Christmas is the time of the year when I find the time to catch up with friends and family. And if you are in Italy, you don’t meet your friends at the pub. You meet up with your friends around a table.
So few days ago I joined for lunch my old friends Duccio and Claudia, and their wonderful family in Perugia, the City where I went to Uni and spent most of my adult life.
Duccio is one of the most “peculiar” scientists I have ever met: successful scientist, as most physics is a bit… “one of a kind”, with loads of hobbies and interests (he is the director of the Choir where I used to sing), a bit unpredictable (he threw me a shoe once, out of the blue, cause I was distracted during a choir rehersal!) and a great cook! Claudia, on the other side, is a much more practical and methodical scientist (matemathician.. should I add anything?!), great mom and one of the most expressive singers I have ever had the luck to listen to. And I am not exagerating.. check out yourself in this video of Claudia performing a Gregorian hymn from Hildegarde Von Bingen (music starts at 2.01).
We had a great time together, and the lunch was truly delicious. I loved the beef medallion with truffle they cooked as a “secondo” (second dish). But most of all I was impressed by the pasta they cooked as “primo“: a revisited carbonara, using artichoke instead of bacon. Plus, a destructured version, with the ingredients layered on top of each other instead of mixed together. Despite the complexity of the noun, destructured artichoke-carbonara is very simple and I invite you to try it yourself! I love this dish as it is a slightly different version of the typical carbonara, and has a lovely contrast of textures with the firm pasta, the creamy eggs and the crunchy artichokes.
DESTRUCTURED ARTICHOKE-CARBONARA PASTA
Ingredients (4 people): 320g spaghetti – 2 artichokes – 4 egg yolks – 1 liter sunflower oil – salt and white pepper
Time: 30 min
Preparation: Wash and clean the artichokes, remembering to take off the external hard “petals” (don’t forget artichoke is a flower!) and the “fur” in the inner part, in case it is present. Once cleaned, cut the artichokes in thin (less than 1 cm) stripes and dry any water on them with a towel. Place the sunflower oil in a frying-pan, let the oil boil and deep fry the artichoke stripes until golden.
Whisk 4 egg-yolks in a bowl until they become slighly foamy (do not season them!).
Cook the pasta until al dente (check here to read about how to cook a perfect pasta). Rinse the pasta and save some of the cooking water in a mug (to use in case the pasta gets too dry when plating the dish).
To prepare each dish, place two tablespoon of the whisked egg-yalk at the bottom of the dishs.
Add the drained pasta on top, then the deep-fried artichokes on top of the pasta. Season with salt and white pepper. Serve immediately! Each guest will have to mix the ingredients in his own dish before eating.
– For a better result, you could whisk the eggs heating up the bowl in a bain-marie bath up to a temperature of approximately 45-60C, which is the ideal temperature to let those chemicalk processes develop in order to have a creamier egg. Be careful though…if the temperature is too high, the egg-yolk will cook, while we want to yolk to be creamy.
– use fresh, pasturised, possibly organic eggs, as you will eat them raw.
– when plating the dish, if your drained pasta has become too dry and sticky, just “shower” it with some of the cooking-water you have saved in a mug. This water will make your pasta more wet and juicy withouth washing away neither the salt nor the starch, as it is full of both.
– as only the pasta will be seasones with the salt in the water where it boils, the salt and white-pepper on top of the dish is necessary to season both the egg yolks and the artichokes.
– you could stir fry the artichokes in olive oil instead of deep frying them in sunflower oil. They will be less crunchy though, and the crunch adds a lot of texture to this otherwise creamy and smooth pasta.
– to prepare the traditional carbonara, just use stir fried bacon instead of the artichokes. And add parmesan cheese on top.