abandoned, juiceless jars of olives. I began to look for recipes to use up this massive surplus. In little time I was routinely making batches of – you guessed it – pimento cheese dip – that included the olives as well as the pimentos inside.

I have historically relied on Southern cooking tradition in assuming there are few acceptable ways to serve pimento cheese.

On crackers.

In a sandwich.

But even with its alleged limited applications, I would list pimento cheese as one of my top desert island foods. When you’d eat it with a spoon, that’s when you know.

The other reason to love pimento cheese so much? There’s barely any ingredients! So it’s an ideal whip-together-at-the-last-minute dish made of things you very likely have in your fridge right now.

So as a service to both you and I, I put my head to paper and came up with a list to get me ruminating on how I can justify eating more of it, for those occasions when I make it in alarmingly huge quantities.

  • Mixed into macaroni and cheese
  • Stuffed in enchiladas
  • Mixed into broccoli cheddar soup
  • Mixed into mashed potatoes
  • Topping fries
  • Mixed into a soufflé
  • Topping a burger
  • Mixed into risotto
  • On pizza
  • On a Philly cheesesteak
  • Mixed into cream cheese
  • Stuffed in chicken breasts
  • Mixed into grits
  • Rolled in panko breadcrumbs and fried
  • Mixed into scrambled eggs
  • Mixed into pasta carbonara
  • Stuffed in homemade ravioli
  • Melted inside quesadillas

Let me know if you have, want to, or will give any of these a try. I’d love to hear what the results were!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1.

I like my grilled cheese to have much more “cheese” than “grilled.” You may see me dipping my sandwich into the cheese that oozes out from time to time. So if this recipe is a bit too cheesy for you, just halve the cheese quantities to make it a bit less melty and more manageable.

  • 2 slices white bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
  • 6 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 oz. pimento-stuffed olives, minced

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. On medium-low heat, heat one tablespoon butter in a skillet. Place one piece of the bread down, slathering with the entirety of the cheese mixture, being sure to cover the edges completely. Top with the second piece of bread, smush down, and cover the skillet with a lid to allow for the cheese to melt.
  2. After 2 – 3 minutes, flip the sandwich, adding the additional tablespoon of butter to the pan. Cover and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  3. Remove the grilled cheese, cut diagonally, and serve oozing and hot.

North End Italian Hoagie Pizza

Take me to a sub place, and I never fail to order the Italian hoagie. I can’t resist the salty cured meats, spicy peppers, sharp provolone and vinegar-y bite.

Fresh out of college, I moved to the North End of Boston to work on a campaign. If you’re not familiar with the North End of Boston, it’s their city’s equivalent of “Little Italy” that you’ll find in several major U.S cities.

I’ve visited other Italian neighborhoods on the East coast, and I can tell you the food in Boston’s North End is first-rate. The pastas, prosciutto, olive oil, burrata, bread, wine, calamari, wood-grilled pizzas, arancini, carpaccios and I could go on – are, and I mean it, out-of-this-world.

Things you will see while you’re in the North End – two old men smoking cigars on a bench at dawn arguing tirelessly in Italian, an inebriated bar full of soccer fans screaming at a tiny, black and white TV, loud, pinky ring-wearing large mafiosos sitting on too-small chairs sipping espressos, and tourists carrying blue bags filled with cannolis from the rivalrous Maria’s and Mike’s pastry shops.

My favorite haunt for subs and pizza was always Il Panino’s Express, which appears to have shut down since I lived there. The tortellini with ham from its flagship restaurant, Trattoria Il Panino, was arguably one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had.

And then there was the great divider. Just like the Yanny and Laurel debacle, half of the campaign staff favored Ernesto’s Pizza – the other half swore by Regina Pizzeria.

I was team Regina – all the way. They have a lot of grease on their pizza – so what? That’s what makes it good!

For your subs, you walk over to Dino’s or Pauli’s on Salem Street, the “hidden” street that runs parallel to Hanover.

I was partial to Dino’s because their “12-inch subs” were actually 16-inch subs if you measured them. And at the end of the Salem Street, you’ll find Neptune Oyster House.

From my experience, this is the only way to get a table at Neptune Oyster House. You put in your name at 10 or 11AM in the morning. They call you at 9PM to let you know a table has opened up, and you proceed to run, or fuck it, sprint to the restaurant within a 15 minute time-frame to secure your table. If you don’t make it, you’re shit out of luck, because they gave your table to someone else.

This hoagie pizza has all the same flavors that remind me of my time there – you have to go for high-quality meats and cheeses. If you want to splurge sparingly, Italian-imported, very sharp provolone makes a huge difference.

If you’re ever in the Boston area, do yourself a favor. Head over to the North End, grab the first table you see outside, and enjoy a hot, greasy slice of sausage pizza and a Peroni while you people watch.

After a few minutes of sitting there, seeing sweet old Italian grandmothers shuffle down the sidewalk on their way to Sunday Mass, you’ll understand why it was so easy for me to fall in love with the place.

I N G R E D I E N T S

This is a large pizza. Serves 2 to 4.

F o r  t h e  P i z z a  D o u g h  ( A d a p t e d  c / o  t h e  B a r e f o o t  C o n t e s s a )

  • 2 / 3 cups warm water
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 / 2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1 / 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 1 teaspoons salt

F o r  t h e  V i n a i g r e t t e

  • 1 / 2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 / 4 cup olive oil
  • 1 / 8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 / 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Pinch of sugar

F o r   t h e   T o p p i n g s

  • 3 / 4 cup sharp provolone, shredded
  • 4 oz. mortadella, diced
  • 4 oz. capicola, diced
  • 4 oz. salami, diced
  • 4 oz. pepperoni, diced
  • 1 cup lettuce, sliced thinly
  • 1 / 4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1 / 4 cup cherry pepper spread or jarred minced roasted red peppers

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat oven to 500*.
  2. Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 1 / 2 cups flour, then the salt, and mix.
  3. While mixing, add 1/ 2 more cup of flour.
  4. Knead the dough on low speed for 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.
  5. Remove the dough and put on a floured board or stone countertop, and knead by hand a dozen times.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil.
  7. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  8. Roll and stretch the ball into a rough 16-inch circle using a rolling pin, and place it on a pizza baking sheet.
  9. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour half the vinaigrette on the dough, spreading so all of the dough is evenly covered with the vinaigrette.
  10. Top evenly with the shredded provolone, followed by the deli meats.
  11. Put the pizza in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbling hot.
  12. Remove the pizza from the oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  13. Once cooled, top evenly with the shredded lettuce, then the red onion, roma tomatoes and cherry pepper spread or marinated red peppers. Finally, pour the remaining vinaigrette over the top of the pizza.
  14. Slice into 8 slices with a pizza roller. Enjoy immediately!

Beef Wellington Tartare

What’s the opposite of a picky eater? Whatever it’s called, I’m that. But I won’t preach perfection. Black licorice, pretzels, grape juice, mint or, and here’s the kicker – puff pastry – don’t do it for me.

Beef Wellington should absolutely fall in my wheelhouse. Mushrooms, filet mignon, Dijon mustard, ham, Pâté, shallots & garlic. And it’s a gorgeous presentation to boot.

This sans-pastry recipe let’s me have my cake and eat it too. And the runny egg doesn’t hurt either.

Chances are you like puff pastry. I wish I did. But this dish encapsulates the essentials of the classic, with a lot less hassle. I’ve heard several horror stories – one that involved waking up at 6 AM to mince mushrooms. Another recalled a burnt pastry and undercooked beef situation.

Speaking of holiday cooking disasters, does anyone else watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation year-round and think it’s wildly underrated? I can recite that entire damn movie line-by-line. That dinner scene when Clark goes to carve the turkey Ellen’s sister put in the oven too early, and it cracks open with a puff of smoke, makes me howl every time.

I’ve eaten everything from grasshoppers to alligator to pig eyeball. And a lot more weird stuff that I can’t remember. I’ve liked every single one of those food experiences. But I still can’t stomach puff pastry. Go figure.

To quote cousin Eddie at that famous dinner scene…

Save the neck for me, Clark.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Makes 2 tartare servings.

  • 1 6 oz. filet mignon, chopped finely
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 4 oz. foie gras Pâté, or another Pâté if preferred, sliced 1 inch thick
  • 4 oz. Parma ham or prosciutto
  • 2 quail eggs yolks
  • 8 button mushrooms, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 / 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, minced, plus additional for garnish
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Flatbread, for serving with the tartare

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Combine the beef, half the shallot, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Set in the fridge to marinate.
  2. On medium-low heat in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sauté the mushrooms, the rest of the shallot, garlic and thyme. Add a pinch of salt to render some of the liquid from the mushrooms.
  3. Once the mushrooms are lightly browned, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  4. To arrange the tartare, take a 3 inch round mold and press down on a layer of Pâté. This will be the tartare base. Brush 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard on top. Then add a slice of Parma ham or prosciutto of similar size and shape, followed by half the cooled mushroom mixture. Finally, top with half the chilled beef mixture, pressing down in the mold to form into a circular shape. Repeat for the second tartare.
  5. Place both plates, while still in the round mold, in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.
  6. Remove from the fridge, slide the tartares out of the round molds, and create a slight indent on the top with your thumb, sliding a quail egg yolk into the indent.
  7. Sprinkle with minced thyme, serving immediately alongside flatbread for scooping.

Red Hot Pasta Carbonara Nests

Real Italian pasta aficionados would shudder at what I’m about to do – add buffalo-style hot sauce to pasta. It’s sacrilege. But I’m doing it anyway.

I pour the stuff on 99.98% of my food. Sriracha, a close cousin, claims to be a good accompaniment to salads, pizza, eggs and pasta among other things, according to the label on the bottle. But I would hedge bets they’re referring to soba noodles, or ramen.

Caution to the wind, I gave this a whirl, and it knocked my socks off.

So what elements are a must for a buffalo-style wing experience? In my mind, there’s the obligatory Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce (pro-tip – always mix 2 parts hot sauce to 1 part melted butter), blue cheese crumbles, ranch or blue cheese dressing, and celery or carrots.

Not all of these ingredients are going to make the cut into this dish. Carrots in a Pasta Carbonara? No thanks.

But the uber-American buffalo-style flavor will shine through.

To that end, here is an Italian-American Frankenstein of a dish I concocted to share with you all. Cheese. Spice. Butter. Carbs. Garlic. Rendered pork fat. All topped with a runny egg yolk. What else could you ever want in a meal?

I genuinely hope you spice lovers like myself give this a try when the mood hits you just right.

And a quick disclaimer to add here – you may not be able to button your pants the next day.

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 3 to 4, depending on appetites.

  • 1 lb. bucatini, or another long pasta
  • 1 / 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 4 oz. pancetta, diced
  • 3 large eggs, whisked, plus additional egg yolks for each nest
  • 8 tablespoons Frank’s Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce or Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 5 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 4 oz. Parmigiana-Reggiano, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons celery leaves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed*
  • 2 tablespoons spiced chili oil**
  • 2 / 3 cup reserved cooking liquid from the pasta
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper

*The easiest way to crush peppercorns if you don’t have a mortar & pestle is to put the peppercorns in a sealed Ziploc bag and smash with a meat mallet or rolling pin.

**I made my own chili oil in a cinch. Just heat 1 / 2 cup olive oil with 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1 habanero pepper, minced. Let the spices simmer in the olive oil over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes,  let cool, and place in a glass mason jar. Will last for several weeks at room temperature and can be used in any dish in place of olive oil to add a spicy kick.

D I R E C T I O N S

  1. Preheat the oven to 350*.
  2. Slice the whole chicken breast in half lengthwise. Brush with 1 tablespoon of the chili oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes and set aside, covering with foil to retain juices while you prepare the rest of the dish. After 10 minutes or so, when it’s cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand (or 2 forks) into bite-sized pieces.
  3. Whisk the 3 eggs in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Carefully separate as many eggs as needed so that each pasta nest has a yolk. Set the yolks aside.
  5. Melt the butter in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, and mix with the hot sauce. Set aside.
  6. Heavily salt a pot of boiling water and cook the pasta al dente. Be sure to reserve cooking liquid before straining.
  7. In the meantime, while the pasta is cooking, brown the pancetta in a large shallow pan in 1 tablespoon of chili oil. Once crispy, add the garlic, and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring often to make sure the garlic does not burn.
  8. On very low heat, add the chicken, hot sauce, the two cheeses and crushed black peppercorns.
  9. Ideally, you will now pour the pasta right from the colander into the pan with the chicken, cheeses, peppercorns, pancetta and garlic. Toss to combine.
  10. Once the chicken is heated through, off the heat, add the whisked eggs. Add some of the reserved cooking liquid to achieve a saucier consistency.
  11. With tongs, shape the pasta into a nest shape in large shallow bowls. Place an egg yolk in the center of each nest, and garnish with a sprinkling of minced fresh celery leaves and crumbled Gorgonzola.