As we settle into shorter days and cold temps here in Chicago, I find myself craving my “comfort food” meals. For me, comfort foods include the Italian dishes my mom, grandma and great aunt would make for my family growing up. Not only are these dishes hearty, feel-good meals on a cold night, but the memories that are forever attached to them bring even more warmth.
Linguine carbonara is one of those dishes. Believed to be originated in Rome (my mom’s last name is DeRoma, after all), my mom’s carbonara is tossed with pancetta, beaten egg and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to create a rich, hearty and peppery flavor. With only six ingredients, carbonara is a great example of how premium ingredients like Parmigiano Reggiano, parmesan from Parma, Italy can create a dish worthy of a dinner party.
Some interesting facts about Parmigiano Reggiano because not all parmesan is Parmesan:
- Parmigiano Reggiano is made in the areas in and around the province of Parma by nearly 400 cheese makers.
- For the richest flavor, freshly grate the cheese from the wedge (vs. buying pre-grated parmesan. A big no-no in our family).
- The milk is used straight from the cows – fresh and without additives.
- Because of the long aging process, Parmigiano Reggiano is naturally lactose-free.
- Parmigiano Reggiano is made by hand and aged for up to 24 months or more. During this time the cheese develops its flavor and texture.
I studied for a summer in Rome when I was 20 and had the chance to watch cheesemakers in Parma make Parmigiano Reggiano. Since that time, I’ve respected all the time and care that goes into creating this cheese. I seriously love this cheese. Serve me a plate of Parmesan with olives and meat any night for dessert over sweet things.
From my family to yours, here is my mom’s linguine carbonara, a hearty recipe perfect for a weeknight meal for two or to wow a dinner party of ten. It’s also an impressive date night dinner (my husband says it won him over on our third date).
- 1/2 cup chopped smoked ham
- 1/2 cup chopped lean bacon (we often use pancetta)
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 pound cooked pasta
- Salt and pepper, to taste.
Saute the ham and bacon/pancetta with the butter and oil until lightly brown. Add mushrooms – saute for two minutes. Beat eggs and combine with cheese. Combine the sautéed mixture with the egg mixture and noodles (Note: I add the cooked noodles to the sauté pan with the mushroom mixture and pour the egg mixture on top). Toss until the noodles are coated. Salt and pepper to taste.
Tip: When you’re gathering up ingredients for this dish, make sure to look for the pin-dots on the rind of Parmesan to know you’re buying the real deal.
While it’s likely that I’ve eaten carbonara a million times in my life, it’s funny that my most vivid memory of this hearty dish is a mid-summer memory at the Shore. My mom, grandma and great aunt busily working together in the small kitchen of our vacation house after a long, lazy day spent at the beach. Ice popping in their happy hour gin & tonics. The smokey smell of pancetta popping in butter on the stove. The hum of the window fans spinning to combat the July temps and the heat coming from the stove. Helping to grate the Parmigiano Reggiano until my little hand felt sore (enough to make a double batch!) That’s what I love most about my comfort foods. The memories of family and those who are no longer with us, but always with us at the same time. <3
What are your family’s comfort foods? What are your fondest memories making these recipes?
* I received free Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in exchange for my honest review.
P.S. Make sure to enter for a chance to win your own Parmigiano Reggiano Holiday feast. Enter here (good luck!)