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Trader Joe’s Benwheels

February 21, 2010

My friend Ben thinks <a href=””>this recipe</a> for pizza pinwheels is the most delicious thing on Earth. So I started thinking of them as Benwheels. There is no way to do this badly. You don’t have to use two balls of pizza dough. The last time we made them, I used only a ball of the herbed dough, so of course, then I needed only half a jar of the bruschetta. I’ve also used a variety of types of sausage. I’ve topped them with Parmesan, mozzarella, or Romano. They’re always delicious. They also made a great side for one of my favorite pasta dishes, spaghetti alla carbonara.

I learned when looking at various carbonara recipes that alla carbonara means “coal worker’s style.” The reason why is unclear, but the most fun is that it’s related to the Carbonari. I decided to add some diced onion this time around, and it worked out really well. Here’s my version:

1 pound spaghetti (hearty, real spaghetti–wimpy angel hair just doesn’t have the Carbonari soul)
egg substitute or pasteurized eggs
Romano cheese (sprinkle the rest on the Benwheels!)
4 oz package of pancetta (also got this at Trader Joe’s)
small onion

You might notice I’m not a big fan of measurements. I don’t think you ever learn to cook for yourself if you only follow recipes to the letter. Use as much onion as you like. Or leave the onion out altogether. Love cheese? Add lots of cheese! This is the sort of recipe where quantities just aren’t that important. Sure, somebody will probably tell you, “That’s not real carbonara!” But if it’s tasty, does that matter?

First, get the noodles boiling. Don’t forget them, though. There’s nothing sadder than limp noodles, and few things make my mouth quite as happy as perfectly al dente pasta.

The night I did these together, I had cooked the sausage for the Benwheels earlier, so I used that pan and the delicious coating of sausage grease to saute the onions and pancetta. But you don’t need it. Just cook them over medium to medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes until the onions are getting clear, and the pancetta is looking cooked.

Drain the pasta. Now you have two choices. The authentic way would be to add the pasta to the pancetta pan and toss with the egg and cheese. I go the other direction since my pasta pot is far bigger than the pan, and there’s less likelihood of a big mess. So dump the pasta back in the pot. I leave it on the same burner, but turn the burner off. Pour the pancetta and onions in, then pour some egg substitute over it or crack a few eggs in. Use tongs or a spaghetti spoon to toss it quickly so the egg coats the noodles and cooks.

Crack pepper over the top and enjoy!

Side note–You can use regular eggs, of course, rather than the pasteurized ones or the egg substitute. I had a mother who was always warning of the salmonella dangers of raw egg, and it stuck. So however narrow the risk, I just can’t do raw eggs. I have a recipe to re-create Olive Garden salad dressing that also uses raw eggs. It would be a great way to use this recipe’s leftovers. I may be misremembering where I found it, but I’m pretty sure that the site it came from has taken out the egg and replaced it with mayonnaise.

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