whole wheat orecchiette carbonara with leeks

We've already had to confront the unsafe egg issue last century with tiramisu, but pasta carbonara is even more problematic since there is no guarantee that the traditional carbonara treatment actually neutralizes the risky egg micro-companions. The fact dr bob finally gave in to the statin industry maintenance routine with his genetically high cholesterol (and family history of cardiovascular disease) is another consideration that may have contributed to his resistance towards trying this dish over the years. But Bon Appetit served it up with leeks and orecchiette, two favorite ingredients in our kitchen, so we had to give it a try. Perhaps as a partial compensation for the egg negatives, we did not postpone our experiment till we could buy more pancetta to augment our lonely single thin slice of pancetta on hand in the fridge. In fact for those looser vegetarians for whom eggs are still allowed (lacto-ovovegetarians to be precise), bypassing the pancetta would not be a big deal.

On the other hand our stash of whole wheat orecchiette that we bought in south philly a year earlier was still abundantly stocked,  somehow it escaped our notice hidden in the cupboard. When the pasta was ready to drain, ani spotted a few flour worms that floated to top and sidewall, but bob fumbled the extraction attempt drawing a little shot of her quick temper. We rinsed them well hoping to have parted ways with the little buggers, but who knows. They were pretty thoroughly cooked in any case. We put the remaining uncooked orecchiette in a zip-locked plastic bag and hoped for the best. In ani's defense, it was her excellent kitchen technique that made this dish exceptional. bob can only fake the technique part.

We'll give this another run soon. Why not try it yourself?


2 or 3 thin (say 1/16 in) slices pancetta, diced
a hint of olive oil for the pancetta plus 1 T for the leeks
2 medium leeks, thinly sliced
10 oz pasta (we used 8oz, half the bag)
salt for pasta water
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 c freshly grated parmigiano
1 T chopped fresh parsley
optional freshly grated parmigiano and grated pepper over each serving


  1. Start the pasta water boiling and when bubbling energetically, throw in some salt (judgement call here) and the pasta and start timing when it begins returns to this energetic state. Check the pasta package for a guestimate on the time required.
  2. Sauté the pancetta with a tiny hit of olive oil for lubrication in a nonstick pan over medium heat for a few minutes, then remove from the pan to a paper towel leaving the drippings behind.
  3. Add the leeks and sauté over medium heat until softened, maybe 5 minutes, then set aside.
  4. When the pasta is al dente, drain it (making sure no unintended guests remain) but keep 1/2 c pasta water.
  5. Whisk the eggs and parmigiano together in an appropriately sized bowl and gradually whisk in 1/4 c of the reserved pasta water.
  6. Add the drained pasta to the pot with the leeks and stir to heat briefly over medium heat. Remove from the heat.
  7. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and stir until the eggs are creamy and no longer raw, maybe 2 minutes.
  8. Then return the pot to very low heat and tighten up the liquid consistency a bit. Be careful not to overcook or the eggs will turn ugly on you. If  it gets too dry, use some of the remaining 1/4 c pasta water to loosen it up.
  9. Toss in the pancetta and stir around.
  10. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
  11. Serve with optional cheese (we skipped it) and pepper (we added it) on each serving.


  1. Bon Appetit, March 2008, p.135, orecchiette carbonara with leeks by jeanne thiel kelley. The original recipe called for 4 slices of applewood-smoked bacon but this had to go for two reasons: we'd never heard of applewood smoked anything, and pancetta is more authentically Italian. Normally we use thick sliced pancetta (1/8 in) but in this dish, it seemed better less chunky.
  2. The two of us finished this off easily (no leftovers) with the half pound pasta recipe (8 oz = 1/2 lb). Doubling it to a whole pound, the usual packaging amount for dry pasta in the USA (just a little less than the half kilo packaging in Italy: 1 lb = 0.455 kg), would leave leftovers for a second meal.
  3. Illustrations available.
carbnralk.htm: 26-mar-2008 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]