I love pasta carbonara but never eat it because it ranks up there with fettucine alfredo for ability to clog your arteries. My husband loves it and being 6 foot 4, he is (unfairly) able to eat almost anything he wants. For his birthday last year, I tried to make his favorite dish, substituting ricotta cheese for the heavy cream and adding a few more vegetables (key word: few).
This is certainly not a "light" dish, but it is definitely a lighter version of the original. Sometimes I also add spaghetti squash to the pasta mixture to increase the vegetable content. I love using ricotta as a pasta sauce as it becomes creamy and smooth when tossed with hot pasta and pasta water. You definitely won't miss the cream in this dish! In fact, you can also use only 2 egg yolks if you'd like but I really like the richness that the yolks lend the dish. If raw eggs make you uneasy, fry an egg in olive oil for each person and serve atop the pasta instead of mixing the raw egg yolks in the pasta.
Since this dish has few ingredients, it is important to use the best quality ingredients that you can find.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup to 1.5 cups of pasta water.
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Saute pancetta until browned and crisp. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with a paper towel. Reserve one tablespoon of bacon grease.
Saute asparagus and garlic in the one tablespoon bacon grease. Add peas until just warmed through. Remove from the heat.
Mix together the ricotta, egg yolks, basil, and lemon zest. Season with a bit of salt and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.
When pasta is cooked, drain and place back into pot but off of heat.
Quickly whisk in 1/4 cup of warm pasta water into ricotta and egg mixture to temper and quickly add mixture to the pasta. Toss quickly so not to scramble the egg yolks.
Add parmesan cheese and lemon juice and toss to combine. Add pasta water by 1/4 cupfulls if sauce is too thick. Season with salt and pepper.