There's something magical about the combination of pasta, eggs, Parmesan, and cured pork.
The flavor base is the salty, fatty pork (in this case prosciutto), noodle-y pasta makes it filling, and a creamy sauce is created with eggs, lemon zest, and Parmesan (the eggs getting sufficiently cooked by the heat of the hot pasta).
In the case of this dish, I was looking to use up some of the gloriously yellow patty-pan summer squash from our garden (yes I know the title says "zucchini", you can use any summer squash for this recipe), as well as some of the garden basil which is still thriving.
This recipe was inspired by a fabulous poached egg over homemade noodles with prosciutto at Ella's in Sacramento, and by a farfalle and zucchini recipe by Giulia Melucci in her memoir, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.
Zucchini Pasta Carbonara
This recipe uses thinly sliced prosciutto, which works well with the more delicate flavor of the summer squash. But you could also use pancetta (diced), bacon (thin strips), or even thinly sliced ham.
* To slice the basil leaves, chiffonade them by stacking basil leaves on top of each other, roll them up into a cigar shape, starting at one end and working your way down the "cigar" take thin slices from the end.
- 3/4 pound egg noodles
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1/4 pound prosciutto, thinly sliced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 summer squash, yielding 4 cups chopped squash
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, sliced thin*
Heat the pasta cooking water:
To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water (one tablespoon of salt for 2 quarts of water).
Brown the prosciutto:
As the water for the pasta is heating, prep your vegetables and heat olive oil and butter on medium high in a large sauté pan.
Working in batches, lay pieces of sliced prosciutto down in the pan. Fry gently on both sides until just lightly browned (no more than a minute, more likely 30 seconds each side, the prosciutto is very thin), remove from pan with tongs or a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Once cool, tear into bite-sized pieces. Reserve oil in the pan.
Add the pasta to the boiling water to cook:
Add pasta to boiling salted water. The pasta should take about 10-12 minutes to cook until al dente (cooked but still a bit firm), which is just about the right amount of time you'll need to cook the vegetables. Cook with a rolling boil, uncovered.
Sauté onions, garlic, summer squash:
While the pasta is cooking, add the onions, garlic, and summer squash to the sauté pan that you had used to cook the prosciutto. The heat should be medium high.
Stir the vegetables so that they are all coated with oil from the pan, then spread them out in the pan, generously salt and pepper them. Cook until they are just lightly browned, stirring only occasionally. Remove from heat.
Beat the eggs, add Parmesan and lemon zest:
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the grated Parmesan and lemon zest.
Add cooked pasta to vegetables, stir in egg mixture:
When the pasta is ready, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the squash and onions (or add the veggies to the pasta, depending on the size of your pans).
Pour the egg, Parmesan, lemon zest mixture over the pasta mixture and quickly stir in with a wooden spoon. The heat from the pasta will sufficiently cook the eggs.
Add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water if it looks a little dry. Stir in the prosciutto and basil.
Garnish with more basil and grated Parmesan.