Spaghetti Squash Chicken Carbonara


Somehow, the Sicilian fiance and I have found ways to replace pasta with grains and vegetables–mainly spaghetti squash. Sometimes the recipes turn out great, other times the become a bit of a sloppy mess. When I tried chicken carbonara with spaghetti squash, it turned out delicious, almost as if you could not taste a difference. They key is to use it in dishes where spaghetti is not the main emphasis of the dish. Here, the spaghetti squash absorbed the flavor of the Carbonara and provided a bit of a crunch to contrast the texture of the chicken and peas.

The key to a good chicken carbonara is the sauce. If the sauce is creamy, full of garlic, and extra cheesy, you really can’t go wrong with the rest of it. OH, and some tasty pancetta mixed together with peas, chicken, and the spaghetti squash. This is also a carbonara recipe that requires no cream, so it is healthy of course. I cooked the spaghetti squash in the oven–roasted is the best way to do it. While it’s roasting, the rest of the mixture is given time to cook and simmer. Then, all you have to do is mix the spaghetti squash in with the combination, let it simmer, and enjoy!

“Faux-ghetti” Chicken Carbonara

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The Power of Salt

salt revolution


Remember when salt used to come only from those large cylindrical containers, and it was really just an afterthought, casually sprinkled atop your bland meal? I’m not sure what happened, but somewhere along this crazy foodie journey I ended up with six different kinds of salt that currently live on my kitchen counter (not to mention the salt block, for full-on salt cooking), and deciding which salt pairs with which dish is one of the toughest parts of cooking dinner.

I recently received a package of Salt Revolution’s Aztec Sea Salt, and I have to say this is one of my favorite ones yet. Harvested from Mexico’s Cuyutlán Lagoon over a 45-day period each year, it’s sorted by hand in small packages, and combines a beautiful, subtle salty flavor with just the right amount of crunch — it comes in big, flaky pieces, much smoother than a jagged piece of rock salt, so it settles in your mouth in just the right way. Their small-batch approach means that each harvesting season they sell salt until their supply is gone; you can sign up to find out when the new batch is available.

Adapting a dough recipe from one of my go-to cookbooks, The New Spanish Table, I whipped up this coca-dough flatbread, topped with onions, rosemary, pine nuts, pancetta and goat cheese…and of course, some finishing salt sprinkled on top!

Sea Salt Flatbread

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The Bargain Ham Incident


So it’s the second day after Christmas and I’m in my local grocery store when what do I see? All of the leftover hams that weight ten pounds or more are marked down to 99 cents a pound! Am I interested? Heck to the yeah! I grab two and make a mad dash for the checkout counter and before you know it I’m stuffing my bundles of pig joy into the freezer next to my emergency vodka. Sweet!

Fast forward to yesterday, when I’m wondering what to do for dinner and I suddenly remember my major swine score. So I thaw out contestant number one and pop it in the oven next to some scallop potatoes that I threw together. About 40 minutes later–voila! I sit down to enjoy my dirt-cheap ham dinner feast. It was so good I couldn’t wait to fire up a ham-steak-and-egg breakfast this morning. Then a few hours later I treated myself to a lunch consisting of a cold ham sandwich with mustard and Swiss cheese. Now I’m getting ready to make my dinner when what do I see staring back at me from inside my fridge? That goddamn ham! About eight and a half pounds worth. What was I thinking? Deal schmeal! This feels more like a sentence—and there’s no time off for good behavior. I’m now deep into day two of all things ham and it’s déjà vu all over again.

But wait a minute–maybe I’m approaching this wrong. Maybe if I didn’t think of it as ham I wouldn’t have a problem choking down another plate of it. What if it wasn’t ham, but it was its upscale Italian cousin pancetta? Now we’re talkin’! If I think of it as pancetta, then I could make this:

Katt’s NOT Pancetta and Angel Hair Pasta Dish

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Cooking with Fabio: Drunken Red Spaghetti

Has anyone else missed Fabio Viviani? I know I’d take his crazy Italian ramblings over this year’s boring Top Chef-testants any day. Well, not to worry—I just stumbled upon his new web series, in which Fabio and his disturbingly hot mom cook up drunken red spaghetti—pasta doused in red wine and smothered in pecornio, walnuts and caramelized pancetta. I love this dish because he doesn’t add just a little bit of booze. Uh-uh. He adds enough wine to turn those noodles purple! Now that’s Italian.

Also – check out his nickle-and-dime pasta serving size trick at 2:40!

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Split Pea Soup takes a Ribbing

Man, I hate the cold weather. I’m already tired of chillis and stews. What I want is ribs! But broiling them in my oven blows. Hey, wait a minute…ribs are pork, right? Pork goes great in soups, right? Let’s cook us some ribs in a split pea soup and have the best of both worlds!

Katt’s Baby Back Ribs in Split Pea Soup


2 tblsp of olive oil
9 oz of pancetta, chopped into small cubes
1 rack of baby back ribs
2 smoked ham hocks
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 pd of split peas
2 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 tsp of white pepper
Salt to taste
5 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp of unsalted butter
1 dollop of heavy cream
Crusty bread

I like my soups and stews really spicy (hot), so if you’d rather not breathe fire while you eat this, don’t hit the ribs with the cayenne, and wait until right before you serve this to add any of the red pepper to the soup. You may find that the white pepper is all the spice that you need.

Start by cutting the ribs into individual pieces. Then, sprinkle the front and back with about a teaspoon worth of cayenne pepper. Next, chop up your pancetta. (For this particular demo I couldn’t get a single 9-ounce slab, so I bought three 3-ounce packages of sliced pancetta and I just chopped that up.) Pour your olive oil into either a stock pot or a roasting dish and bring that up to a medium heat. We want to slowly render out the fat from the pancetta without browning it too quickly, so this step should take between 15 and 20 minutes. Once the pancetta is browned, remove it from the pan and reserve it in a bowl.

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Don’t Mess With the Classics!

I’m not Italian but I love Italian food. It’s satisfying, hearty and soothing…and it’s relatively simple to make. Some dishes are so simple in fact, that what separates a fantastic dish from a great dish is the quality of the ingredients more so than the cooking techniques. Take the classic Italian dish spaghetti carbonara; it’s spaghetti, pancetta (or guanciale), pecorino romano cheese, pepper and eggs. That’s it! The only real variation is whether or not you going to add garlic (which I always do). The best version of this dish is the one made with fresh pasta instead of boxed, and guanciale instead of pancetta. Guanciale is a cured pork cheek which carries a ton of great-tasting fat and, if it’s available to you, is a better choice than pancetta—although not by much. When I have a great piece of guanciale I don’t use any olive oil. I’ll do a slow, low-heat sauté of the meat, which will render its delicious fat without requiring the aid of the oil. Now that’s classic!

But if you look up this recipe on many of the food and cooking websites, you’ll get some whacky variations that totally destroy this dish. And most of them come from American cooks that try to ‘improve’ this classic by making it ‘healthier.’ Substituting wheat pasta, egg whites and ground turkey sausage may make it lower in fat content, but where do you think the taste comes from? And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy for us health-conscious Americans is 78.2 years. For native Italians? 81.7 years! Those wine-swilling, chain-smoking Italians would never THINK to use turkey sausage in this dish so why should you? You ever hear Mario Batali talk about his cholesterol level? Get real! If eating this classic is shaving a few years off my life, so be it! Just stop calling your turkey-and-wheat-pasta versions carbonara, ‘cause they’re NOT!

Katt’s Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

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Rainy Day Meatballs

On a recent Saturday morning here in sunny southern California, I woke up fully expecting to go for a long run, when I look out the window and see a phenomenon that I rarely experience and always despise—RAIN! God, I hate the rain. I’ve got an underground lawn sprinkler system that is fed by the water we steal from Colorado, so why do I need rain? Now what do I do to fill my day? Guess I could cook something…but what would take all day to make and yet still be worth the effort? Hmmmm….wait, I’ve got it! Meatballs! What’s better on a rainy afternoon than spaghetti and meatballs? And considering that I’ve already had a bottle of wine and some crusty bread for breakfast, it makes perfect sense!

First I’ll make my usual large pot of tomato sauce and while it simmers for a few hours I’ll make a batch of my world-class meatballs. Being that I was raised on meatballs made by some chef named ‘Boy-ardee,’ I don’t have any warm childhood memories of great-tasting Italian dishes. I came from a Polish family and our version of spaghetti and meatballs was sauerkraut and sausage. So over the years I’ve tried many different versions and methods of making this dish, and this is the recipe that I’ve come up with. I don’t know what is considered a ‘classic’ version but this one never gets any complaints… except that I should have made more. Maybe it’s the medical marijuana talking but my friends seem to like it. I hope you do too. It just takes a while to put together so rent The Godfather 1 and 2 and open a couple bottles of good Chianti or <erlot. As they say in Italy, “Divertanosi”!  (Look it up!)

Katt’s Rainy Day Meatballs

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