Monday, February 20, 2012
Spaghetti Carbonara Muffins
I made plans - very good plans. For Carnevale weekend I was going to make a tortellini pie - the sort of dish made in the Renaissance. The kind of sumptuous pie that would take three days to make. I even knew what music I would be listening to as I as I made ragu, meatballs, pastry, etc. I just never look at any dates. And when I realized on Sunday - that I was halfway done with Carnevale weekend, I knew the tortellini pie wasn't happening.
I also was sated from an evening out at The Birchwood Cafe which culminated in my consuming a Tres Leches Raspberry Cake which left me sure I would not need to eat until Eater Sunday. And made me grateful that I did not have a tortellini pie to assemble.
But as Sunday wore on, I did get hungry. And I started browsing blogs. Looking for small pick-me-ups. The requirements were: every ingredient needed to be in the house. Even better - the ingredients needed to fit the odds and ends of my food-stuff.
And then I saw the Spaghetti Fritattas on Marie's Proud Italian Cook blog. I had bookmarked that recipe over a year-and-a-half-ago. Just as with the tortellini pie, I was running a little late. Marie made these baby fritattas with spaghetti, mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan and fresh basil. I had the spaghetti, Parmesan and provolone. Looking good. Marie mentioned that she saw them on Foodalogue's blog - so I went there. Joan's recipe also had bacon and peas. I had 3 pieces of a bacon to use up as well as an open bag of frozen peas. Looking better and better.
Marie and Joan both baked them in mini-muffin tins. I've been meaning to buy a mini-muffin tin - for about twenty years. As expected, I did them in a regular tin - but I am thinking I may finally buy a mini-muffin tin - love two-bite appetizers. And am enchanted with the possibilities:
- leave out the bacon (or go whole Italian hog with pancetta, prosciutto, salami)
- make a primavera 'spaghetti fritatta' with asparagus and spring mushrooms
- make a summer fritatta with zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants
- play with onion and garlic, scallions and chives...
Imagine just sauteing mushrooms - until small, dark and woodsy and then letting them crunch up a bit while baking....
The melty-cheese, crispy bacon, egg-coated spaghetti that went into the muffin tins reminded me of a carbonara. I used fewer eggs than Marie and Joan - I didn't really want a fritatta - I just wanted the egg to hold everything together. Next time - I will try doing this with only one egg.
I put a dab of marinara sauce on them - but they didn't need it. You could also play with a dollop of pesto on them - especially if you're already incorporating basil and Parmesan. I wonder how they would do with a few toasted chopped nuts?
Spaghetti Carbonara Appetizers - makes 12 in a regular muffin tin
1/3-1/2 pound spaghetti - broken into fourths
3 slices of bacon - cooked and crumbled
2/3 cup frozen peas - cooked
1-2 slices of garlic - minced
1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup provolone (I used some lovely aged provolone for a sharper taste)
1/4 cup Fontina cheese
2 eggs, beaten (as I said I think this work with one egg)
salt and pepper to taste
*Optional: Marinara sauce, pesto
*These are approximate measurements - this isn't a wedding cake - it's a spaghetti mixture in a muffin tin! Feel free to add or subtract ingredients - just make sure it doesn't overwhelm the spaghetti!
Spaghetti Carbonara Appetizer Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin. Cook your spaghetti al dente. In a small frying pan, cook your bacon until crisp. Drain bacon. Pour out almost all of the oil. Then add your peas and garlic and cook - stirring - for about 1 minute.*
*Or to reduce the fat - cook peas separately and add the garlic to the bacon in the last minute of cooking. If not using bacon, briefly saute the garlic. Or mix the chopped garlic into the mixture and let it cook in the oven. Whatever works for you - this is not world peace, it's spaghetti-muffins.
In a large bowl, mix the cheeses together. Crumble the bacon and add it to the cheeses. Add the peas and garlic and mix. Add your spaghetti and mix well. Add the beaten eggs and carefully stir to make sure the egg coats all the spaghetti strands. Salt and pepper to taste. (I barely salted - the Parmesan takes care of that - I was generous with the pepper.) Divide mixture evenly into the muffin tins. Bake for about 20 minutes. You'd like the end of the spaghetti strands to be a wee bit browned and delicately crunchy and the egg will settle on the bottom - and be somewhat fritatta-like. Serve warm or at room temperature. (I can see how many dozens of these in a mini-muffin tin would be great for a buffet).
No, it's not the spectacular Tortellini Pie worthy of a Medici. It's sort of silliness and fun - spaghetti strands pointing each and every way. Beckoning you into their secret stash of creamy cheeses and a hint of garlic. It's a party tease worthy of Carnevale and Mardi Gras. The celebration before the last 40 days or so of winter. A delectable treat before the days of tulips arrive.
And the true wonder of this is - I always have a splashing of these ingredients in the house. If Uptown-son says he's coming over, I can whip them up. If Husband-on-diet is desperate for a carb, I can make these. And if a crowd of 40 people are descending upon my home for a holiday dinner - these are worthy. It's uptown-downtown, city-country, plain and fancy.
Do check out Marie's version here: Proud Italian Cook
And Joan's version here: Foodalogue