By Dennis Linden
This month’s associate recipe is a delicious pasta dish submitted by Valentina Soldatini, a graphic designer for Melissa’s Marketing Department. I should really say an “authentic” pasta dish, as Valentina works remotely from Milan, Italy! This recipe is Valentina’s version of a Roman dish called Carbonara. The word is derived from “carbonaro”, which is Italian for “charcoal burner”, however the exact origin of the name and the dish is sketchy at best. Some believe that the dish was first made as a filling meal for Italian coal workers. Carbonara first appeared on menus in Rome during the late stages of WWII, as the combination of bacon, pasta and eggs was a favorite with the U.S. troops who occupied the country. By the early 1950s the dish had become a part of traditional Italian cuisine. Valentina adds her own twist to the classic recipe by including sautéed onions and zucchini to this very tasty one-plate meal.
Quick and easy to prepare, Valentina’s dish is the perfect recipe after a long day at work – be it in an office or a coal mine! The basic ingredients are spaghetti pasta, egg and zucchini tossed with crispy bacon and Parmesan cheese that can be made in about 30 minutes from first dice to first bite! Valentina “Americanizes” her Carbonara by using regular bacon for convenience and cost; but if you really want to be more ethnically-correct use seasoned pancetta bacon instead. Admittedly, when I first read through Valentina’s recipe I was a little skeptical that such a short list of ingredients, so simply prepared, could produce enough flavor to be interesting. Plus, an Italian dish with no garlic? However, this dish turned out to be surprisingly hearty and deliciously satisfying. Lesson learned: never judge a dish by its ingredient count, but rather the flavor on the palate! Try this dish – it is DELIZIOSO!
Valentina Soldatini worked at Melissa’s corporate office complex in Los Angeles for just six months in 2016 on a work visa before having to return to her native Milan because of some family issues. Her work made such a good impression in her short tenure that the company asked if she would be interested in continuing the relationship from Italy.
“Actually, being back in Italy has been instrumental in expanding my role beyond the drawing table and computer. Besides doing my graphic art assignments, I have also done some field research, discovering local sources and new products as well as being a local conduit helping the company with our Italian clients. For example, last February I visited a farming operation near Venice to solidify a relationship between Melissa’s and a radicchio supplier. The experience has been really interesting and I have learned a lot about the business of international fresh produce. Who would have thought?”
When her workday is done, Valentina enjoys taking dance classes with a group of close friends. She cherishes being back home with her large extended family, who are also located in Milan and the surrounding area as her father was born only 40 miles away. She shares her home with two sisters, Dachshund sisters that is, who she says are more like living with a 24/7 comedy act as they keep her laughing just watching them.
“Right now I’m also studying fashion design, which is forcing me to hone my drawing skills in order to depict my ideas accurately. My dream is to have my own clothing collection someday. Of course, that would be while still working for Melissa’s too!”
Simple, quick, delicious and Italian – who could ask for more – thank you, Valentina!
Carbonara with Organic Zucchini
3 Organic Zucchini, diced
1 medium Onion, minced
4 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
14 oz. spaghetti noodles, cooked al dente
4 eggs (4 yolks and 2 egg whites)
About 12 slices of bacon, cut in 1” pieces
Parmesan cheese, to taste
Cook bacon until crispy, set aside. Cook the spaghetti “al dente” then drain and set aside. Chef’s warning: Do not break spaghetti, please – it’s very bad luck!
Beat the egg yolks and whites in a bowl, set aside
Sauté minced onion in a large pan. Once the onions begin to turn translucent, add the zucchini and sauté for about 5 minutes until tender. Careful not to burn zucchini -- add a little water if needed. Then add the cooked pasta and egg mixture into the pan and sauté until it reaches a creamy texture.
Place the pasta mixture in a large bowl and toss with the bacon pieces. Serve individually sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese and fresh black pepper. Enjoy!