Pasta carbonara — richly cheesy, creamy and studded with crisped pancetta — is easily one of the most comforting of pasta dishes. The only trouble is, with the onset of warmer weather, we tend to crave salads more than steaming bowls of pasta. So for this recipe, we decided to have it both ways.
We borrowed the key ingredients from pasta carbonara — right down to the eggy sauce and savory pancetta — but remade them as a picnic-worthy pasta salad. Every bit as delicious as the traditional dish, but far more refreshing on a hot day.
And as with most pasta salads, this one is easily adjusted and added to. Sliced sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, roasted red peppers, even blanched asparagus all would make fine additions.
Carbonara Pasta Salad
Start to finish: 30 minutes
16 ounces gemelli or rotini pasta
9 ounces finely chopped pancetta
1 cup fresh peas
3 egg yolks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup mild olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain well, then spread on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool. Add the peas to the skillet and cook just until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the pancetta and allow to cool.
While everything cools, make the dressing. In a blender or a medium bowl with a whisk, combine the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, vinegar and lemon juice. In a slow stream, add the oil, whisking or blending until thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta, pancetta, peas, dressing, Parmesan and scallions. Toss well. For best flavor, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Nutrition information per serving: 560 calories; 270 calories from fat (48 percent of total calories); 30g fat (10g saturated; 0g trans fats); 110mg cholesterol; 48g carbohydrate; 3g fiber; 3g sugar; 20g protein; 810mg sodium.