Mushroom Carbonara

In just 30 minutes or less, you can create this classic variation of carbonara for your busy family. The mushrooms lend an earthy feel to this simple, yet elegant cuisine. Even though it only contains a few ingredients, the dish comes together perfectly.

History of Carbonara

Any Italian-American will tell you that carbonara wasn’t something fed to them by their grandparents. That’s because no one cooked until at least the 1940s. During that time, it showed up in Rome once the Allies got rid of the German forces from the war. As they distributed rations to hungry Italians, the food included massive portions of powdered eggs and bacon.

As Americans returned home from the war, they brought new recipes of carbonara back to the States with them.

Carbonara stands for “in the manner of coal miners.” The origin appears to be from a Roman restaurant by the same name, Carbonara. It might have also earned its name from the black pepper specks that look like coal dust in creamy eggs, pasta and cheese.

There’s also some speculation that it might have been a dish dating back to the early 1800s, but there’s no proof. People say it was named after the Carbonari, from this time. This group was a secret Italian society that worked to unify the country.

Unique Characteristics of Carbonara

The classic version of carbonara is constructed from starchy water, pasta, eggs and salty pork products like bacon, guanciale or pancetta. The cheese used in most carbonara dishes includes Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano or both. While spaghetti appears to be the most common option, recipes often call for bucatini, linguine, rigatoni and fettuccine as well.

Mushroom Carbonara Recipe

Total Time: 30 min.

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups uncooked mostaccioli
  • 8 bacon strips, diced
  • 1 jar (4-1/2 ounces) whole mushrooms, drained
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 6 to 8 drops hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions

Step 1

Cook mostaccioli according to package directions.

Step 2

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove to paper towels to drain. Brown mushrooms in drippings; remove to paper towels. Drain drippings from pan.

Step 3

Add the cream, butter, parsley, garlic, pepper sauce and salt if desired to the skillet; cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Drain mostaccioli; add to cream mixture. Stir in the bacon, mushrooms and cheese; heat through. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with green onions.

Check out this video recipe out of the Bon Appetit kitchen.

Here is also a vegetarian combination worth looking into if you don’t want the meat included.

Variations

It’s simple to alter the ingredients to this dish and turn it into something tailored for your family. A simple adjustment would be to add some more hot sauce to heighten the kick.

You could also opt to include other types of meat, such as diced chicken or kielbasa. If you enjoy fresh herbs in your Italian cooking, throw in some tarragon, rosemary or basil.

Making this into a lower-fat meal is also possible. Just use fat-free half and half plus some chicken broth to add flavor.  If you plan to add more sauce, you’ll want a tubular-shaped pasta like penne or rigatoni.

Vegetables are also an essential addition, especially if you are trying to get little ones to eat more greens. Consider incorporating green peas and broccoli for some additional color.

Enjoy the Meal

When a hearty Italian meal is what you are after, but you don’t want a typical spaghetti sauce, then you’ll love mushroom carbonara. This creamy pasta dish is a crowd-pleaser, so make sure you cook plenty.