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Lemony Pasta Carbonara

Pasta carbonara is one of my absolute favorite comfort foods in the entire universe (along with chicken paprikash, beef stroganoff, and stuffed cabbage).  I made it for the first time a few years ago, inspired by the cookbook You Can Trust a Skinny Cook by Allison Fishman.  Her book is full of lightened up recipes (all that I’ve tried have been very good, I definitely recommend it), but she also writes that sometimes you just need a pasta with bacon and eggs and cheese.  That’s basically my food philosophy–eat healthily 80% of the time, eat well 100% of the time (meaning enjoy everything, even the healthy stuff), and definitely splurge 20% because, hello, weekends and food trucks and pasta carbonara.

Summer ale for the win.

Summer ale for the win.

This recipe is a spring twist on an admittedly heavy winter meal that I found on Foodgawker.  Adding more greens and some lemon makes the pasta taste deceptively light.  I also swapped the more traditional linguine for penne (adding more “air” in every bite).

Pasta Carbonara 2

Lemony Pasta Carbonara (adapted from Chef Julie Yoonserves four)

  • 5 slices thick cut bacon (I always use the uncured ends and pieces from Trader Joes)
  • 1 large green garlic (used in place of leeks)
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 C frozen edamame
  • 1/2-3/4 pound whole-wheat pasta (penne or rigatoni for a “lighter” feel)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan
  • zest and juice from half a lemon
  • 2 C bitter greens of choice (I used 1 C arugula, 1 C mustard greens)
  • salt and pepper to taste

I had leftover pasta to use up, so instead of cooking it fresh, I added a splash of water and microwaved until piping hot right before I added the egg sauce.  Otherwise, cook the pasta according to package directions and reserve 1/4 C of the cooking water.

Cook the bacon in a large pot–when cooking bacon for a recipe, I dice it raw, cook, then drain the oil. That way I don’t have to cool the bacon before cutting it into pieces.  Leave a small amount of bacon fat in the pot (about a teaspoon), and add the diced green garlic/leeks and cook until softened.  Add the red pepper flakes and frozen edamame to warm up, then turn off the heat.

Combine in a small bowl the eggs, Parmesan, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  As soon as the pasta is ready, drain quickly (reserving the 1/4 C cooking water) and add to the garlic mixture along with the cooking water.  Make sure the heat is off, and stir in the egg and Parmesan mixture, stirring vigorously to make sure the eggs don’t scramble.

The sauce should thicken just from the heat of the pasta.  Add in the greens and allow them to wilt from the heat of the pasta.  (As I said above, I used leftover pasta which wasn’t as hot, so I actually had to keep the heat on very low to allow the sauce to thicken).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


This pasta was incredibly satisfying, and reminded me just slightly of hollandaise (always a plus in my book) because of the lemony egg sauce.

Pasta Carbonara 3

I also depend on dishes like this (cooked, with bacon or sausage) to make the bitter greens we get in our CSA box more palatable to Fritz, who doesn’t tolerate bitter tastes very well (apparently there’s a gene that makes you experience a bitter taste more strongly? Mom, weigh in here).  Adding bacon, cheese, and lemon makes even mustard greens taste as mild as spinach.

Pasta Carbonara

I made this recipe as something quick just to use up leftovers and finish up CSA goods, and had no intention of taking pictures until I realized how good it was.  Luckily there was just enough light left that I could grab a couple pictures.

Pasta Carbonara 5

Fritz’s family was here this weekend, and my parents came up for dinner.  We had an absolute fabulous time, and I didn’t take a single picture.  Whoops.

We also bought some art from Rochester artist Tim Mack–a small piece for us and a bigger piece for Fritz’s sister, Eber.  Fritz and I saw this large canvas of a woman in Boulder coffee shop on Park Ave and immediately thought of Eber (and it was recently her birthday, too).  But the Martha Stewart inside of me won’t let me buy art for another person unless I’m sure they like it–so personal, I guess?  Anyway, Eber saw it and loved it just as we suspected.


This terrible low-light photo from my Instagram doesn't do his art justice.

This terrible low-light photo from my Instagram doesn’t do his art justice. 

Lastly, my baby sister, Jordi (who is turning TWENTY in two months?) allowed me to add some of her own art to our walls.

My little sister recently let me steal these art assignments from her portfolio to add some color to my hallway.

My little sister recently let me steal these art assignments from her portfolio to add some color to my hallway.

She told me she wants to change them for something she likes better, which is something I’ll allow her to try to convince me of.  But I really like these just as it is, and it’s really my opinion that counts here, right?

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  1. Hannah

    That would be yes on the bitter tasting (sort of). PTC tasters are sensitive to phenylthiocarbamide. It apparently doesn’t exist in food, but related chemicals do – like thiourea in plants like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and mustard. So listen to Fritz :-) As for your recipe, love the idea of edamame in there!

  2. Chris @ Shared Appetite

    Loving your spring take on pasta carbonara, especially all those extra greens and edamame and lemon! Yum!

  3. mimi

    A beautiful, lightened pasta dish! Your sister is so talented! Even if you’re not a painter, you definitely have an eye for beautiful things!

    1. Lauren Zietsman

      Thank you! :)

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