Whenever I now pass Waitrose, I can’t resist the temptation to pop in. My new favourite thing about the supermarket is picking up their brilliant recipe cards; though primarily directing you to shop offers, and meals that can subsequently be produced, they provide a whole host of inspiration for fresh and exciting dishes. In fact, as of late, I owe a lot to Waitrose for leading me to new, delicious recipes. Despite the recipe working pragmatically to a tee, I felt there were modifications which could be made with regard to the dish’s assembly to prevent the courgette taste being lost in the wonderfully creamy sauce.
Researching into the traditional components of a carbonara sauce, I found a variety of fats can be used: butters, oils or creams. Whilst chefs, such as Delia, opt for a double cream based carbonara, creating a rich sauce with a velvety feel, it appeared this was not a true ideal in Italian regions. The Waitrose recipe instead chooses crème fraîche, a less rich version of cream, but a component that still causes the velvety texture. The benefit of creme fraîche also comes in the making of the sauce: carbonara is produced by mixing raw egg, parmesan cheese and a fat product, before warming through with the heat from the hot pasta, as opposed to heat from the hob. Whereas cream, like most dairy products of its kind, has the potential to split in an instant, creme fraîche does not curdle, and therefore is instrumental in finishing sauces. Thus, the use of creme fraîche in this carbonara sauce is perfect, not only in making its creation easier for novices at this recipe.
However, I decided to change the assembly of the dish for both reasons of presentation and precedence of flavour. Whilst the original recipe instructed mixing the courgettes through the spaghetti, I felt they would be better placed on top of the spaghetti to ensure their flavour was empowered. Although the courgettes, if eaten before the spaghetti, would not remain a constant throughout the dish, I found that once mixed as advocated their flavour was not strong enough to be noticeably present in the spaghetti. As a result, to showcase the courgettes it made more sense to place them on top of the spaghetti, allowing them to be enjoyed in their entirety. Moreover, I added more garlic and replaced the shallot with sliced red onion to increase the strength of the flavour of the courgette component, ensuring that it would have delicious flavour whether mixed or showcased.
Courgette Carbonara, Serves 2 (possible modifications)
- spaghetti, roughly 150g
- garlic: one clove for a subtle flavour, two for a more punchy blend throughout the dish
- 1 shallot, or ½ red onion diced
- courgette: one coarsely grated, or sliced using a potato peeler for long ribbons
- 25g basil, shredded
- 2 free range eggs
- 100g crème fraîche
- 25g grated parmesan, plus extra for serving
- butter, for frying
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions – usually, in boiling water for around twelve to fifteen minutes until al dente.
- The dish comes together whilst the pasta boils: begin heating a small amount of butter in a frying pan. Firstly add the onion to the pan, and allow to soften. Add the courgette ribbons and turn the heat to low.
- The courgette should wilt; at this point add the crushed garlic cloves, and turn the heat to medium. Season with black pepper, and stir to ensure the garlic is found throughout the courgette component.
- Once the courgettes begin to brown, stir through half the shredded basil, setting the rest aside for dressing later. Remove from the heat and keep warm, using a lid on the frying pan.
- In a clean bowl, whisk together the eggs and crème fraîche. Add black pepper, and stir thoroughly. Tip in the grated parmesan gradually, beating it into the sauce.
- Drain the pasta, and return to the pan, but removed from the heat. Pour the carbonara sauce over the pasta, and toss continuously to ensure the sauce thickens from the heat of the pasta.
- After thickening the sauce, add the remaining basil and stir to coat the basil in the sauce et vice versa. Divide the pasta between the bowls, and top with the courgette, onion and garlic mixture. Dress with more parmesan and season.
- Sprinkle over more shredded basil if desired, and serve immediately while the sauce is hot.
(Waitrose advocate referring to the Department of Health for further information regarding the use of eggs for certain demographic groups)
(Parmesan is not vegetarian unless otherwise stated on packaging)
(adapted from a Waitrose recipe card, one of more than 5,000 which can be found online)