I was flipping through The Flavor Bible, looking for ways to use my excessive zucchini harvest, and I noticed several flavors I love being highly recommended, including thyme, parmesan, cream, and black pepper. Wait a minute! Those plus bacon (which makes everything better) are all the flavors that make the classic pasta carbonara sauce!
Surely I could make something of that! So I did.
Carbonara is an Italian classic. It's also a process that is extremely time sensitive, so make sure you read the whole recipe, and get everything prepped and ready, so you don't end up with some sort of zucchini and scrambled egg mess...
1/4poundBaconthick sliced, preferably applewood smoked. Get the good stuff from the butcher, not the cheap stuff in the plastic package
1bunchThymeif you grow your own or get it from a local farmer, it's probably blooming during zucchini season, which makes things extra-pretty. Yes, you can eat the flowers.
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Put a large pot of water over medium-high heat. It'll take a while to boil, so get it going early. Also, put a colander over a large bowl and set aside.
Cut the stem and flower ends off of the zucchini. Quarter them lengthwise, then cut out the pulpy/seedy cores. Slice the quarters on a bias into pieces about 3/8 inch wide.
Grate the parmesan into a bowl.
Strip the thyme leaves (and flowers if you're fortunate) from the stems (I find it easiest to hold the top/narrow end of a stem, and slide my finger tips down the stem to remove the leaves, then pinch the end I'm holding). Save a few sprigs for garnish.
Start the sauce and pasta
Lightly whisk the egg yolks until they merge together. Add the cream, and whisk to combine. Add about half of the parmesan, and stir with a rubber scraper.
The water should be boiling now, so salt the water and add pasta
Cook and flavor the zucchini
Heat a large, preferably cast iron, skillet over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, add the bacon. Cook until dark brown and crispy.
Remove the bacon to a couple of paper towels to drain. Leave the rest of the bacon grease in the pan.
Dump the zucchini into the pan, and season liberally with pepper. Sprinkle the thyme leaves, and stir/toss everything so all of the zucchini is lightly coated with grease, pepper, and thyme. Saute until the zucchini is softened, but remains al dente. Meanwhile, chop/break the bacon into small pieces.
Put it together
Here's where time is of the essence. Call everyone to the table, and set out your bowls. Carbonara waits for no one!
The pasta and zucchini should be done at about the same time. Drain the pasta into the bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. Return it to the pot, then quickly dump in the skillet of zucchini. Pour in the bowl of egg and cheese, and a splash or two of the pasta water, and stir quickly. You must move fast to avoid scrambled eggs! While still stirring, toss in the rest of the cheese, then slowly add a bit more pasta water until the sauce becomes shiny and smooth.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the bacon bits, and serve immediately, with a sprig or two of thyme to garnish.
Carbonara does not make good leftovers. Nonetheless, keep a bit of the pasta water, so you can mix it in if you reheat it later.