recipe swap onion “carbonara” {ffwd}

Onions "Carbonara"

Many moons ago, I worked for a software company called ITP, which was the child of a company with the same name located in Italy. In Italy, the name was short for “Informatica e Tecnologia per la Produzione”. In English, ITP didn’t stand for anything, though we joked that it stood for “Italian Technical People”. One year, a few guys from the Italian office came stateside to work with the team. The company was populated by young technical professionals (computer geeks), and we were very social. We shared meals together, went out for drinks together, and played highly competitive games together (Killer versions of Uno and Pictionary). We integrated the Italians into our fold.

Lucio and Guido were excellent cooks and enjoyed sharing “real” Italian food with us. It was from them that I learned about spaghetti carbonara. What’s not to like about bacon and eggs and cheese. It was also easy to whip up for a crowd. Saute the bacon while the pasta cooks, then toss with scrambled eggs that get cooked by the residual heat of the pasta. Add a healthy dose of Parmesan cheese and, voila (or the Italian equivalent): you have a meal.

For some reason, nowadays, spaghetti carbonara has fallen out of my repertoire. This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Onion Carbonara, reminded me of what I’ve been missing. The recipe originally came from Michel Richard, a pioneer in molecular gastronomy, by way of Patricia Wells’ table. He redefines the term “playing with your food”. Years ago, Howard and I watched a fascinating video where Michel Richard reinterpreted classic dishes in ways that amused the chef and surprised the eater. We liked it so much, we watched it multiple times. (I searched the Internet high and low, but could not find a link. It might have come from the now-defunct Gourmet magazine’s foray into videos shortly before its demise.)

In this incarnation of carbonara, no pasta is involved. Steamed strands of onion stand in for the pasta, though the sauce is classic. Onion carbonara is simple to make. As I said, you steam the sliced onions. And you fry some bacon. After that, the sauce takes just minutes to complete. Melted butter is mixed with the bacon and cream. The onions (aka faux pasta) are warmed in this sauce. Add more cream and an egg yolk and toss to cook the egg. Finally, add some Parmesan cheese and it’s ready to serve.

The final result was definitely interesting and completely edible. However, I prefer the classic pasta version (or my memory of it) and plan to add it back into my kitchen lineup in the new year. To try the low-carb, no pasta, onion version, you can find the recipe here. Or, you can always find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To see how the Doristas did with this one, follow their links here.


Posted on 20 December 2013, in French Fridays with Dorie and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Tracy O'Connell

    Sounds wonderful, Betsy! Wonder how it would be with spaghetti squash too. Bacon and eggs for dinner!

  2. I would like to try the classic version of this recipe as well.

  3. Ditto Tracy, and how about fennel too?

  4. Sounds like a wonderful time you had working with the Italians. I haven’t made spaghetti carbonara in a while either. I used to make it my kids and my friend’s kids were small, because even if someone told me their kid was a picky eater I never had one snub spaghetti carbonara. I agree time to bring it back and an occasional onion version. Happy Holidays.

  5. I seem to be doing things backwards because this dish is the first time I’ve ever made carbonara at home. I had no idea it was so darn easy. I definitely need to try the classic version soon.

  6. If you have pasta in the house, you will never go hungry. There are so many simple little
    sauces to use, and this recipe is great for a quick meal. Have a Merry Christmas and
    enjoy your holiday.

  7. I think I’d have loved working with your social IT team. I liked this dish as a side, but it won’t be a regular because of the cream and butter.

  8. Betsy, this was a wonderfully written Post and so interesting. I don’t often make pasta, just don’t want the calories, but the onion carbonara on top of the pasta was absolutely delicious so pasta suppers are back on my monthly menu plan also. It sounds like your work life for the Italian company was fun as well as work – almost like an international exchange program. I hope you and Howard have a wonderful Christmas. It’s been a fun year working with you.

  9. I loved that story :-)
    For some reason, I often seem to forget how easy yet delicious pasta dinners can be – it seems like I over complicate things in the kitchen at times.

    I hope that you and Howard have a very lovely Christmas.

  10. Great story and yes, this reminded me of how much I love pasta carbonara :) I liked this version a lot too and would definitely make it again!

  11. LOL – “interesting and completely edible”. Not sure if that is a half thumbs up or not :) But if I had some wonderful memories of Italian friends making the real deal then I think I too would be a tougher sell on this. It was fun and my hubby liked it a lot, so I guess I will be making it again. But I know the kids won’t eat it so I am planning to make them the real deal while they are home on break. No trip to Beantown this time- we are learning and booked Mr BU a round trip flight for Christmas :) Happy holidays and thanks for sharing those fun memories of your prior days in programming ~

  12. Betsy I came to love spaghetti carbonara after our youngest spent a year in England and shared a flat with two Italians. They made it often, probably because its delicious, easy and cheap and Alex loved it. When he came home he helped me recreate it and we’ve loved it ever since. He would not approve of this, however, because he hates onions! I served my onions over pasta and loved it! You make the Italian Technical People sound so fun! Merry Christmas to you and yours Betsy!

  13. Parm, butter and cream. Better with pasta. But definitely different.

  14. We were pretty happy with it – a lovely addition to our gluten-free repertoire. I saw you comment elsewhere that you used the leftovers in a frittata – that sounds delicious!

    I hope you and Howard have a very Merry Christmas!

  15. Yes, we definitely have to work spaghetti carbonara back into the repertoire! Merry Christmas, Betsy!!! xo

  16. We enjoyed this over pasta, but i agree, my main thought was “I need to make spaghetti carbonara more often.” Hope you’re enjoying the holidays!

  17. Love your story! I thought this was pretty yummy – though I did have it with a bit of pasta – just well, because!

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