Carbonara with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

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In season and so incredibly good for you, purple sprouting broccoli really is the star of this pasta dish.  Although it contains cream the sauce is light, the secret to which lies in retaining some of that starchy pasta cooking water.

This recipe is really simple yet satisfying and takes as long to put together as the penne takes to cook. A true 15 minute meal!  The bacon can be easily omitted to make this a fabulous meat free dish and as the seasons progress the broccoli can be switched for asparagus or courgette.  You can choose to omit the double cream to make the whole thing lighter, and replace it with a few splashes of the pasta cooking liquor which, combined with the egg yolks, makes a silky light sauce.  Serves 2 but can easily be doubled/tripled.

A quick word about herbs

No matter how little or how much space you have, I really can’t tell you how beneficial growing herbs is for your cooking.  Far cheaper than buying from the supermarket, and right there at your fingertips, pop a plant each of thyme, rosemary, mint and chives in pots or straight into the garden (except mint, it’ll take over your garden) and with a little care they’ll be there for you pretty much 10 months of the year.

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I also grow bay, tarragon, oregano, parsley and sage.  I keep my pots by the back door so they’re close to hand, making me more inclined to use them.  You can even just stick a supermarket basil plant on your kitchen windowsill and, given a little bit of care, it will keep on giving you fresh leaves over and over after each pruning.

Ingredients

100g penne, per person
1 tbsp olive oil
2 or 3 slices of smoked dry cure streaky bacon, per person
6 spears of purple sprouting broccoli, per person, sliced into bite size pieces. If the stems are quite thick, slice down the middle.
A big pinch of ground black pepper
1 heaped tsp fresh thyme leaves, plus extra for garnishing
1 1/2 heaped tbsp of grated Parmesan, per person
25ml double cream, per person (optional)
1 egg yolk, per person
A few tablespoons of pasta cooking liquor reserved, if not using cream
Salt to taste

Method

Heat up a non-stick frying pan, add the olive oil and get the bacon pieces frying.

Cook the penne according to the packet instructions.

When the bacon is crispy, add the fresh thyme leaves and the broccoli and fry until tender.  To speed things up, you can add a splash of water to the pan and cover with a lid to steam the broccoli.

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In a bowl mix together the Parmesan, cream and egg yolks.

When the pasta is cooked, stick a mug or a bowl in the bottom of the sink and drain your pasta over it. You want to reserve some of that starchy pasta cooking liquid.

Add the pasta to the bacon and broccoli and toss together briefly. Take the pan off the heat and wait for the sizzling sound to stop. Add the cream (if using), Parmesan and egg yolk mixture to the pan along with a splash of pasta water and toss together. You’re aiming for a loose silky sauce. Taste for seasoning, add salt to taste and sprinkle over some more fresh thyme leaves and an extra grating of parmesan.

Serve in warm bowls with a hunk of crusty bread.

Enjoy! K x

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Carbonara with purple sprouting broccoli

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