This is one of the first things I learnt to cook as a student, a version of carbonara that is not in the least bit authentic but is delicious nonetheless. I’ve added some asparagus because it’s a great partner for any kind of cured ham or bacon, as well as cream and cheese and, since the British stuff is only available for a couple more weeks I’m making the most of it.
Once again I bought everything from the tiny Tesco’s round the corner. And, even though I’ve been really surprised, and encouraged, by its stock and the recipe possibilities, I can’t say I’m sorry to have reached the end of this experiment. I get great pleasure from my Greek-Cypriot corner shop, from Waitrose and from the local fishmonger’s and limiting myself to one place has been a bit soul-destroying. If this week has taught me anything it’s that, yes, it’s possible to survive on the food available in a Tesco’s Express but why would you want to?
Asparagus carbonara for two
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
1 medium white or red onion
1 clove garlic
Couple of tablespoons of olive oil or a knob of butter
Sea salt and black pepper
100g asparagus (tips or spears)
4 slices prosciutto (or rashers of streaky bacon if you prefer)
100g Parmesan or Cheddar
200ml crème fraîche
1. Peel and chop the onion and garlic into small pieces. Slice the mushrooms and tear the prosciutto up into bite-sized pieces (or cut the bacon up). Prep the asparagus spears (if you’re not using tips) by snapping off the woody ends then grate the cheese.
2. Heat the oil/butter in a medium saucepan or frying pan and, when it’s warm, add the onion and garlic. Cook over a medium heat until softened but not browned. If you’re using bacon instead of prosciutto cook it with the garlic and onion.
3. While the onion and garlic are cooking, steam the asparagus for about 3-5 minutes until a fork slides into them and their bright green colour has turned a little sludgy. The fresher the asparagus the quicker it will cook so keep an eye on it. Drain.
4. Add the mushrooms to the onion and garlic and sauté until soft.
5. Add the cream to the mushroom mixture and stir in. Leave it to heat up and start to thicken and bubble. At the same time bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi until they rise to the surface. This usually takes about two minutes. Drain and keep warm.
6. Finally, add the prosciutto, asparagus and half the cheese to the creamy sauce and stir until just combined. Season to taste and then either toss the gnocchi in the pan with the sauce before dividing into bowls or put the gnocchi in bowls and pour over the sauce. Finish with the rest of the grated cheese and salt and pepper.