There’s so much room for creativity in cooking. A risotto can be transformed with different mix-ins — roasted veggies, sauteed onions and artichoke hearts, herbs and sweet peas. Alfredo can be dressed up with spiced grilled chicken, plump, tender shrimp or steamed broccoli. And a salad can take so many forms with different dressings, toppings and so much more.
But at its heart, a risotto is always a creamy rice dish made with a low and slow cooking process. Alfredo is a creamy sauce with cheese and heavy cream. And salads are, well, salads. There’s something sacred in these classical terms — they each mean something. Each is an indisputable, definitive term referring to a specific dish. They are the facts of the culinary word.
And though we can be creative with our cooking, we cannot dispute the reality of what each dish really is.
If a restaurant calls a dish carbonara, but makes it with loads of heavy cream, for instance, it’s not really carbonara at all. Carbonara is a dish that combines some form of bacon or ham with egg, grated hard cheese and pepper. The raw eggs, tempered with cooking water from the pasta, combine with the bacon, rendered fat, cheese and pepper to create a creamy, dreamy sauce. The creamy quality is created by the cooking technique alone.
Maybe it doesn’t matter much to you, as long as a food tastes good, but in the evolution of cooking there’s something to be said about respecting history and honoring new developments.
There’s nothing wrong with making a pasta dish that has a creamy sauce made with bacon, grated cheese and pepper. Perhaps even tossing in some roasted red peppers and garlic might make it extra delicious too. Just don’t call it a carbonara. It bears a closer resemblance to alfredo, really, but it’s not that either.
Creamy Garlic Fettuccine with Bacon and Roasted Red Peppers, this recipe, is perfect for whenever you have more time to cook, this dish is rich and satisfying. It’s certainly not the healthiest dish that you’ll make this year, but sometimes rich and satisfying is exactly what you need.
You start by browning bacon. When it’s just about browned, add the garlic for just a minute and then use a slotted spoon — or better yet, a wire mesh skimmer to remove both the garlic and bacon from the pan. Then, whisk in the heavy cream and a little nutmeg. Just a pinch will add so much richness to the sauce.
Some freshly grated Romano cheese and a little salt and pepper finish off the sauce. Remove it from the heat and stir in the reserved bacon and garlic along with some roasted red peppers.
Finally, toss the sauce with cooked fettuccine and finish it off with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley. Delicious.
And then enjoy. It’s not carbonara or alfredo, but it’s a tasty, quick pasta dish worthy of sharing with friends. Pour a glass of wine, toss a chopped salad and light a fire in the woodstove.
- 1 lb fettuccine
- 4 oz bacon, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- pinch ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste
- thinly sliced roasted red peppers
- finely chopped fresh parsley
- Cook the fettuccine according to package directions.
- While the fettuccine is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and brown. Once it's just about done, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Use a slotted spoon or a wire mesh skimmer to remove the bacon and the garlic from the pan.
- Whisk the heavy cream and nutmeg into the pan. Add the Romano cheese and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Remove from heat and stir the bacon, garlic and roasted red peppers into the sauce until thoroughly combined. Add the cooked, drained fettuccine to the sauce and toss well to combine. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.