Spaghetti carbonara is one of those classic pasta recipes that you just don’t mess with. Pasta, eggs, Parmesan cheese, guanciale (or pancetta), salt and pepper: those are the only ingredients that should ever go into a carbonara. Don’t add parsley, don’t add peas, and please, please, please don’t add cream. So accept my sincere apologies for calling this dish a carbonara. I really wanted to avoid doing so; it contains heavy cream and smoked bacon—not to mention asparagus and ramps—but that’s what Andrew Carmellini calls it in Urban Italian, from which this recipe is liberally adapted (I substituted bacon for the speck that Carmellini calls for and asparagus for his sugar snap peas and English peas). I’m going to let Mr. Carmellini get away with calling it a carbonara because it is an excellent recipe; with a creamy sauce that clings to each strand of pasta and crispy pieces of cured beat, it has many of the characteristics that I love about carbonara, while the spring vegetables give the dish a more seasonal touch. Regardless of what you want to call it, it will please any carbonara lover out there.
Springtime “Carbonara” with Asparagus and Ramps
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 egg
- 1 handful of asparagus, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- ½ lb. spaghetti
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 bunch of ramps, cleaned, roots removed, and cut into thirds
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- black pepper, freshly ground
- salt, to taste
- Beat the cream and the egg together in a small bowl until they are well blended. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While waiting for the asparagus to boil, fill a medium bowl with ice water. Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook until the asparagus turns bright green, 1 to 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to immediately plunge the asparagus in the ice water so that it stops cooking.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for one minute less than the package directions indicate. Meanwhile, continue with the rest of the recipe.
- Heat a deep-sided skillet or sauté pan over medium-high eat. Add the bacon to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the bacon begins to crisp, about 3 minutes.
- Add the ramps to the pan and continue to cook until the leaves are wilted and the bulbs begin to brown. Reduce the heat to low, and wait for the pasta to finish cooking, stirring the ramps periodically.
- Once the pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving a ½ cup of the cooking water.
- Add the asparagus and the reserved pasta water to the skillet. Stir in the pasta, then the cream and egg mixture. There should be just enough liquid in the skillet to coat the pasta, and the sauce should not be watery. If necessary, increase the heat and reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the cheese and a generous amount of ground pepper. Taste for salt. Serve the pasta immediately, with a small amount of Pecorino Romano cheese grated over the top.