Summer in Minnesota is a fleeting thing. The temperatures finally rise in June to numbers high enough to warrant wearing short sleeves and sandals during the day (or for some, to go kayaking on Lake Superior), then promptly dip down low enough for bonfires and sweatshirts. When that ends, the humidity and stormy weather begins. The air feels slightly unbalanced and clouds often turn an eerie shade of green before exploding with light and sound. And sometimes a Wizard of Oz worthy twister. To be honest, I love this time of year because of the storms. They are so romantic and exciting.
For all its ups and downs, I love summer in Minnesota. It’s never the same day-to-day or year-to-year. This season has been no exception. Right now we are enduring heat in the 90’s and dew points in the 70’s. It is not comfortable. Not even a little. But I find myself trying to remember that weather like this is what makes me adore what comes next: fall. Without the extremes in life, how can we appreciate the relief? I should probably get used to the heat because I hear Tokyo is sweltering right now. I wonder if it will cool down before we arrive there in just over a week…
Despite the hot weather, this Summer Carbonara is a refreshing take on a typically heavy Italian dish. Usually, carbonara is made with a heavy cream sauce, salty bits of pancetta, and lots of cheese. The cream sauce for this summer version is light and flavorful with a fruity tang from white wine and a salty bite from parmesan cheese. The pasta is topped with a handful of peppery watercress and a sunny side up fried egg. Homemade egg pasta makes the dish even more sophisticated, but store bought pasta can be used as well. I am partial to Jamie Oliver’s recipe for egg pasta– it turns out perfectly every time!
Jamie Oliver’s Homemade Pasta
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup 1% milk
1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 bunch fresh watercress
black pepper and salt
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a healthy handful of salt to the boiling water. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes if fresh. If using store bought, follow package directions.
While the water boils for the pasta, heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant and just beginning to soften. Stir in the flour. Stir continuously for about 30 seconds. Slowly and little-by-little add the white wine to the pan, stirring to fully incorporate the flour. Next, add the cream, and then the 1% milk. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring to make sure nothing burns. Stir in the parmesan cheese. When the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the sauce.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry the eggs over medium heat until whites are firm. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and top with a handful of the watercress leaves and then with an egg. Sprinkle with black pepper and salt lightly and serve immediately.