Pasta alla Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish traditionally made with eggs, bacon, and black pepper. Although popular all over the world, Pasta alla Carbonara is a relatively new dish originating in Rome in the mid-20th century, following the Second World War. At the time, many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States, and hence – the creation of an egg and bacon pasta dish. Before carbonara became popular, there were other similar variations of pasta dishes frequently served in the South of Italy that were created from a sauce of lard, egg, and cheese.
There are a variety of theories about the origins of the name of the dish – “carbonara”. For example, since the name is derived from the word “carbonaro”, the Italian word for a charcoal burner, many believe that this dish was first made as a filling meal for Italian charcoal workers.
This particular variation of carbonara doesn’t use bacon, but uses shellfish instead. The addition of cream makes this dish somewhat “untraditional” in Italian terms. However, this recipe was acquired from a local Northern Italian chef who has been cranking out quality Italian food at his ristorante for over 25 years – so we’re going to go ahead and embrace this spin on the traditional Pasta alla Carbonara. And trust me – it’s GOOD!
1 pound mussels in shell
1 pound clams in shell
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, and roughly chopped
250 grams grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
5 ounces heavy cream
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups cooked tagliatelle egg noodles (can also use linguini, spaghetti, or fettuccini)
Chopped fresh parsley for serving (optional)
Debeard the mussels and throw away any mussels that have already opened. Heat two tablespoons olive oil and two crushed garlic cloves in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the mussels and clams to the pot. Cover and cook until the shells have opened up (approximately 5 minutes). Once cooked, removed from the heat and take the meat out of the shells. Only use the meat from the shells that have opened completely. Reserve unopened shells. Roughly chop the mussels and clams, then combine with the chopped shrimp. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, grated cheese, and cream. Set aside.
To a large pot, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 minced garlic clove. Sauté the garlic in the oil over medium heat until fragrant (approximately 1 minute). Add the mussels, clams, and cooked shrimp to the pot and sauté for one minute longer. Add the 4 cups of fresh cooked noodles to the pot. Turn the heat up to high. Mix to coat the noodles in oil and seafood. Turn off the heat.
Pour the egg mixture over the noodles and mix vigorously and quickly until the noodles are completely coated. Ensure the heat is off, or the eggs will turn into scrambled eggs. The residual heat from the pot and the pasta will cook and heat the sauce.
Serve pasta in individual bowls or family-style. Garnish with extra grated cheese, parsley, and any extra shells from the inedible mussels for flavor and presentation, if desired.
*Feature photo courtesy of delightfuldeliciousdelovelyblog.wordpress.com