Carbonara, a traditional pasta dish originating in Rome, is one of my personal favourites when it comes to a quick and easy dinner recipe. While the braised pork hock in this variation will need to be cooked the day before, the assembly is super fast and ideal for a quick lunch or dinner pasta dish.
A traditional Carbonara pasta is made using only a hand full of ingredients. Usually, spaghetti noodles are used (though any kind of pasta shape will do the trick), bacon and cheese. Carbonara is more or less defined by the fact that the dish has no real” pasta sauce”. Instead, the sauce is made directly in the pan using raw egg yolks, the rendered bacon fat and (usually) Parmesan cheese to just barely coat the noodles. The dish can then be garnished with whatever ingredients you please. From cherry tomatoes to herbs, and other meats the combinations are endless. Many restaurants will cheat and add cream to the sauce, this helps stabilize the egg and reduces the risk of curdling(scrambling) the yolks in the pan. No one wants a curdled Carbonara pasta! Fortunately making a “true” Carbonara is actually quite simple and if a few simple rules are followed you shouldn’t have to worry about the egg yolks scrambling.
For this variation, I wanted to keep the pork aspect fairly cheap, so I decided to use pork hock. Aside from being cheap , the braising process also yields a wonderfully rich broth which can be used in future soups or sauces.I marinaded the pork hock in some, onion, garlic, paprika, oregano, olive oil, and salt. I let this sit overnight (mainly due to the fact that I started this after “work” and was bone tired) and then placed it in the slow cooker the next day. A lot of my cooking at home is done over the course of a few days (I’m always working one or two days ahead) to ensure I always have something ready to go/use up when I or someone else in the family is hungry.
Along with the marinaded pork hock I chopped up 2 carrots and 2 apples that where going a little soft, placed them all in the slow cooker and then added two liters of this chicken stock that I always have kicking around in either the fridge or freezer. I set the slow cooker to low and then went to work for the day (8 hours in the slow cooker). When I got home, I strained the liquid from the hock, and picked all the meat off the bones. Any fat and bone scrap I saved and simmered them in water to create a broth I can later use in soups.
Before heading to the garden to harvest some fresh chives, I put on the fettuccine to boil in a pot of salted water. I always get sidetracked while outside so the pasta was just finished cooking as I got back in the kitchen. Perfect timing! I quickly put a pan with a knob of butter on medium high heat, and added the warm pork hock meat. The pork by the way, was fall-apart tender. As the pork slowly sizzled away in the butter, I quickly sliced a fresh clove of garlic and added this to the pan. After giving the pan a quick toss to evenly coat the pork in the fat, and spread around the garlic, I add the cooked fettuccini noodles to the pan. If you get a little bit of the noodle water in the pan here that is ok! It will help create the final “sauce”. I then cracked an egg yolk into a shallow dish and after taking the pan of the hot burner (to avoid the egg instantly cooking) I pour it into the middle of the pan. Right away take a fork, spoon, whatever, and stir in the egg yolk. It should create an almost glaze-like sauce the coats everything. If it starts looking a little thick you can add a splash of water to help create a nicer texture. All that’s left is seasoning the pasta with salt and pepper, and then topping the Carbonara with some fresh chive, and grated cheese!
To re-cap the key to making a quick and easy carbonara sauce (that doesn’t curdle in the pan), is to take the pan or pot of the heat before you add your egg yolk!, Having a little noodle water in the pan helps as well, as this gives the egg something to emulsify into instead of having to act as the sole “sauce” agent. Remember, if you do accidentally curdle the yolk, its ok!! The pasta will still taste good, it just won’t be quite as creamy!
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Braised Pork Hock Fettucine Carbonara
- 1 Pork Hock
- 3 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Salt
- 1 Tsp peppercorns
- 1/2 cup Olive or Canola Oil
- 1 small Onion
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 bunch fresh Oregano
- 2 Liters Chicken or Pork Stock
- 2 Carrots -Roughly Diced
- 2 small Apples - Roughly Diced
- 250 grams Fettuccini Pasta
- 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
- 1 Egg yolk
- 1/2 bunch Fresh Chives
- Grated Cheese your preference
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Pork Hock Marinade:
- Combine the small onion(diced), chopped garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, and oil in a bowl with the pork hock. Let sit in the fridge overnight to achieve full flavour potential.
- Braised Pork Hock:
- Roch chop the 2 carrots and apples, and combine in a slow cooker(or pot on the stove). Add the 2 litres of stock and cook on low for 8 hours in the slow cooker. Alternatively, simmer on low for 6 hours on the stove in a covered pot. Once the meat is tender and falls off the bone easily, separate all the meat from the bone/cartilage/fat. Reserve the scrap for future broth making.
- Cook the fettucini noodles for about 7.5 minutes or Al Dente.
- In a pan with butter, saute the braised pork hock and thinly sliced garlic clove. Add the cooked pasta noodles, and a splash of water. Remove the pan from the heat and add the 1 egg yolk. Immediately stir the yolk into the pasta, allowing it to thicken and create a glaze.
- Garnish the pasta with whatever herbs you like(I chose chives), the shredded cheese, and salt and pepper.