Weeknight Cooking

Pasta Carbonara with Fresh Green Beans

September 13, 2010

Pasta Carbonara with Fresh Green Beans

- Jenny

Pasta Carbonara with Fresh Green Beans is one of the most satisfying weeknight dishes I have made in weeks, but I was nearly killed trying to get it on the table. Well, let’s stick with maimed.

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First, I made a peach tart crust in the food processor, and the cord from my machine somehow managed to slip into the open flame where I was heating up my pasta water, and after a few POP! POP! POPs! and some sparks, there went that thing. The shock begot by my Cuisinart’s untimely death was yet behind me when I went to grab the pan in which I had sautéed my bacon, and its handle, apparently also caught up in the mad heat that this stove produced, burned my hand.

(Do you agree that the home cooking world can be strictly divided between cutters and burners and that the two groups are distinct in important ways that make them as distinguishable as say St Bernard lovers with those who prefer small, hairless cats? Discuss.)

At this point my husband came into the kitchen and supervised as I began to quietly chop up my onions and garlic, saying, “I really think I need to make sure we don’t have any more incidents this evening. And you know last week the chicken was a little undercooked, too.”

This is the sort of capping statement that might well make a young bride start to cry. Those of us who have been married a good while know that the contract dictates that the cook in the family refrain from such rejoinders as, “I fed you a little raw chicken which was from the farmer’s market so no harm no foul, and, anyway, if I didn’t cook you would have to call in the Red Cross to make sure this family didn’t starve,” and in exchange the non-cook looks the other way when the Amex bill comes for the new food processor that replaced the perfectly good one. (Or, as in my case, a week after the fact, an Amazon box may show up with a new 11-cup model, and your non-cooking spouse, not wishing to starve, nor hear you whimper as you look at pie crust recipes you can no longer make, will smile silently behind the newspaper.)

So. Just as my onions were starting to get nice and soft, and holding a pack of frozen peas against my burned hand, I quickly trimmed up some lovely haricots verts, which believe it or not were the thing that drew me to this recipe. I just love the idea of these delicious little beans providing the fresh crunch against all this fat and salt.

In went the garlic, and watching carefully, and stirring now and again, I waited for my moment to add the bacon. Everything should get nice and soft, not mushy, and that goes for the pasta you’ve just thrown on, too.

Next came the part where I then became gripped with fear. Would adding cream and eggs turn my dish into scrambled eggs with bacon? In fact, if you take it off the heat and move your eggs and cream mix very carefully but consistently through the bowl, it will heat into a creamy coating, just as mtlabor promises you.

I threw on my cheese, and plopped a bowl in front of my husband, tossing a quesadilla toward the incipient pescatarian. I ground a bit of black pepper into each of our bowls, and we dug in. To comment on such a dish would be to somehow dampen its decadent pleasures, and so we sat in silence, happy to be alive, and praying (in vain) for leftovers.

Pasta Carbonara with Fresh Green Beans

By mtlabor

Serves 2 to 4

  • 8 ounces thin spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the package directions for al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet under high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, and green beans. Season with salt and pepper and saute for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until onion starts to soften.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook for an additional 5 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the cream and eggs. Set aside.
  5. Add the chopped bacon and the cooked pasta to the skillet.
  6. Mix well. Remove from heat and add in cream/egg mixture. Let the residual heat slowly thicken the sauce. Stir in both cheeses and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Serve right away with cheesy garlic bread!
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.


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JenniferF September 20, 2010
This was delicious, even without the bacon, though caramelizing the onions was not the answer. That made it a bit too sweet.
JenniferF September 14, 2010
Sounds delish. You may criticize me, but I'm going to try to veg this recipe. I'll sub out a little bit of caramelized onion for the bacon and tell you how it goes. If my veg daughter enjoys, so might yours. P.S. In the kitchen, I cut, I burn, and I sure do cuss.
Jestei September 15, 2010
you might actually do well with fake-on for this.
Bethro September 14, 2010
FYI -- it's fairly easy to replace an electrical cord on any appliance. No need to scrap it. The motor is another thing....
Jestei September 15, 2010
aw man. well, i do sort of like my new model better. it is more streamlined than my 1997 version and it has a dough attachment!
JulieBee September 14, 2010
I know this is declasse for foodies, but the Oscar Mayer pre-cooked bacon, which you heat up for a minute in microwave or stovetop, makes this even easier to prepare for a fast weeknight dinner. I swear by this stuff in the summer for a quick, no mess BLT with the kids. Will try this recipe tonight.
JulieBee September 14, 2010
P.S. I'm a burner!
Jestei September 14, 2010
interesting. i could also properly learn to use my stove!
Rhonda35 September 14, 2010
I'm a burner - my grandmother thinks I'm a bit daft as she has witnessed me reach into a hot oven and pull out the rack or a baking sheet or a roasting pan with my bare hands more times than I will admit. I probably don't have fingerprints anymore! I love pasta carbonara and think the idea of putting the "veggie side dish" right into the mix is a great one.
Jestei September 14, 2010
thank you for your comments, asbestos hands! i heart u!
adamnsvetcooking September 13, 2010
I am a both a cutter and a burner... I nicked the top of my thumb, and a while back when I was braising beef I managed to burn my knee on the stove's door! Once in a while Adam and I joke: "lets not end up in the ER today"
Jestei September 13, 2010
cutter and burner. you people are wild over there!!
Loves F. September 13, 2010
I'm a cutter and a burner, and on top of that... I'm a fainter! One time I was cutting frozen fruit apart with a knife (bad idea) and stabbed my thumb, and the handy-man that was fixing the sink caught me when I fainted... it was straight out of a Nora Roberts novel, but with more blood and less Fabio.
Amanda H. September 13, 2010
Merrill and I are cracking up at that last line.
Jestei September 13, 2010
Hilarious! I am starting to distrust my own burn/cut theory.
Kelsey B. September 13, 2010
I'm a burner for sure. My Cuisinart met its demise at the hand of the movers this spring. The didn't wrap it well and the top cracked. I ordered the new model, without consulting anyone, and the non-cook happily looked the other way when it arrived. Ahh, marriage. On another note, we love haricot vert - yummy recipe!
Jestei September 13, 2010
thanks for this. i think it is a lovely recipe! and please file a claim with that mover!
mklug September 13, 2010
I save my cutting for work--paper cuts, razor cuts (don't ask) and my burning for cooking. My big one is that, in my little bitty kitchen you cannot both stand before the stove and open the oven door more than a few inches. So I either think more of my bendy-ness and try to scoop whatever's in the oven out and slide it back through the 3 inch, angled gap upwards, or else try a side approach with the door fully open, and burn my wrist on the top inside the oven.
Best to stick with pasta--then I only get moderate steam burns as I drain the boiling water while realizing there's no place to jump back out of the way!
Jestei September 13, 2010
i suspect in time you will get even more bendy and less burny
TheWimpyVegetarian September 13, 2010
What a great way to start my week by reading your highly entertaining writing and this great recipe that I am definitely making this week. I've been a little nervous about scrambling the eggs too, but you've given me the courage to try. And I'm ambidexterous. And not in a good way - I both burn and cut myself with equal regularity. It was particularly bad when I was in school because it was just a wee competitive trying to get done with our dishes. Worst cut though was from a mandoline, so that might win if I had a competition.
Jestei September 13, 2010
i officially suspend my cutter/burner paradigm. and thanks for this sweet note!
EarlyToBed September 13, 2010
I'm a burner, definitely not a cutter. Also--I've never injured myself in the lab after years and hours spent there. Only in my far less dangerous home kitchen. Thanks for the recipe and the stories!
Jestei September 13, 2010
I hope you enjoy it!!
Heena September 13, 2010
Burner - that's what I am! To illustrate, I was making a tart just this weekend and forgot to put a baking sheet under the loose-bottomed tart tin. Bad idea! Because dripping butter + hot oven = minor kitchen fire. And major clanging alarms. I threw a wet cloth over the fire but that just caught too (how!?) and the fire was even bigger. In a mild state of panic by now, I dumped an entire bowl of water over it. Did I forget to mention that in all this, I burnt my hands at least 3 times. Or that I had just moved into this house 2 weeks ago? (Please, let my landlord not read this!) Major cleanup and tart redo later, everything was peaceful again. The tart was worth it though. As I'm sure was your beautiful carbonara, Jenny.
Jestei September 13, 2010
see i love a person who in the end believes the tart was worth it.
mrslarkin September 13, 2010
I appreciate the risk you put yourself through to test this yummy recipe, Jenny. I like St. Bernards and hairless cats, and I’m an occasional cutter and a frequent burner. One time, I tried cutting the ginormous plastic Costco honey container in half with a serrated knife. Don’t do that, no matter how badly you wanna get to the solidified mass at the bottom of the bottle. Not only will you scare the bejesus out of your kids, but the neighbors, too, when you call them over to assess your cut and help tape your finger back together.
Jestei September 13, 2010
I once created a similar injury with a sundae glass. One learns. One learns.
mcs3000 September 13, 2010
POP! POP! POP, goes Twitter. Be careful not to be singed by the sparks flying in the Twittersphere, Jenny. I want to see you back here next week. And today’s post reminds me once again why it’s so genius that food52 schedules you on Mondays – not only starts the week out right, but lights a fire under everyone. Thanks for the wake-up call. Keep the beans! Btw: count me among the burn camp victims.
Loves F. September 13, 2010
I can't believe people are riled up about the green beans in the carbonara! I think it's genius! What are they saying?!
Jestei September 13, 2010
honey, i used to write about immigration, during which readers regularly emailed me profane, vaguely threatening missives. i think i can withstand a few pasta purists freaking out on twitter when they should working! i hope you try this and let me know how you like it!!
mcs3000 September 16, 2010
@jestei @Loves Food Loves to Eat: Sorry for my bone-headed comments. Didn't come out right. I'll try to think before I write next time. Natch, Jenny, I will try it. Your others picks have been awesome. Thank you!
Loves F. September 16, 2010
mcs3000, no apologies necessary! I was just wondering what kind of sparks were flying in the Twittersphere, and it sounds like you had seen the anti-bean tweets that I missed!
Veronica September 13, 2010
Have always been both a "cutter" and a "burner"--mostly on oven racks. Methinks it comes from haste or interruption. But...am most eager to get to your Carbonara with fresh beans--sounds fabulous!
Jestei September 13, 2010
haste. yes. you are so right!
phyllis September 13, 2010
Well, I must be rare because I both cut and burn myself. Hardly ever burn myself on stovetop, but often on oven racks. We won't count the burns to my thigh and feet when an 8 quart pot of boiling pasta slipped out of my hands on the way to the sink...Ouch.

The kids love carbonara and I cook it with something green in it for them all the time. I like the crunch and it tastes so healthy!!!
Jestei September 13, 2010
omg that sounds so scary. thank you for returning to the kitchen!
thirschfeld September 13, 2010
funny I worked in a commercial kitchen on the line for years and never so much as nicked myself or even tagged myself on an hot oven rack, never even broke a plate and yet now that I am at home and cooking little things happen all the time. My response, " Damn kids."
Jestei September 13, 2010