Pasta carbonara is probably one of my top five favorite pasta dishes. And no wonder. It’s a fully-loaded calorie bomb.
I can’t decide if my favorite part is the bacon, creamy eggy sauce, or carbalicious pasta. Needless to say, it doesn’t lend itself to the leaner times of spring/summer. It’s definitely an “every once in a while” type of dish…probably best served in the dead of winter when you are still months and months away from the horrors of bathing suit season. Just sayin’.
So, last spring, I made a point to try to lighten this fav of mine up a bit. I omitted the bacon completely (Keep reading. I promise, it’s worth it), and subbed out most of the oil/cream in the sauce for low-fat cottage cheese. I know, it sounds REALLY strange, but trust me! It doesn’t taste like cottage cheese at all! I also threw in some fresh and healthy flavors in the way of basil and baby spinach. The sauce is almost like a creamy, velvety pesto. The cottage cheese is blended until COMPLETELY smooth and doesn’t have a gritty texture at all. It’s a wonderful substitute for higher-fat cheese like ricotta or oil/cream in sauces like this one. It gives the sauce that incredible emulsified texture without the added fat and calories.
Now, if I told my husband that I was making a pasta sauce out of cottage cheese, he would have turned his nose up at it and probably would have opted out of dinner entirely. So. I didn’t mention that it was a “healthier” version of our beloved carbonara. And ya know what? He scarfed it down with glee. Ignorance is bliss, people.
To play off the flavors of spring, I threw in some asparagus and sweet peas. It was a delicious decision, I must say. I also topped off the pasta with my favorite thing in the whole world: fried eggs. The eggs are completely optional, but let me just say this: there is something magical about a silky egg yolk running over and coating each strand of pasta. It’s pure heaven. I want to put them on everything. Hence, the name of my blog! You could also poach some eggs instead, which I’m sure would be glorious. I’m just lazy.
So go ahead and indulge with this dish. Your bathing suit won’t hate you.
Lightened-Up Pasta Carbonara with Asparagus & Fried Egg (makes 4 servings)
For the Sauce:
½ cup fresh basil
½ cup baby spinach leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Pasta:
1 lb fettuccine or linguine
1 cup frozen peas
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 fried eggs, to desired doneness
For the Sauce:
Combine the basil, spinach, and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add the other ingredients, reserving the egg yolk and olive oil for last. Blend until smooth and check for seasonings. The sauce can be made ahead and kept in the fridge.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from water and run under cold water. Set aside. Add the pasta to the same water and cook until el dente (about 9-11 minutes). Fry your eggs in a separate pan while the pasta cooks.
Drain the pasta and immediately toss with the sauce, frozen peas (no need to defrost – the heat from the pasta will warm them up), asparagus, and cheese in a large bowl. Mix until everything is combined, divide among individual plates, and top each serving with a fried egg. Serve immediately.
Adapted from here.