While the oven was baking the treat away, I was also busy trying to multi-task and make this Orrechiette Carbonara for our dinner tonight. I've talked about it before, but it was not until maybe 5 or 6 years or so ago that I actually started eating pasta (seriously, I don't know what my problem was!) - the first recipe I actually prepared myself to see if I would even like it was actually a carbonara! Nothing like diving in head first, right? It was just a basic spaghetti version, but that night I was hooked and haven't looked back since!
Feel free to use your favorite bacon for the base of this - we used one of our favorite applewood-smoked kind from our local natural foods co-op. Once the diced bacon had crisped up, we drained off all but 2 tablespoons of the intense bacon fat to begin sautéing a couple thinly sliced leeks. If you've never worked with leeks before, be sure to only use the white and pale green parts - the fibrous dark green ends are too tough to work with. Leeks can also be quite sandy or gritty, so be sure to rinse well in between the multiple layers of this veggie.
While those were getting tender, we plunked the little ears of pasta (orrechiette) into boiling salted water and cooked them just until they were tender, yet retained a pleasant bite to them. Don't forget to reserve about a 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water before draining the pasta - I like to do this before I dump the water out because I can't count how many times I've forgotten to put a bowl underneath the colander to collect the liquid! The drained pasta is then tossed into the skillet with the softened leeks.
Now, many recipes have you add the eggs and cheese right into skillet with the pasta - however, unless the temperature is just right, you may end up with little bits of scrambled egg. It won't taste bad, but you don't get that silky-smooth coating you're looking for. To help prevent that from happening, the eggs and cheese are first tempered with a bit of the hot pasta cooking water to slowly bring their temperature up. The warmed eggs are then drizzled over the pasta and the remaining heat in the skillet will finish cooking the rawness out, leaving you with a rich sauce. Finished with the crisp bacon, a smattering of fresh parsley and a bit more fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top, what more could one ask for in this pleasurable pasta dish?