Ham and Asaparagus Carbonara



This is a staple at our house and often my husband's first choice when it comes to pasta.  He prefers it without the asparagus, but I like it with.  Either way it is one of our favorites!  It's adapted from Rachael Ray's carbonara recipe.


 Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Timing here is important, so while these heat up, prepare the remaining ingredients. 
 Rinse asparagus and chop off the woody ends.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Set aside. 

1 bunch asparagus
To determine where to cut the asparagus ends, hold the tip and the end of one piece.  Bend until it breaks.  Use this as a guide to chop the rest of the ends.  The ends are edible, but are tough and fibrous.  If you want to take the time, you can use a vegetable peeler to peel it down to the tender center.

Place a 1 cup measuring cup or ladel in the colander you will be using to drain the pasta.  Crush garlic cloves, measure the red pepper flakes, and set aside. 
Place the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl.  Stir and set aside. 

Add salt and pasta to the boiling water, stirring occassionally.  Set a timer for 7 minutes. 

1 lb penne pasta
1 T salt (for boiling water)
1/4 c olive oil
6 medium cloves garlic crushed
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 c white wine
1 c cubed ham
1 c pasta water (the water the pasta is boiled in)
2 egg yolks

I like to place the measuring cup in the colander to remind myself to reserve the pasta water.  The pasta water is great to use because it's hot and because it contains starch from the pasta which helps thicken the sauce.

In the medium skillet add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until garlic is fragrant, but do not burn.  Add white wine and ham.  Simmer over medium heat until wine is reduced by half.  Keep warm. When the 7 minute timer beeps or the last 3 minutes of boiling the pasta add the asparagus. 

The last minute of so ladel 1 c of the pasta water into the egg yolks while stirring.  Set aside. 
 

Burnt garlic tastes bitter and will ruin the entire dish.  If you burn it, discard it and start over.

Stirring the hot water into the yolks tempers them.  This way they won't curdle when added to the hot pasta.

 
Drain the pasta and asparagus then return them to the hot pot.  Add the egg mixture and stir well.  Add the ham mixture and parmesan.  Place a lid on top and let sit 2-3 minutes.    Stir well again.   

1/2 c fresh parmesan
Be sure to return the pasta to the hot pot.  The yolks cook by the heat of the pasta and the pot.

   
 Serve hot.     



Problems

Timing

This recipe is an easy last minute meal, but the timing is particular.  Follow the instructions and it will turn out great!

asparagus- if the asparagus is cooked too long in the pasta water, it will turn mushy.  If it's added too late, it will be too firm.  If you forget to add it the last three minutes, cook it seperately from the pasta so it won't get ruined.

garlic- crush ahead of time and don't burn

egg yolks and pasta water- stir the yolks in a bowl and set aside.  Place a ladel in the colander to remind yourself to reserve some of the pasta water.  Plain hot water won't thicken the sauce enough.  The pasta water has starch from the pasta to help thicken it.

fire- once when I added the wine it caused a fire.  It didn't spread out, but reached as far up as the top of my cabinets.  I threw a damp towel on it and it was fine although we were all a bit traumatized.  My kids still talk about it.  Use caution!


Ham and Asparagus Carbonara
adapted from Rachael Ray
serves 4-6

1 lb penne pasta
1 T salt (for boiling water)
1 bunch asparagus

1/4 c olive oil
6 medium cloves garlic crushed
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 c white wine
1 c cubed ham

1 c pasta water (the water the pasta is boiled in)
2 egg yolks
1/2 c fresh parmesan

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Heat a medium skillet over medium heat.  Timing here is important, so while these heat up, prepare the remaining ingredients.  Rinse asparagus and chop off the (1)woody ends.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Set aside.  Crush garlic cloves, measure the red pepper flakes, and set aside.  Place the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl.  Stir and set aside.  (2)Place a 1 cup measuring cup in the colander you will be using to drain the pasta.

2.  Add salt and pasta to the boiling water, stirring occassionally.  Set a timer for 7 minutes.  In the medium skillet add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until garlic is fragrant, but do not (3)burn.  Add white wine and ham.  Simmer over medium heat until wine is reduced by half.  Keep warm.

3
.  When the 7 minute timer beeps or the last 3 minutes of boiling the pasta add the asparagus.  The last minute of so ladel 1 c of the pasta water into the (4)egg yolks while stirring.  Set aside.  Drain the pasta and asparagus then return them to the (5)hot pot.  Add the egg mixture and stir well.  Add the ham mixture and parmesan.  Place a lid on top and let sit 2-3 minutes.  Stir well again.  Serve hot.   
Notes

1.  To determine where to cut the asparagus ends, hold the tip and the end of one piece.  Bend until it breaks.  Use this as a guide to chop the rest of the ends.  The ends are edible, but are tough and fibrous.  If you want to take the time, you can use a vegetable peeler to peel it down to the tender center.

2.  I like to place the measuring cup in the colander to remind myself to reserve the pasta water.  The pasta water is great to use because it's hot and because it contains starch from the pasta which helps thicken the sauce.

3.  Burnt garlic tastes bitter and will ruin the entire dish.  If you burn it, discard it and start over. 

4.  Stirring the hot water into the yolks tempers them.  This way they won't curdle when added to the hot pasta. 

5.  Be sure to return the pasta to the hot pot.  The yolks cook by the heat of the pasta and the pot.
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