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Satisfying a last-minute taste for carbonara

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While not fitting the ingredient list for traditional carbonara, this version with Italian sausage and pea shoots makes a quick dinner and uses what is on hand.

While not fitting the ingredient list for traditional carbonara, this version with Italian sausage and pea shoots makes a quick dinner and uses what is on hand.

This is not a typical spaghetti alla carbonara. The traditional dish is a simple combination: spaghetti tossed with sauteed guanciale (pig’s cheek, but often crisped pancetta or bacon are used instead), fresh eggs, Parmesan and Romano cheeses and lots of black pepper.

But arriving home on a Monday night after having just read a carbonara restaurant trend article, I couldn’t let go of the idea for a carbonara dinner, even though I had no cured pork and just Parmesan, no Romano. But there was Italian pork sausage in the fridge and a few eggs from the farmers market.

And what about that bag of superfresh pea shoots? People sometimes stir peas into the dish; why not pea shoots?

And so the carbonara craving was satisfied. Since that dinner, I’ve subbed in asparagus for the pea shoots, and radicchio. And I’ve stocked the freezer with pancetta. But at least I know that pork sausage will work well in a pinch, very well indeed.

Monday Night Carbonara

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pound spaghetti

4 fresh eggs

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Italian pork sausages, about 8 ounces

1 pound asparagus, cut into 1- or 2-inch lengths

¼ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Heat a large pasta pot full of well-salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti; stir. Cook at a rapid boil until al dente.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a large bowl; add the Parmesan. Whisk to combine well. Set aside.

Cook the sausages in a skillet until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes; transfer to a cutting board. Chop coarsely. (Or remove sausages from their casings; cook until browned and cooked through, breaking them up with a spatula as they cook.)

Heat the asparagus to a simmer in a saucepan with the salt and enough water just to cover; simmer, 5 minutes. Drain.

Drain the spaghetti well; add to the bowl with the egg mixture. Toss to coat all the strands; add sausage and asparagus. Season generously with pepper. Toss to combine; serve, passing more grated Parmesan at the table.

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