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Carbonara is a fantastic pasta dish. It is creamy yet has no cream. It seems gourmet, yet it is simple to make.
Technically, this is more carbonara-style than carbonara. I use the carbonara technique of using the heat of the pasta for cooking the eggs. But, like many Americans, I like to add peas to mine, which is a no-no to many classically trained chefs. But what I really like about this dish is the smoked sausage that I finely dice and crisp up in a skillet; it adds such a nice smoky flavor and crisp texture.
Creamy and delicious Smoked Sausage Carbonara from the grill.
Tricks for Skillet Cooking on the Grill
Using a skillet on a kamado grill requires a little bit more skill than on a stovetop because you add the element of fire control. If you're just using it to reverse-sear a steak, it's relatively easy because you almost can't get it too hot for that. But for cooking dishes at a controlled heat like this one, it makes a difference. Too hot, and you can burn your sausage or sauce. Too cool, and your sausage will look depressingly pale, or your sauce might not cook through. If I'm not searing, I use three tricks to make sure I'm cooking at my desired temp.
I use a lower cooking temperature and allow extra time for preheating. Sure, I can get my skillet ready to cook by using a hotter grill temp, but then the skillet will likely get too hot. I aim to get my grill temperature at about 325°f and then allow enough time for my skillet to reach the same temperature. Takes longer, but it's more stable that way.
Use a two-zone fire to allow heat control. Cooking too hot? No worries, slide the skillet over to a cool spot. Want it hotter? Slide it on over to the hot spot. This particular skillet is too big for using this technique on this grill, but it works on smaller skillets.
I use a non-contact thermometer to make sure my cooking surface is at temp before I start cooking. This way, I'm absolutely sure that I'm where I want to be, in this case between 325°f and 350°f.
My sister just got me this Thermapen IR for my birthday, and it's become my favorite Thermapen. In addition to the super-fast and accurate food thermometer, this Thermapen has an infra-red non-contact thermometer for reading surface temperatures like skillets and griddles. The Thermapen IR [Affiliate Link] is available from Thermoworks right now for 20% off at $111.20.
One other tip for this recipe, or really any simple recipe, the fewer the ingredients, the more critical it is to use the freshest, best quality ingredients that you can.
9 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta, cooked 2 minutes less than according to directions
1 3/4 cup reserved pasta water (the water used to cook the pasta)
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
2 ounces parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dustless ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen green peas, left at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking
Preheat grill to 350°f. For this cook, I used a large Big Green Egg kamado grill set up for direct heat with a Kick Ash Basket full of Rockwood Lump Charcoal and one of my cast iron grates from Craycort.
Preheat a 3-4 quart cast-iron skillet until it reaches 325-350°f, about 10 minutes.
Render and crisp the diced sausage in olive oil until dark golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to remove to a fine rack or a paper towel. Save the bits and oil for the next step.
Finish cooking the pasta. Add 1 cup of the pasta water to the skillet, which will rapidly come to a boil. Stir in the cooked pasta and cooking, frequently stirring, until the water is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. As soon as it is done, remove from heat and quickly proceed with steps 5 and 6.
Make the sauce. Whisk together the egg yolks and whole eggs until thoroughly combined (no whites visible). Stir in the finely shredded parmesan and black pepper. Whisk in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
Combine the sauce and pasta. Slowly pour in the sauce while stirring the noodles until coated. Add enough (or none) of the remaining pasta water to get a creamy consistency.
Complete the dish. Stir in the peas and 3/4 of the cooked sausage. Taste and season with a few pinches of kosher salt, as desired.
Plate the dish. Divide the pasta between two plates. Garnish with the remaining sausage and parmesan cheese.
Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 30 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 15 mins.
Total time: 45 mins.
Tags: sauce, pasta, sausage
But first, let's make some garlic toast! Sliced a French loaf, brushed it with butter and garlic, seasoned it with garlic salt, and toasted it until golden brown on each side.
Make sure to dice the sausage finely, so you get maximum crispiness and even distribution. You want to get a bit of that smoky spiciness in every bite.
Also, use the finest shredder that you have for the parmesan cheese. It will only be melted by the carry-over heat of the noodles, so you want it as small as possible so it dissolves easily.
You want the sausage to be golden to dark brown with crispy edges, which took about 5 minutes. Don't worry about the bits left behind; that's more flavor for the pasta!
Tip, don't just dip it all in one place at once; that will cool your skillet down. Add the pasta it batches around the skillet. Stir it all around to get everything coated.
Perhaps the most essential thing about carbonara is to add the sauce slowly while keeping the pasta moving. If you dump it all at once, you will likely end up with scrambled eggs instead of sauce.
Stirring in all of the goodies. People often ask about this skillet when I post it. It's an older enameled cast iron jambalaya skillet from Emeril Lagasse that's no longer available, but it is similar to this one from Lodge. Basically, a 3 to 4 quart enameled cast iron skillet.
Typically chefs use spaghetti or bucatini. Why do I use fettuccine? First, it's easier for me to make fettuccine, but I also like the way it holds the sauce.
I think I might use smoked sausage instead of bacon, guanciale, or pancetta from now on. I love the flavor it brings. We like the Conecuh brand, but you can probably use any spicy smoked sausage for this dish.