We’re at the point in winter when I shift from attempting to enjoy the season to attempting to survive it. And how do I survive my most hated of seasons you ask? I let my cravings rule the day and eat my weight in comfort food. Is it healthy? No. Does it feel good? Yes. Will I keep doing it? I think today’s Carbonara Risotto answers that question. But in all seriousness, this is the time to be gentle with yourself. Regardless of what the groundhog had to say, if you live somewhere that has winter there is likely a lot more winter to be had. So I say, find joy where you can during these dark cold months and I found joy in this risotto. So let’s talk about it. It’s a much better topic than Seasonal Affective Disorder anyway.
Carbonara is a classic of the pasta world. And it’s not hard to see why. It’s is a deft combination of pasta, cheese, pork fat, and eggs. But while carbonara’s simple bold ingredients are its strength, they also leave little room to hide. I’ve had a lot of bad carbonara in my life and it makes sense. Carbonara is as easy to overcook as it is to undercook. You can overwhelm it with too much bacon. Break that quick and delicate emulsion that forms the sauce. And you can be sluggish when serving it and find yourself with a gloopy plate of pasta. Luckily, today’s Carbonara Risotto sidesteps many of these pitfalls and still delivers that telltale carbonara experience.
Let’s talk about what the egg and cheese mixture coupled with pasta water and pork fat actually does for carbonara. This bit of culinary alchemy results in a rich creamy sauce that is as volatile as it is decadent. There is truly nothing on earth like it. And believe me, I totally and completely encourage you to make carbonara from scratch. It’s worth the effort and the nerves. And most of the time it turns out very well. But it’s difficult to scale up carbonara and you have to be ready to eat it the second it hits the plate. With this Carbonara Risotto, you don’t have to rely on this delicate interplay of ingredients to generate creaminess, the arborio rice does that for you.
A risotto naturally generates a sauciness by slowly stirring stock into arborio. So we don’t have to create that silky sauce in the moments between the pasta reaching al dente and serving. Risotto allows us to be a little lazy about the whole thing. I know I’ve mentioned probably several times before at this point, that I adore making risotto. I find it therapeutic. It’s such a chill way to make dinner. You’re simply ladling and stirring and drinking something if you’re anything like me. It’s a whole vibe. It’s a whole opposite vibe to the frenzy that carbonara can be.
This Carbonara Risotto starts life as its pasta counterpart would, with a ton of bacon in a pan. You can also use pancetta or the more traditional guanciale, but I had thick-cut bacon in my fridge so that’s what I went with. The bacon will generate all the fat we will need to create this dish and then some, so have a ramekin handy to pour off the extra fat. The bacon will also supply a good amount of salt, so season your finished risotto carefully. How much or how little salt you add will depend on both the saltiness of your bacon and stock.
Once the bacon hits that pan, it’s a good idea to start simmering your stock. I like to use a good quality chicken or vegetable stock for most of my risottos because I find the flavor less imposing. You don’t want your stock to take over the dish, you just want it to get you where you’re going. But having said that, I do like to add a Parmigiano Reggiano rind to my stock for a little extra richness. Now, it’s time to remove the bacon and introduce the onions, white wine, and rice to the pan. Once everything is well acquainted, it’s time to start stirring. So put on a podcast, crack open a bottle of wine, and ladle away.
When the rice is tender and creamy, add the Parmigiano Reggiano and pecorino. And here’s the kicker, we’re going to add the egg at the end. And I don’t mean stirred into the rice. I mean, nested into the plated risotto like a golden crown. The diners can then bust their yolk and stir it into their rice at their leisure, generating their carbonara experience on their own timeline. I mean, encourage them to get on with it. You need hot rice to gently cook the yolk. But at least you’re not rushing to the table with a blazing hot skillet of pasta in this scenario.
And that is pretty much everything you need to know about this Carbonara Risotto. Is it strictly a carbonara? No, not really. But it’s definitely a risotto, that tastes like a carbonara.
Carbonara Risotto with Oyster Mushrooms
- 1 Large pot
- 1 Large, deep skillet
- 4 strips thick-cut bacon chopped
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind
- 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
- 200g (7oz) oyster mushrooms separated and coarsely chopped
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¾ cup Parmigiano Reggiano shredded
- ¾ cup Pecorino shredded
- 4 egg yolks
- 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- Heat a large deep skillet over medium heat until smoking. Add the bacon and sauté until crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside to drain.4 strips thick-cut bacon
- When the bacon hits the pan, pour the stock into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano rind to the stock and reduce it to a simmer. Let simmer for the duration of the recipe.6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind
- Pour off all but 2-3 tablespoons of the bacon fat and return the skillet to the heat. Add the garlic and fry until golden on both sides. Transfer to a small plate and set aside with the bacon.1 clove garlic
- Add the oyster mushrooms to the pan and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before removing from the pan. Transfer to the same plate as the bacon.200g (7oz) oyster mushrooms
- Pour the onion into the skillet and add a pinch of salt. Sauté until just softened. Add the rice and toss to coat. Toast the rice until it starts to crackle and gives off a nutty aroma, about two minutes. Pour in the wine and stir until fully absorbed.1 yellow onion, 1½ cups arborio rice, ½ cup dry white wine
- Add a few ladles of the stock to the rice. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until the stock is absorbed.** Repeat until all the stock is integrated.
- Once the stock is integrated and the rice is creamy and tender, add the cheeses and stir until they melt. Return the mushrooms and bacon to the skillet, reserving a little of the bacon for garnishing. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt accordingly. ***¾ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, ¾ cup Pecorino
- Spoon the risotto into four bowls and top each with an egg yolk. Garnish with garlic chips, the reserved bacon, and the parsley. Serve immediately and encourage your guests to quickly stir their yolk into their rice.4 egg yolks, 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley