The word Carbonara is in quotations here because I don’t want any nonnas or pasta aficionados coming after me. We know it’s not authentic – an actual carbonara pasta, would have guanciale, two types of cheese (pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano), eggs and pepper…But we wanted to make something similar, with ingredients that can be easily found in any supermarket.
When Nicholas started eating solids, (and I mean real food, not the purees that I had been making him), one of the first things I wanted to make him was spaghetti and meatballs. It was one of my favourite comfort foods when I was younger and I still really enjoy it.
This dish evolved from an eggplant recipe that we made from one of the Ottolenghi cookbooks. It basically called for steaming the crap out of a sliced eggplant, and then seasoning it with a Japanese-style dressing. We made it (or some variation of it) quite a few times because it was tasty, easy to put together. It made for a nice side dish for dinner (e.g. along with rice and pickled vegetables) and leftovers were a good addition to lunch the next day. Lately though, we’ve been using our oven a lot for meal prep and it only made sense to recreate this dish with roasted eggplant. We also ended up making some adjustments to the dressing to suit our preference and married it a Chinese-style ginger-scallion sauce.
We had 3 dinners lined up for Christmas this year, back to back: my sister wanted me to do a 7-course meal, we were going to do our own sushi train (not for the kiddies, but mainly for the adults), followed by a delicious porchetta by Karin. I was the first to go! The meal was supposed to be French with Japanese ingredients, I thought that some of the courses were ok, but most of them needed more work. With 2 kiddies under 4, we were trying our best to pace the dinner properly so that they the bedtimes fit in between courses. I’m not sure if they went well or not since I was pretty full before our main and was ready for bed, but of course I had to stay up and power through for dessert. Dinner started around 4:45 and ended around 12 – one of the longest I’ve been to, and keep in mind I’ve had a 100-course dinner.
I think we’ve mentioned this a few times before, but Megan and I like to plan our meals ahead of time to reduce meal planning decision fatigue (it’s a real thing!). To keep thinks interesting, we try to plan for a variety of different types of cuisine throughout the week: Taco Tuesday, Japanese Wednesday, Indian Thursday, … And while we’re definitely not opposed to eating the same thing every week, we also like to change things up once in a while for a little variety week to week. Our baby boy just turned one and has been reaching for our food more frequently, so a good way to reduce some of our meal prep is to get him to eat what we eat. At this point it’s not too difficult, it just means laying off on the salt and sugar, and making sure the consistency is manageable for him. Okonomiyaki has been a really great option for this! We have also discovered that with something like a pancake, it’s much easier for us to hide his vegetables.