The ultimate comfort food with a twist
Here in North Wales, it is definitely the season for seeking comfort in food!
And for me, the ultimate comfort food is, hands down, pasta carbonara.
No, not the one with cream. The one with eggs and cheese (for a brilliant piece about the origins and many versions of this dish see here).
I suspect I may not be alone with my love for this dish (and comforting pasta dishes in general). For one reason or another, it seems many of us associate comfort food with a silky texture and creamy taste - and usually not a vegetable in sight.
But who would have thought: sautéed cabbage works surprisingly well as a base for pasta sauces of all kinds! Which is great news if you are trying to up your veggie intake, reduce the refined carbs in your diet or avoid gluten, but still crave a warming bowl of pasta. (It is also a great dish to try on cabbage haters.)
I first came across the idea of using cabbage as a pasta replacement on the delicious Stonesoup blog. But as it happens, once you catch onto the idea, you'll find that the internet is, in fact, full of cabbage carbonara recipes!
This is my version (standing firmly by my principle of never boiling cabbage!)
I make it exactly as I would pasta carbonara - but instead of boiling pasta, I sauté the cabbage with the onions until softened to taste.
The basic steps go like this: Shred some cabbage. Sauté with onion and bacon. Mix eggs with grated cheese. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the egg mix. Allow eggs to cook in residual heat until creamy (5 mins or so). Serve immediately.
As far as patterns go, what I see here is a cabbage stir fry with the twist of egg/cheese added at the end.
Here are the steps in more detail, if you need it:
> I like adding garlic and celery, fennel or parsley, if I happen to have it.
> I even sometimes add other bits of shredded veg like carrots.
> White cabbage works best here (more crunch and more of neutral taste & colour) but green cabbage works too. Half a small cabbage is usually enough for 2 people.
> Keep cooking until it has softened to your taste (I like it silky but you may like it crunchy).
> Keep stirring so it doesn't stick (add a spoonful of water if necessary).
> Don't forget to season at this point (taste first to be sure the saltiness of the bacon is accounted for).
> I suggest you ignore any recipes suggesting you boil your cabbage like pasta, but it's up to you!
> I use 1 egg per person/portion (sometimes an extra one, if it seems like a lot of cabbage).
> Parmesan and/or pecorino are 'authentic', but any hard cheese will do at a push.
> Fresh black pepper goes nicely here.
> You want the eggs to cook slowly until just creamy and the residual heat will do just that. Cook too high or too long and you'll end up with scrambled eggs.
> I usually do not do this last step until the table is set and everyone is ready to eat. If there are any delays, switch off the cabbage pot and wait until everything/everyone is ready. Bring up to heat if necessary, before finally adding the egg mix.
> Offer extra grated cheese and black pepper for everyone to add to taste.
> Goes really well with a sharply dressed green salad (you want to balance the sweet creaminess with something bright).
PS. Vegan options exist! There are plenty of vegan carbonara recipes out there. Substitutions include carrot bacon, nutritional yeast flakes (cheese) and creamy tahini (eggs). Find what works for you, be it with pasta or cabbage.