When Beckie and I visited the Cyclades in 2009, we ate our way across those little islands as if every meal were our last. And in some small way that might have been true, for we couldn’t fathom at the time lucking into another opportunity that would take us so far from home and our limited perceptions of the world. We haven’t been back—yet—but we know now that we carry those experiences and flavors with us. We see them in the food we make, the places we visit, and the number of times we manage to reference this trip in casual conversation.*
One of my personal highlights from the many cafes of Mykonos, Paros, and Santorini was pasta carbonara. Though technically Italian (feel free to fight me in the comments if you disagree), the dish featured prominently on most Greek menus, and I took it upon myself to try every single one. Sandwiched between courses of flaming saganaki and the ouzo shots each proprietor insisted we try, I ate more of the creamy pasta than is technically decent (I’m a creature of comfort, and nothing comforts me more than feeling uncomfortably full).
I find that, when selecting a boyfriend, it’s best to choose a candidate who will love your dog and cook for you upon request. Luckily, in Micah, I’ve found both. His carbonara is tantalizing and silky and, when he plays his cards right, I let him rub my belly after I finish eating it. He’ll contend that it’s not necessarily authentic—he likes the crunch of asparagus rather than peas and also incorporates mushrooms (though maybe peas aren’t authentic either? idk)—but I’m transported to the winding alleys of Thira every time he makes it.
And, if you’ve never visited Greece, let this dish transport you to our kitchen instead. I promise it’s worth a trip.
*At last count, 143,400,956.
- 6 oz. parmesan cheese, grated
- 4 oz. pancetta or bacon, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 3 eggs
- 12 oz. pasta such as linguini or spaghetti
- 8-10 asparagus stalks (ends trimmed), cut into 1 inch pieces at a sharp angle
- 1 c. sliced Cremini mushrooms, sliced to ½ inch slices
- ¼-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (depending on heat preference)
- 1 tbsp. parsley, chopped
- 1 tbsp. thyme. chopped
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, parsley, and cheese. Whisk until fully incorporated.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Blanch sliced asparagus for 1-2 minutes in the salted boiling water. Remove & dunk in ice bath to halt cooking.
- In a large cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, cook your diced pancetta until crispy. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon.
- In pancetta fat, sauté shallot, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and mushrooms, just until tender. If too dry, add extra virgin olive oil as needed.
- Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook to al dente. Drain hot pasta (reserving starchy pasta water), and add to shallot, garlic, thyme, and mushroom mixture. Stir to coat with pancetta fat.
- Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and slowly add the whisked egg and cheese to hot pasta.
- Vigorously stir (to avoid scrambling your eggs) for 2-3 minutes, cooking the egg mixture with your hot pasta until it appears creamy.
- Serve immediately, topped with additional chopped parsley and parmesan shavings.