Easy “Carbonara”

A month ago, I shared with you a fake out Fish Tacos recipe.  I said it before and I’ll say it again, there are just days that taking shortcuts in the kitchen is necessary so that you can enjoy the night with your family.  This is my take on Carbonara.  Italians, cooks, and foodie purists are probably baffled that I call this recipe Carbonara, but like I said it’s a shortcut.  It’s Carbonara-esq.  Hope you enjoy it.

Little Black Apron’s Easy “Carbonara”

INGREDIENTS

1 pound linguine
1 bottle of alfredo sauce
3 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed

DIRECTIONS

Cook pasta according to directions.  Place bacon in a medium sized sauce pan and cook over medium-low heat.  Allow the the fat of the bacon to render.  Cook until the bacon is crispy, but not burnt.  With a slotted spoon, take the bacon out of the pan and place onto a dish lined with a paper towel.  Leave a tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan.  Carefully discard the rest.  Sweat the onions in the bacon fat.  When translucent, add the garlic for 30 seconds and then the peas for additional 30 seconds.  Add the alfredo sauce into the sauce pan and heat through.  Add the bacon to the pan before serving over pasta.  

Note:  A couple variations to this dish that I’ve done before is adding mushrooms after I’ve sweat the onions.  Also, I’ve added grilled chicken on top of the dish for more protein.

I do prefer authentic carbonara over this; however, when time isn’t on my side, this recipe is my quick fix.  And while carbonara isn’t difficult to make, it can be tricky sometimes since you’re cooking with so many eggs and you don’t want to scramble them.

Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Peppers Ragu

YUMMMM!  I actually used breakfast sausage instead of Italian sausage.  This recipe was conjured (lol… what is this Harry Potter?) because 1)  I didn’t have Italian sausage on hand 2) I wanted sausage and pepper, BUT I didn’t want my usual Italian sausage and peppers pasta recipe.  (Where I grill the sausage and cut it up; sautee with peppers, garlic and onions; toss with pasta and olive oil.)  I transformed a breakfast sausage into Italian sausage and made it a saucy ragu.  It turned out fantastic!  The hubs was a huge fan!  Love it when I please my man.  Remember what they say “A way to a man’s heart is through is stomach.”  🙂

ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS RAGU
by littleblackapron.com 

INGREDIENTS

Italian Sausage

1 package of breakfast sausage (preferably the country style sausage, so it won’t compete with the flavors we add below)
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1/2 teaspoon red flakes (more if you like it spicier)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Ragu

Sausage mix
1/2 medium onion, sliced or chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced or chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced or chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 14 oz can crushed tomatoes

DIRECTIONS

Mix the sausage ingredients together until well incorporate.  Take a frying pan and a small piece of the mixture to cook.  Taste to ensure that the flavors are there.  If needed, add more ingredients as necessary to ensure that Italian sausage taste.  NOTE:  DO NOT COOK ALL THE SAUSAGE.  You are performing a taste test.

On medium-high heat, heat your sauce pan and olive oil.  Saute onions until translucent.  Add garlic to the pot.  When fragrant (about 30 seconds), add bell peppers.  Sautee for 5 minutes.  Then add the crushed tomatoes.  When vegetables are coated, add sausage mixture.  Ensure that the sausage is coated with the crushed tomatoes as well.  (Note:  If you want more depth to this recipe you can add a splash of red or white wine at this point.)  Lower the heat to a medium low and simmer the mixture for 20 minutes or until meat is cooked and to incorporate the flavors.

Cook your favorite pasta (spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, etc.) and top with ragu.  Add parmesan cheese if desired.  Open a bottle of wine and enjoy!

Meatless Monday – Eggplant Carmesagna

Carmesagna?  What in the world is that you ask?  Well it’s a hybrid of cannolini, lasagna, and parmesan.  This inspiration was one of those wacky ideas I had one day while in the kitchen.  I wanted to use the large eggplant I had in the refrigerator.  I remembered the frozen grilled eggplant parmesagna dinner that Trader Joe’s had and wanted to recreate that.  BUT then I remembered I had ricotta in the fridge so I thought why not eggplant lasagna.  BUT then I remembered I had spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers, so I though why not make stuffed vegetable eggplant roll-ups similiar to cannolini.  Then I figured why not make a hybrid of all three dishes and guess what?  IT WAS DEE-LISH-US.  The mister didn’t even miss the meat.  Nomnomnom.

The photo below doesn’t do justice of how the dish looked.  I wanted to take a picture of the entire dish, but as I was getting ready to take the camera out, the hubs dug in since he was starving.  Whoops!

EGGPLANT CARMESAGNA
Serves 2 – 3 

One eggplant roll-up.  This picture so does not do it justice.  The casserole dish looked so much better.

INGREDIENTS

Grilled Eggplant 

1 large eggplant, thinly sliced length wise
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Filling

8 oz Ricotta Cheese
1 egg
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 pint of mushrooms, diced
1 cup spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
pinch of salt
pepper
1/2 tsp olive oil

Marinara sauce, store bought or homemade
Cheddar jack mix blend cheese, shredded
Mozzarella cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Also, preheat the grill (George Foreman, oventop grill pan, or actual grill, whichever you choose).
Heat marinara over stove.

Filling (Note:  we’ll start with this to allow the sauteed veggies to cool)
Heat oil in sautepan.  Sautee onion until translucent.  Add garlic.  When garlic is fragrant, add bell peppers and mushrooms.  Sautee until crisp.  Then add spinach.  Cook until wilted.  Place in bowl and allow to cool.  When cool, add ricotta cheese, egg, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper.  Incorporate all ingredients together.

Grilled Eggplant

Oil eggplant slices and season with salt and pepper.  Place eggplant on grill and cook until “al dente,” about 5 -6 minutes.  Take off the grill and onto a plate and let cool.

Assembly of the dish

Take a casserole pan and grease with oil.  Then add the marinara to the bottom of the casserole pan (similar to how you would when making lasagna).

Lay the eggplants flat.  Place a 1/2 tablespoon to a tablespoon of filling at the fattest end of the eggplant.  Roll up the eggplant and place seam side down into the casserole pan.  Repeat this until casserole dish is full.

Pour more marinara over eggplant.  Sprinkle shredded cheeses over the dish.  Then cover the casserole with foil.  Place into the oven or 35 minutes.  Uncover the casserole dish and continue cooking for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes to allow all the ingredients of the dish to “stick” together.  Serve with garlic bread or salad or both and enjoy.  Then while eating  maybe do the happy dance or sing “yummy yummy yummy I got love in my tummy.”  🙂

Happy Monday!