Mac and Cheese “Carbonara style” with Blistered Snap Peas

*This post is created in partnership with Cabot Creamery. They are a cooperative owned by 1,000 farm families throughout New York & New England and remarkably they get to boast the incredible title of the World’s Best Cheddar. How do we know? Well, they have won every major award for taste. All I know is that I can’t stop eating it and it makes this pasta dish I have for you today irresistible.

I recently got the chance to eat cheese and drink wine with them in Napa and while we were there we created three recipes that I think you all will love. Make sure you follow them to get all those recipes and more. Now let’s talk cheesy pasta.

Even with the sun pouring through the windows, the house well-heated as a result, I still get the occasional craving for a abundant bowl of cheesy pasta. Sometimes I have the appetite of a child but really, when doesn’t cheese and pasta sound good?

I’m pretty excited to share this technique with you all. It’s a sort of macaroni and cheese/ carbonara hybrid. It has the craveable cheesiness of macaroni and cheese with the simple technique of carbonara. It’s incredible pantry-friendly and highly adaptable. Don’t have bacon or pancetta? No problem, it’d be fine without. Have a glut of zucchini (so often the case this time of year)? Roast or caramelize in a pan then use that in lieu of the snap peas. Fresh cherry tomatoes or blistered corn would also be lovely if those happen to be lingering. And never hesitate to toss in fresh herbs by the handfuls.

In order to get that creamy sauce that coats the pasta in that unmistakable carbonara-like way – you know what I mean, right? It’s slick but not greasy, covers the pasta but isn’t thick and gluey. In order to get that consistency we whip eggs with the finely grated cheddar cheese and add the hot pasta directly to the eggs. The starchy pasta water holds the secret key to the magic is its heat helps to further melt the cheese while the starch creates a cohesive sauce coating the nooks and crannies of each individual noodle.

The sugar snap peas are quickly sautéed just after the pancetta crisps. Their pleasant bite brings to the dish virtue and a delightful crunch that sets off the creaminess brilliantly. If pea vines are still available I recommend crowning the pasta or arugula will fill in nicely.

Sit down with a bowl along with a chilled glass of crisp Chardonnay.

To see the technique in action watch the video on my Instagram or Facebook.

Mac and Cheese "Carbonara style" with Blistered Snap Peas Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

6 ounces/170 g pancetta or bacon cut into 1/2 -inch strips

1 pound fresh snap peas

1 pound/ 450 g short pasta (macaroni, gemelli, or orecchiette) 

Sea salt

6 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) grated Cabot Alpine Cheddar cheese

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to finish

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus more to finish

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 ounces pea vines (optional)

Olive oil and flake salt to finish

Instructions

Add enough water to fill a large dutch oven or stock pot up halfway then stir in enough salt to make the water taste of the sea. Bring this to a boil.

While the water comes to a boil, crisp up the pancetta in a large skillet, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add  the sugar snap peas and cook just until their color brightens and exterior blackens in parts, 2 to 3 minutes.

Cook the pasta until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes.

In a large bowl stir together the cheddar cheese and eggs until thoroughly combined.

Add the hot noodles directly to the egg mixture and stir well and quickly so as not to cook the eggs. Add a bit of the pasta water as needed to create a creamy sauce.

To the pasta add the pancetta and sugar snap peas then stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter then top with the pea vines and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and add flake salt to finish.

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Donut Peach Donuts

I read this comment from a reader on Cup of Jo a couple months ago and ever since then it has given me so much joy and parental confidence (which if you are a parent you know that is very hard to come by).

“Growing up, my absolute favorite dinner was ‘plate of little things.’ My single mom would slice cheese, apples, crackers, hot dogs, dry cereal, whatever and we would eat it in front of the TV. I told her that recently and she gasped, ‘What? those were the nights I failed. I didn’t cook a thing and was too tired to talk to you guys. That’s ridiculous.’ Goes to show, it may be JUST when we fail that our kids feel most happy.”

Doesn’t that just breathe life into your soul? To think that the times when we are most in our heads beating ourselves up for the choices we are making or the things we AREN’T doing may be just the things that remember with gladness, joy and appreciation?

We’re deep into summer here and like many families we struggle with the work/life balance during the summer especially. Gabe and I are trying to balance our freelance careers while also wanting to give the kids a memorable summer. It’s also the blessed time of the year in the pacific northwest where we feature enviable weather. For once the rest of the country looks to our gray corner longingly and I tell you what, it’s hard to focus on work.

Last week, in an attempt to be both good mom and good boss lady business owner, I took my oldest to the shop with me. He has expressed interest in working for me so I wanted to give him a glimpse of what that work actually looks like. He watered my neglected plants, cleaned up my dishes and helped me develop a few recipes – most of which failed (not his fault). Together we worked on this recipe for turning a Donut or Saturn Peach into a batter-dip and cinnamon sugar coated dream. He took one bite, smiled, said it was good and then asked when we could leave.

I loved having him there, giving him a deeper glimpse into my day-to-day life, listening to his commentary peppered throughout the day but then, as I watched his head droop in boredom and his eyes long for someplace other than mom’s office, I felt guilty. I thought of all the camps I didn’t sign him up for, for the friends I was keeping him from. He should be on the water or on his scooter with his friends not in a hot kitchen standing in front of a steaming dishwasher.

Down deep I realize that these experiences are important and good for him to see the hard work his dad and I do in order to provide for them but the guilt is strong, particularly when I peruse the Facebook streams of others living their best lives. Yes, I too fall victim to believing the social media lies.

The next morning I thought often of that quote above as Gabe and I woke up to our 12 year old asking us if we were ready for breakfast. When we sleepily responded, “we’re ready!” we were greeted with two perfected plated donut peach donuts along with a cup of tea for Gabe and coffee for me. My boy had got up 6 am to recreate the recipe that we made together the day before and surprised us with breakfast in bed along with the sweetest note of gratitude for us as parents.

I’m not sure what spurred on such an act but my goodness, there were tears.

Our kids are now getting to the age where they reflect on their younger years as if they are distant memories. The events they often recall are often the mundane. They are the repeated acts that to them took on meaning. Often they are the times when I as a mom felt as if I was somehow failing them but to them it was felt as love.

I never would have guessed that these simple fried little peaches would spur on one of my most favorite memories as a parent to date.

 

Donut Peach Donuts

Yield 1 dozen

You guys, this is so fun. My oldest son has tested and written today's recipe and I could not be more proud. I've added a bit more detail and some of my own tips in parenthesis. Hopefully this isn't too confusing.

In case you are wondering, these are even more delicious if someone else makes them for you so considering printing the recipe and sharing with a loved one. 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter

1 egg

1 dozen Donut or Saturn Peaches

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Instructions

Mix the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon into a large bowl. Then add milk, butter and egg and mix until no flour clumps are showing.

Then grab a large pot and fill it with vegetable oil until a donut peach can float in the oil, and heat. (When filling the oil make sure to leave at least 3-inches of space at the top of the pan to prevent the oil from boiling over.)

Make cinnamon sugar to dip the fried donuts in, which is about 1/3 of a spoon cinnamon and 1/2 a cup sugar. To fry the peaches, stick them in the batter and then put them in the oil. (I found that using two forks for dipping and retrieving the peaches from the batter works well. Gently let the excess batter drip off the donut at the edge of the bowl).

The oil should be ready after about ten minutes. (Heat the oil to about 350°F. You can test if the oil is ready by dropping in a small amount of batter. It should take about 15 - 30 seconds before it starts to color and it will float at the top of the oil). You will know when to pull the donuts out when they look light brown. (This takes about 3 to 4 minutes and I tend to like them a nice deep copper color).

Best served warm. (With vanilla ice cream). Enjoy immediately!

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