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Tagliatelle carbonara baked into a crispy, golden cake studded with green peas, cut into wedges like pizza. Carbonara al forno – maybe not the most orthodox pasta dish but irresistibly tasty.
As everyone knows, the only thing better than pasta is pasta bake, or pasta al forno. Oven pasta dishes are deadly delicious, both those features because of the added cheese, baked to melt. Mozzarella, Cheddar in a bastardised versions we cook without pretending to be Italian, provolone which is simply divine or asiago which I can never buy in the UK. Parmesan or Pecorino too, obviously, but on top of the main body – extra cheese sprinkled on top of a cheesy dish.
All that cheese makes the food heavenly but also (as it often goes together) hefty in calories. If you want to watch the intake a bit, this recipe might be the solution. I’ve been inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s spaghetti pie and thought I could cut down on the eggs and cheese, making it rewarding but skinnier. Bacon, but not so much; only a little Pecorino and egg yolks only (I know I’m being delusional in the last point thinking skipping egg white will make much difference).
Having never before tried to bake long pasta strands, I found it works absolutely fine. You can faff about trying to shape little nests in the baking dish but even if you dump the pasta into the dish in a dishevelled pile, it will be fine and you can always call the look ‘rustic’. Tagliatelle, spaghetti, linguine, bucatini – whichever shapes you fancy. After all, all those shapes are chopped up lasagne sheets, if you think about it.
Peas are not a classic in a carbonara, I admit freely. But a little greenery is always welcome in the company of creamy, baconey lunch or dinner. You can replace peas with small broccoli florets or sliced green beans, sugar snaps or baby broad beans. Pecorino is my choice because it’s softer but go ahead and use Parmesan if that’s what you prefer or have in your pantry.
carbonara bakeServings: 2Time: 50 minutes
- 3-4 rashers of pancetta or streaky bacon, finely chopped
- 170g dried tagliatelle
- 2 egg yolks
- 50g grated Pecorino cheese
- 100g frozen peas, thawed
- butter for the dish
1. Cook the bacon or pancetta in a skillet until crisp.
2. Boil the pasta in salted water 2 minutes shorter than the instruction on the package, al dente. Drain but reserve ½ cup cooking water.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
4. Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and add half the Pecorino. Add the pasta and toss energetically, adding a little of the pasta water, so the egg and cheese coat the pasta strands. Add the bacon and peas and toss well together.
5. Butter a round gratin dish, about 20-23cm in diameter. Turn the pasta into the dish, scraping the sauce and all the bits then twist it round in the dish with tongs to give it shape. Cover with remaining Pecorino.
6. Bake for 30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden brown and the pasta slightly pulls away from the sides of the dish. Cut into quarters and serve.