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Feb 26, 2011 08:13 AM

need a chef's advice - pasta carbonara/ cacio e pepe/ mac n cheese cookoff idea

I am signed up for a mac'n'cheese cook off at my local bar. My idea is to create an italian inspired carbonara-cacio e pepe style mac n cheese offering. Black pepper, parmigiano, and al dente pasta is a winning combination imo. Add a bit of smoked bacon and egg to the mix and it will take it over the top.

What I'd like to include is:
-Applewood smoked bacon
-2 or three white cheeses such as parmigiano/asiago/pecorino/grana
-a bunch of coarse ground black pepper

I guess essentially it will be a very cheesy peppery version of carbonara so that it will be considered a mac n cheese.

I will be making a big hotel pan of this stuff. I'm concerned about the safety - the eggs are technically "cooked" from the heat of the pasta by turning off the heat of the pan and adding the eggs and cheese to the pasta. It's always been a tug of war for me to cook the eggs to a safe temperature without the eggs coagulating from the heat. For this I am cooking for the public, not for my guests in my kitchen so I'm very concerned about food safety with the eggs. Is there a way to ensure the eggs are cooked besides wishful thinking? Is there a way to "denature" the eggs before adding so that they can withstand a high heat temperature and get cooked? Do I need to use some kind of pasteurized eggs?


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  1. I can't speak for the science of eggs.......but i would suggest you use a mini version of penne

    1. Have you considered using the eggs to create a custard sauce that you could toss the pasta with at the end? That way you wold have your eggs without the concern you are expressing about doneness. I have to say you are straying very far from the traditional cacio e pepe with so many cheese, let alone the bacon and eggs, so you might want to reconsider the name. To keep it a little more Italian, why not use pancetta? Good luck, it sounds like fun.

      5 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        Thank you. I want to use applewood smoked bacon (rather than pancetta or guanciale) because I've used it before when making carbonara and I actually liked it better.

        I agree my idea is definitely not cacio e pepe - it is just influenced by it.

        I'd like to learn more of this custard sauce - what were you thinking?

        1. re: brickscoli

          My thought was you could make a basic savory custard with cream and eggs and then add cheeses or make a cream and cheese sauce and beat in the eggs. I'm sure there is an official name for what I'm talking about and hope someone will jump in and let me know if this makes sense.

          1. re: escondido123

            Mornay sauce = white sauce with egg, cheese, and usually onion.

            1. re: greygarious

              Mornay sauce does not have egg or onion in it classically.

              1. re: chefj

                My mornay sauce does not have onion in it.

      2. Just use pasteurized eggs and you will not have the worry. Or make your B├ęchamel sauce the way you make pastry cream. The starch from the flour will keep the eggs from curdling.
        Of course you will be testing your recipes before entering them in the contest.
        Good luck

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          This sounds interesting - a bechamel sauce the way you make pastry cream. How do I do this? I've never made bechamel or pastry cream. Thanks!

          1. re: brickscoli

            First off you should look these up so you do know and you will find better more well thought out explanations than I can provide you. They are both very classical and should be easy to find.

        2. - Penne - Be sure to use a rigate so the sauce adheres.
          - Applewood smoked bacon - hmmm, I'm thinking rendered pancetta would be best. Although maybe a hint of smoked paprika for some subtle flavor?
          - parmigiano/asiago/pecorino/grana - while all good cheeses, I would try to incorporate some kind of mild melting cheese (cacio cavallo, talegio) and maybe finish the top off with one of the hard grating cheeses so it can brown nicely.

          If you want to get away from the egg worries, perhaps you could make a nice thick bechamel with the softer melting cheeses and stir in with the pasta?

          I don't .02

          1 Reply
          1. re: Novelli

            the move to incorporate a mild melting cheese like talegio is fantastic, thanks.

          2. I would switch to bechamel. One of the few things I've ever gotten food poisoning from is bad carbonara, because of the eggs, as you surmise.