If you can make fettucini carbonara, spaghetti carbonara…why not rice? The essence of carbonara is the pancetta/bacon, cheese, salt & pepper, and raw egg thrown in at the last minute to cook ever so briefly, not the pasta itself.
I felt like spaghetti was not a good substitute for fettucini when it comes to carbonara, so I decided to do rice. Wehani rice (whole grain, red/brown rice, how fiberful). Wehani rice is nice because it has a chewy texture, reddish color, and a moist, flavorful center.
The end result was a slightly sophisticated dish, like an elevated version of what my mom ingloriously used to call “Tuna Glop” (rice/cheese/milk/tuna/mushrooms/onions or something like that). I know, that sounds awful, but don’t let it turn you off. Some of the ingredients I used are a little rare, but you could substitute as you see fit. In the honor of the romance of Italy, I’d say this is probably the love child of risotto and carbonara.
To be honest, I was a little wary of cooking with squash blossoms because of my parents’ reports that they “taste funky” and are best “battered with egg and deep fried”. With the ham and onions and everything in a creamy sauce, though, they taste awesome. Thanks to Anthony Bourdain’s episode on Rome for spiking my curiosity on this one, because it’s really awesome. The squash blossoms are super tender with a slight but not overpowering squashy flavor and an absolutely gorgeous color to add to any dish! Fettucini alfredo with squash blossoms? Yes pleaseeeee. I intend to eat many squash blossoms now before their season runs out!
Slightly Healthy Riso Carbonara
- 1 cup wehani brown rice, cooked according to package directions (1 cup rice, 2 cups water, bring to a boil, simmer for 40 minutes or so)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 12 slices Canadian bacon or other salty pork product (pancetta, bacon, ham), cut into strips
- 1 bunch maitake mushrooms, chopped roughly (flavor is somewhere in between standard US store mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms in terms of pungency, you could substitute crimini)
- Salt, red pepper (I used Korean red pepper), and a dash of garlic powder to taste
- 1/3 red onion, finely diced
- 12 leaves fresh basil
- a few sprigs fresh parsley (minced up with the basil)
- 10 squash blossoms, sliced up into rings
- 1 cup fresh shelled green peas
- 1/3 cup skim milk
- 3 wedges Laughing Cow cheese (swiss or french onion flavor), or 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan if you’ve got it. Just some cheese, preferably of a white zingy variety.
- 1 whole raw egg
Cook the rice, as stated above. Set it aside and let it cool.
Melt the butter in a big frying pan. On high heat, add the mushrooms, onions, and ham along with the salt, red pepper, and garlic powder. Stir frequently until browned. Turn down the heat to medium low. (I use the Korean red pepper because it’s slightly but not too spicy and comes in nice big flakes which add good color to dishes. For salt, I usually pick kosher or sea salt.)