Lemony Orzo Carbonara with Snap Peas and Bacon

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Today’s GIRLS SUPPORTING GIRLS recipe was inspired by TWO ladies who I really love and admire in the food world: Gaby Dalkin from What’s Gaby Cooking, and Tieghan Gerard from Halfbaked Harvest. I don’t know either of these women personally, but I am pretty shameless about DM’ing them both on Instagram with questions like “how did you film this?!” or “how often do you post?” or “HI I LOVE YOU”. And you know what? They always get back to me. I cannot say the same about all of the big food “influencers” I’ve ever asked a question. They both have an ABSURD number of followers, so this is ridiculously kind, generous, and impressive. They both have LOTS of cookbooks, but I linked to their newest ones here!

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Carbonara has always been a favorite, since I was a kid. Since George and I moved into our new home and inherited TEN hens from the previous owner, we’ve had a lot of eggs to use up. Back when we used to have friends over for dinner (remember dinner parties?!”), I made carbonara about 12 times in a month. Our pants got very tight. It didn’t help that I was simultaneously growing more pregnant by the day.

I made mushroom carbonara, traditional carbonara with bacon, carbonara with lots of veggies…

You get the drift. Lots of carbonara has been going down. I knew I wanted to share a recipe, but I couldn’t decide how to make it really special and unique.

When I saw Tieghan’s Orzo Carbonara – I knew I had to try it immediately. I LOVE orzo, and just as I suspected, it is so fabulous as a carbonara. It gets so silky and tender and delicious.

The same week that I was working on my Orzo Carbonara recipe, Gaby published a Snap Pea Pasta and bingo – Snap Pea Carbonara was born. I love raw snap peas (and they’re in season RIGHT NOW!) so I knew I wanted to preserve their crunch by throwing them in with the hot pasta at the very last minute, using a bit of residual heat to cook them only slightly. The sweet veggie crunch from the snap peas is SO LOVELY in contrast to the creamy, tender pasta. Then throw some crunchy bacon on top? Unbeatable. Plus I had to throw some lemon in there, because I love how it cuts through the creaminess and brightens everything up.

In sum: this pasta is a DELIGHTFUL springy-summery recipe. Enjoy!

PS – leave out the lemon and the snap peas and you’ll have a traditional carbonara, if you’d rather go that route!

Lemony Orzo Carbonara with Snap Peas and Bacon

Servings 4 to 6 people

Ingredients

  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon
  • Kosher salt 
  • 1 pound dry orzo pasta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 cups snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For garnish: fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, or oregano, lemon wedges

Substitutions:

  • Bacon—> guanciale, prosciutto (lay it out flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until crispy), you could even crisp up some sausage in a pan and sprinkle that on top. Yum.
  • Orzo—> any short grain pasta works (macaroni, rotini, etc.). Don’t use spaghetti or a long strand with this recipe, it wasn’t developed to create enough sauce for that kind of pasta.
  • Pasta water—> when you forget to reserve some pasta water (I warned you!!), you can just use normal tap water.
  • Eggs—> no sub, gotta have ‘em!
  • Parmesan—> you can use pecorino, though it’ll be a little different. Try using manchego, Asiago, provolone, or another hard cheese that you can grate very finely! If you can’t grate it finely, throw the eggs and cheese in the blender to help make it a smooth sauce before you toss it in with the pasta. This will help it not clump up.
  • Basil—> 3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves would be lovely, but don’t use parsley. Not what we’re going for here. Just omit if you don’t have basil or oregano.
  • Thyme—> 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme works, or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. A pinch of herbes de provence would be nice! It’s ok to omit this if you have the basil, but they’re nice together!
  • Garlic clove—> 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Lemon—> omit
  • Snap peas —> fresh or frozen English peas (if fresh – throw in to the pot while the pasta is still cooking for 1 minute), thinly sliced green beans (same – throw into the pot while pasta is cooking for a minute), fresh or frozen corn.
  • Butter—> we are really looking to bump up the creaminess of our sauce with this butter, so it’s pretty important. If you don’t have any, just omit it – oil won’t be quite the same here.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Lay 6 bacon slices side by side in the center of the baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until crispy to your liking. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. 
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with 3 tablespoons kosher salt (yeah – that’s a lot – do it!). Cook 1 pound of orzo until tender. Scoop out 1 cup pasta water, then drain. I repeat: don’t forget to scoop out 1 cup pasta water! Return orzo to the pasta pot but take the pot off of the hot burner.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 3 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 /4 cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, 1 grated garlic clove, the zest and juice from 1 lemon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Whisk 1/4 cup hot pasta water into the egg mixture, then very slowly pour it into the pasta, using a large spoon to stir and toss the pasta while you pour. Keep tossing until the eggs thicken and form a sauce.
  • Thin the sauce with a tiny bit of pasta water at a time if needed to achieve a nice silky, glossy pasta sauce the consistency of heavy cream. Stir in 2 cups sliced snap peas and 2 tablespoons butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  • Serve the pasta with crispy bacon (break the slices into smaller pieces), a handful of chopped basil, and lemon wedges
  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon
  • Kosher salt 
  • 1 pound dry orzo pasta
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 cups snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For garnish: fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, or oregano, lemon wedges

Substitutions:

  • Bacon—> guanciale, prosciutto (lay it out flat on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until crispy), you could even crisp up some sausage in a pan and sprinkle that on top. Yum.
  • Orzo—> any short grain pasta works (macaroni, rotini, etc.). Don’t use spaghetti or a long strand with this recipe, it wasn’t developed to create enough sauce for that kind of pasta.
  • Pasta water—> when you forget to reserve some pasta water (I warned you!!), you can just use normal tap water.
  • Eggs—> no sub, gotta have ‘em!
  • Parmesan—> you can use pecorino, though it’ll be a little different. Try using manchego, Asiago, provolone, or another hard cheese that you can grate very finely! If you can’t grate it finely, throw the eggs and cheese in the blender to help make it a smooth sauce before you toss it in with the pasta. This will help it not clump up.
  • Basil—> 3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves would be lovely, but don’t use parsley. Not what we’re going for here. Just omit if you don’t have basil or oregano.
  • Thyme—> 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme works, or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. A pinch of herbes de provence would be nice! It’s ok to omit this if you have the basil, but they’re nice together!
  • Garlic clove—> 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Lemon—> omit
  • Snap peas —> fresh or frozen English peas (if fresh – throw in to the pot while the pasta is still cooking for 1 minute), thinly sliced green beans (same – throw into the pot while pasta is cooking for a minute), fresh or frozen corn.
  • Butter—> we are really looking to bump up the creaminess of our sauce with this butter, so it’s pretty important. If you don’t have any, just omit it – oil won’t be quite the same here.

Notes

  • I don’t drain the grease off of the bacon first, I keep it kinda greasy to add some bacon-y flavor to the pasta. But do your thing!
  • It’s a bit wasteful since you end up pouring so much off, but I think it’s delicious to use chicken stock to boil the orzo! I’d use an entire quart to be safe.
Author: Caroline Chambers

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