Classic Carbonara

Classic Carbonara // Not Without Salt

There is nothing groundbreaking about this pasta. You can Google “Carbonara” and come up with thousands (190,000 to be exact) of recipes so I hesitate to add yet another hit to the masses but I share it with you because this one gets repeated.

This Carbonara makes its way into our slim list of repeats because each bite brings us back to Rome where Gabe came to visit me while I was there as a student. In between gelato, wandering the cobbled streets, several glasses of house wine, him proposing to me, and more gelato, we shared this simple pasta.

It gets repeated because it rarely requires a trip to the grocery store. I adore dinners like that, don’t you?

Classic Carbonara // Not Without Salt Classic Carbonara // Not Without Salt

It’s easy to find a small hunk of Parmesan lingering in the cheese drawer and most likely close by there are a few strips of uncooked bacon leftover from the weekend. There are always eggs and some sort of slender noodle; spaghetti, spaghettini, fettuccine, bucatini. The refrigerator feels a bit naked without fresh herbs, especially as our winter days turn spring. So they are there too, usually in the form of parsley but chives do the job just as well. And black pepper, enough to tickle your nose.

It’s indulgence marks our time at the table helping me to settle into my seat, take a deep breath and appreciate the others who fill the seats next to mine. A hearty salad nearby helps this indulgence find its way into a semi-regular spot at our table.

The recipe for our classic Carbonara can be found on the Craftsy blog. Feel free to use use this as a base as I often do and add to it, in bulk, crisp roasted vegetables. In the winter, when root vegetables are at their best roasted, this becomes commonplace.  Currently I’d like to say, “see you later, root vegetables” so in its place I imagine frizzled asparagus or fresh peas would be lovely. In fact I know for a fact that peas add a perfect little pop of freshness here.

The method is simple but does require a nudge of confidence to trust that eggs, wisps of Parmesan and starchy pasta water will turn into a wonderfully creamy sauce that rivals its more complex cousin, Alfredo. Sizzled bacon and pasta (slender noodle of your choice) just shy of al dente settle into the eggs and Parmesan. As the heat of the pasta starts to soften the cheese and tempt the eggs into a sauce rather than a scramble, add a couple tilts of a small ladle filled with pasta water until the inevitable cheesy/egg clumps soften and gently cling to the noodles. Finish with lots of freshly cracked pepper, a bit more cheese and plenty fresh herbs.

All credit goes to the brilliance of the Italians for this dish. Even with the few little additions that may make their way into our pasta I still wouldn’t call it groundbreaking and yet it gets repeated and that right there, is reason enough to share the recipe. Here’s hoping you’ve found yourself a new repeat.

Classic Carbonara // Not Without Salt

Classic Carbonara

Find the recipe and step-by-step instructions here. 

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Thai-Style Salmon Chowder

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt

Unsure how to proceed I set my sea-blue dutch oven on top of the stove. Regardless, of the uncertainty I turned on the flame and poured in a bit of oil. What I did know was that I wanted a soup much like, Tom Yum – bright, tart and fresh – but with salmon because that’s what my fridge had to offer.

Many of the Tom Yum recipes I read had you simply combining the ingredients with a stock and simmering. I liked the ease but saw a few opportunities to build in layers of flavor. So with a hot pan at the ready I decided to deeply caramelize the mushrooms so they would carry with them a roasted earthiness. Once sufficiently bronzed, garlic and ginger popped in the pan and danced around the bottom until their scent wafted up through the steam. At that point I proceeded along the recommended route.

Even with my additions the soup came together quickly, 30 minutes in all I’d say, but tasted as if it had been simmering on the stove all day; rich, complex and foreign flavors that comfort as if I had eaten it my whole life.

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt


Take care not to over cook the salmon, although I will say the leftovers still tasted great even though the salmon had grown a bit tough. And feel free to adjust the amount of fish sauce and lime juice. I like it briny and sour so my quantities reflect that.

One final quick thank you to those who joined the conversation from the last post. There was so much encouragement from you moms that have paved the way before those of us who still have young ones sitting at our table. Thank you for taking the time to offer a bit of hope and perspective. For those of you who could relate to my story of feeding a table filled with, shall we say, a lack of gratitude? :) I really recommend you spend some time reading the comments. Each one comforted and reminded me of the grace that we can freely offer to one another knowing that the days are long, the job is hard but the years roll on and someday our table will be a bit less crowded. We are all shaky in this crazy role as parent and sometimes that shakiness produces harsh opinions and pointed fingers but here there was nothing but kindness and the sort of feeling that we are in it together. So, thank you. I really do love the community in this place. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder with Crispy Salmon Skin

Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons oil

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 tomato, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, large dice

2 stalks lemon grass, outer layer removed and cut into 3-inch pieces

10 kaffir lime leaves

1 quart chicken stock

1 can ( 13.5 ounces) coconut milk

8 ounces salmon, skin removed (but save for later), cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup lime juice


For serving:


lime wedges

crisped salmon skin


Set a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Saute the mushrooms until deeply bronzed, about 7 to 10 minutes. To that add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato, bell pepper, lime leaves and lemongrass. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juice and the bell peppers start to wilt.

Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring the whole pot to a simmer. Reduce the heat to keep a steady simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the salmon, fish sauce and lime juice and cook for just a minute or two, until the salmon is just cooked. It will continue to cook with the residual heat so be mindful of that.

Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. I tend to like the soup very bright and sour so you may want to start with a bit less fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.


To crisp up the salmon skin add a small splash of oil to a large cast iron pan or skillet. Add the salmon skin to the pan set over medium high heat and cook until the sizzling steadies and decreases. Flip and do the same to the other side, about 3 minutes per side. Add a small pinch of salt to the skin. Cook until crisp.



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