Oh if there was ever a pasta dish you need in your life it’s this Spicy Pasta and Crab Carbonara with Burrata. An irresistible twist on the Italian classic with succulent chunks of jumbo lump crab lingering in the silky smooth sauce with spaghetti, crispy bacon, creamy burrata, nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh herbs. Plus, it’s on the table in 30 minutes.
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What you’ll need…
There is a variety of ways to approach carbonara recipes. I clearly took some liberty by adding a pound of jumbo lump crab because, hey, why not?! However, there are some things vital to the dish that are well worth noting.
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
- Pasta – Long cut pasta like spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine and bucatini are favored for carbonara recipes based on how the sauce completely coats and clings to the noodles. However, if you only have shells, rigatoni or penne in the pantry still go for it.
- Bacon – Rendering the fat of thick-cut bacon or pancetta is a key component to the sauce and its added flavor. In Italy, guanciale (pork cheek) is the traditional go-to, but it’s not all that easy to find around here.
- Eggs – I used a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks for the base of the sauce. They’re whisked with the parm and lots of black pepper then ultimately tossed with the hot pasta. The heat of the pasta cooks the egg mixture just enough to create a rich, creamy sauce.
- Cheese – I’m sure there are folks out there who have a strong opinion on which cheese to include. The two most popular are Parmigiano-Reggiano, which I used, and Pecorino-Romano. Parmesan has a sharper flavor than the milder Romano. Go with what you like and even combine the two. The burrata acts as more of a garnish and added before serving, which gives the carbonara even more creamy indulgence.
- Spices/Herbs – Black pepper has a strong presence in carbonara as a symbol of the Italian charcoal workers who are said to have been the first to make the dish (click here for more history of possible origins). I added a good pinch of crushed red pepper to kick things up a bit but it is completely optional. Tossing in fresh basil and parsley at the end just seems like a no-brainer.
How to Make Pasta Carbonara
This recipe comes together rather quickly so it’s smart to have your ingredients prepped before firing up the stove. Also, this dish will put your multi-tasking skills to good use as timing is key when it comes to putting it all together at the end.
While you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil for the pasta, start rendering the bacon or pancetta in a large, heavy skillet. When the bacon is almost done, I tossed in some shallots and garlic for extra flavor. And as the bacon gets happy, you can whisk up the egg and cheese mixture in a large bowl to have on standby for when it’s ready to be married with the pasta and bacon.
When the pasta is done, it will head to the skillet on low heat to get tossed and coated with the bacon, shallots and garlic. Then the eggs join the party and tossed continuously for 1-2 minutes so the hot pasta cooks the egg mixture until you have a glistening, glossy, creamy sauce.
Now as you may imagine, there are ways things can go wrong, keeping you from achieving the silky sauce result you want. But fear not! Here are tips for foolproof carbonara:
- Cook the pasta al dente according to package instructions to allow the carryover cooking in the skillet bring the pasta to the perfect tenderness without coming mushy.
- Reserve some of the starchy water prior to draining the pasta in order to temper the egg mixture before pouring it into the skillet with the pasta and bacon. This will help prevent the eggs from scrambling.
- Make sure the skillet is on very low heat before adding the eggs. Again, another measure to avoid scrambled carbonara.
- Once the eggs are in the skillet, use some elbow grease to toss the pasta quickly and continuously to get that luscious sauce consistency. Super easy once you get the hang of it.
- Add the crab at the end so those beautiful hunks don’t completely fall apart during the tossing process.
As we are now just moments from the finish line, the pasta, bacon, eggs, cheese and crab have all happily become one and it’s time to put this carbonara over the top. Torn pieces of burrata are nestled around the skillet for extra creaminess and a generous sprinkling of green onion, basil and parsley give it a little extra pop.
Finish it off with another handful of fresh parm, a few churns from the peppermill and a drizzle of olive oil. How I so wish we still had leftovers. Hope you give it a try and let me know how it goes! Cheers to the weekend, friends!! xx, Kim
More Delicious Comfort Food for Spring
Spicy Pasta and Crab Carbonara with Burrata
- 12 ounces spaghetti , linguine or other long-cut pasta
- ½ pound thick cut bacon , cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 shallots , diced (about ¾ cup)
- 4 large garlic cloves , minced (about 1 ½ tablespoons)
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- ⅓ cup dry white wine or sherry
- 2 large eggs plus 4 egg yolks , room temperature
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano , plus extra for serving
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 pound jumbo lump crab meat , picked over removing any cartilage
- 2 tablespoons each fresh basil and parsley , chopped, plus extra for garnish
- 4 ounces burrata , torn into pieces
- 3 green onions , thinly sliced on bias
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When boiling, generously season with salt, add pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water before draining.
- Meanwhile, heat a large, high-rimmed skillet over medium heat.
- Add bacon and cook until browned and the fat has just about rendered, about 7 minutes.
- Stir shallots, garlic and crushed red pepper into bacon and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add white wine or sherry and let reduce for 2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low to keep skillet warm.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks and parmesan until well combined. Season generously with black pepper and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Transfer hot pasta to skillet with bacon, shallots and garlic. Toss until well coated.
- Stir the reserved starchy pasta water into bowl with egg mixture to temper the eggs.
- Pour tempered egg mixture into skillet over the pasta and stir continuously for 1-2 minutes until it has a cream sauce consistency.
- Stir crab and fresh herbs into pasta.
- Serve from skillet or transfer to a large serving platter, and top with burrata, green onions, extra parm and fresh herbs.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!
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