I absolutely loooove risotto and pasta carbonara is one of my all-time favorite things to order when I’m in Italian restaurants. When you think about it there are some parallels – a silky, rich sauce; deceptively simple preparations; classic Italian fare.
I’m not sure exactly when I started thinking about combining the two dishes, but I know that the source of the lemon was a glorious lunch at Isabella’s a few months ago. Lemon gnocchi prepared carbonara style with a crispy poached egg and thickly cut pieces of bacon - heaven! A plan was hatched and I started practicing my risotto and carbonara skills with this dish in mind. Side note: I’m also dying to know how they made that egg so crispy but still soft in the middle….
Purists will surely shake their heads over the addition of lemon and peas to something called carbonara, but I’m banking on the risotto - which has many, many variations - as my cover for taking liberties. This recipe is easily a meal in itself perfect with a little salad and a glass of white wine.
Lemon Risotto Carbonara with Green Peas (serves: 4 entrée portions)
2 cups Arborio rice
7-8 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/3 pound slab bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
10 ounce package frozen green peas
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the chicken stock in a medium sauce pan until just below a simmer, reduce heat to keep the stock warm, but not boiling.
Meanwhile, dice the slab bacon into 1/4 inch strips and sauté in a large dutch oven over medium-low heat until crispy and browned, 7-10 minutes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Reduce the heat to low and melt the olive oil and unsalted butter into the remaining bacon fat. Sprinkle the Arborio rice into the dutch oven and stir to coat in the melted butter and olive oil. Cook the rice for 2-3 minutes, stirring occassionally before adding the white wine and lemon juice (zest the lemon before juicing!).
Once the white wine and lemon juice have been absorbed and the pot has been deglazed, add 1 ladle of the hot chicken stock to the rice. Stir until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding another ladleful. While the rice is cooking, beat the eggs in a small bowl and grate the parmesan cheese.
Continue the process of adding the stock and stirring. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente, about 20-25 minutes, and creamy sauce has formed. The consistency should be thick, but not stiff, almost pourable, but not runny. It’s a fine line!
When the last ladle of chicken stock has been absorbed turn off the heat and stir in the beaten eggs and grated parmesan cheese until well combined. The sauce will thicken slightly and turn a pale yellow.
Finally, while the risotto is still quite warm stir in the frozen peas (no need to defrost) and give it a final seasoning of the lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of the crispy slab bacon pieces. Enjoy!
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, even though you will need two pots. I used a 2 quart sauce pan and surprise surprise, my trusty blue 5.5qt Le Creuset French oven. I also needed a small cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring cups, wooden spatula, and microplane grater (excellent for both the cheese and the lemon zest.)
Carbonara can sometimes be a little much - egg, AND parmesan, AND bacon - so for me the lemon and green peas help balance the richness and reduce my guilt over devouring a healthy portion. The other part I like about cooking this recipe is that while Lemon Risotto Carbonara is fairly easy, there’s just enough fussing (not too much, after all this is practically a one-pot meal) to inspire my inner chef. Cooking risotto takes some practice and if you need additional advice on how to master the technique I’d recommend this great guide on The Kitchn.