This dish was inspired by a similar carbonara that my friend Annie had at the Pane Vino & San Daniele wine bar when we were in Venice last Wednesday. This supper was definitely a case of bringing a little of Venice and the sun home to a wet April in London – even though today has been slightly better, I see in the news it’s been the wettest April in 100 years! Last week we were sitting outside in the lovely sunny and peaceful Campo dell’Angelo Rafael and the wine bar is just the perfect place to sit over a leisurely lunch in Venice.
With asparagus in the shops now, I thought I’d try to recreate the dish Annie had. I didn’t manage to get fresh broad beans, unfortunately, but had some baby broad beans in the freezer which I briefly boiled in salted water and then podded. They weren’t ‘baby’ enough to be good enough with their pods left on, especially as I wanted a fresh, spring effect to the dish.
I decided to adapt a well-used Jamie Oliver carbonara recipe from his Happy Days with the Naked Chef, but substituting the asparagus and broad beans for pancetta (or bacon). It’s the easiest recipe and really wonderful and I served this version with a simple green salad of torn ice gem lettuce leaves with a handful of parsley, straight from the garden and roughly chopped, dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Asparagus & Baby Broad Bean Carbonara
This is the amount I used for one; double, triple or whatever, for more. Measure out 75-100g linguine or spaghetti and boil in salted water according to directions on packet. Meanwhile, chop about 125g asparagus into roughly 2-3 cm pieces, keeping the tender tips whole. Keep the tips aside and put the other pieces into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for just a couple of minutes, then add the tips and allow to boil for another minute, then drain. You only want to blanch the asparagus. Meanwhile, boil a handful of baby broad beans in another pan for a couple of minutes, drain and when cool enough to handle (or run under cold tap), squeeze them gently and they should pop easily out of the hard chewy pods leaving just the bright green and tender beans.
Heat about 25g butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan and gently fry the asparagus pieces to slightly brown. In a bowl put 1 egg yolk, 2 tablespoons double cream and some Parmesan cheese – grate 25g of the cheese but keep a couple of tablespoons back to scatter over the finished dish. Mix the egg yolk, cream and Parmesan together with some salt and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and immediately turn into the pan with the asparagus, broad beans and egg mixture and fold it all in together quickly while the pasta is hot – this will cook the eggs (though I guess I should issue a warning here to pregnant women to make sure their egg is cooked properly!). Serve immediately and scatter over a little extra Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.
I don’t think I tasted Annie’s carbonara in Venice last week to compare, but this version most definitely turned out well and although quite rich with the cream and cheese nevertheless had a lovely spring freshness to it with the vegetables and crisp green side salad.