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Neapolitan Pasta Cacio e Uova Recipe

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Why It Works

  • Throwing an additional yolk in with the whole eggs increases the overall creaminess without exaggerating the egginess.
  • The hot pasta cooking water and the residual heat from the toasted pasta indirectly and gently cook the eggs without scrambling them.
  • Just a little garlic gives flavor depth to this quick and simple dish.

Pasta cacio e uova, or cas’ e ova in Neapolitan dialect, is a simple Campanian dish that can be most easily summarized as “meatless carbonara.”* Like carbonara, cas’ e ova features a silky, temperature-sensitive sauce made with eggs and a mixture of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano that coats al dente dried pasta. There’s no crispy guanciale in this dish, although the pasta is traditionally tossed with a little garlic-infused pork fat; strutto (lard) is a staple in Neapolitan cooking, but you can easily keep this dish vegetarian by using butter or olive oil. The resulting dish is lighter and brighter than carbonara, while still being rich and satisfying.

Word of advice: As is the case with most regional Italian cuisine conversations, proceed with caution when comparing the culinary traditions of Naples and Rome. Noting similarities won’t get you in hot water, but be prepared for a spirited debate. Also, this dish is not to be confused with pallotte cacio e ove, meatless Abbruzzese cheese-and-egg “meatballs” simmered in tomato sauce.

To achieve a smooth, creamy egg-and-cheese sauce, we follow the same basic procedure as our carbonara recipe. Start by whisking together a combination of whole eggs and yolks (flipping the script by using more whole eggs than yolks gives the sauce a slightly looser and glossier texture) with the two grated cheeses in a large heatproof bowl. Then, in a skillet, lightly brown a couple cloves of garlic in butter (or your fat of choice). Remove the cloves and add al dente pasta to the pan, tossing and stirring to coat it well in the garlic-infused butter before transferring it to the bowl with the egg and cheese mixture, along with a large ladleful of starchy cooking water. Using the undrained pasta-cooking pot allows us to harness the heat and create a makeshift double broiler to gently cook the eggs without scrambling them.

With constant stirring and tossing, the eggs tighten up just enough to form a silky sauce. I like to finish the dish with a handful of chopped parsley for a little freshness to cut through the richness of the eggs and cheese. Next time you’re out of guanciale or pancetta, but in the mood for carbonara, don’t despair! Make cas’ e ova instead.

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