Giada De Laurentiis Uses Pumpkin For The Most Comforting Carbonara

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Pasta carbonara is a traditional Roman dish that evokes strong opinions. For a purist, it is made up of only five very high-quality ingredients — spaghetti, guanciale, pecorino Romano, egg yolks, and black pepper. However, Giada De Laurentiis is not a purist. She cares about using great products, especially when it comes to simple dishes, but she is not afraid to riff and substitute to create something delicious, like in Giada De Laurentiis' panzanella salad.

Carbonara is a popular dish, and De Laurentiis has several recipes. Some are made with short pastas like fusilli, capricci, or penne and substitute bacon or pancetta for the guanciale. She even has versions that add in fresh tender herbs, walnuts, cream, chicken, asparagus, lemon, and cayenne pepper. Clearly, this Italian chef likes to get creative, and her pumpkin carbonara fits the bill.


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♬ Dancing In The Moonlight – 苏颜悦

It is rich, creamy, super easy to put together, and sure to satisfy your cold-weather cravings. For the pasta, De Laurentiis chooses a spaghetti-like noodle. For the base of the sauce, onions and garlic are sauteed in the fat of rendered pancetta. Separately, she blends canned pumpkin puree with eggs, pecorino Romano, nutmeg, black pepper, and chicken broth. Everything gets added to the pan along with parmesan cheese and pasta water — and is tossed together until smooth and emulsified.

Tips for getting a smooth and creamy pumpkin carbonara sauce

The trick to making carbonara creamy without the addition of milk or heavy cream is egg yolks. In order to make sure that the eggs do not curdle, bring them up to room temperature before incorporating them into the pumpkin mixture. If you are nervous about accidentally making scrambled eggs, Giada De Laurentiis' recipe is a great one to try. The blend of pumpkin puree, egg, cheese, and broth is much more stable than the traditional egg yolk and pecorino Romano mixture. In this case, you can relax a little because of your pumpkin insurance.

Still, the curdling risk zone is when you are combining the sauce with the pasta in the pan. That is why it is best to cut the heat while you toss everything together. If you find that the pumpkin mixture brought the temperature down too much, you can put the heat back on very low. Just make sure to stir constantly, and add pasta water if the sauce gets too thick.

Ingredient substitutions that make sense

Spaghetti is classic, but any long pasta like linguine, bucatini, or mafaldine will work. Short pasta like rigatoni, gemelli, or a medium-sized shell would also be great. You want a pasta shape that will allow the sauce to cling on well, but not too small or thin that it gets overwhelmed, so avoid something like orecchiette, ditalini, or capellini. Keep in mind that the addition of pumpkin makes this carbonara a little weightier, so pasta with a bit of tooth is best.

When it comes to your cured meat, Giada De Laurentiis is a fan of pancetta, which is cured Italian pork belly. It tastes similar to American bacon, but it is more delicate and fatty and is not smoked. Guanciale, which is traditional in carbonara, is also not smoked but often includes spices and herbs. It is intensely porky, fatty, and salty. If you can get your hands on it, guanciale definitely adds a unique decadence. Bacon can be used instead, but it will introduce smokiness to the dish. For a vegetarian take, deeply seared mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted zucchini, or a scoop of miso paste can replicate that depth of flavor.

As for the pumpkin, any brand will do, but just make sure that it is pure pumpkin puree with no added sugar or seasonings. You can also use pureed winter squash or sweet potatoes instead — simply steam or roast them in the oven before blending everything in a food processor or blender.

Lean into the fall vibes

Use Giada De Laurentiis' pumpkin carbonara as a base for other delicious fall flavors. Add fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage to the sauteed onions and garlic, so the flavors can bloom in the fat and permeate the whole dish. In one warm and comforting version of the dish, De Laurentiis uses cinnamon to upgrade carbonara — she adds a dash once the pancetta has been cooked.

If you want to make this dish more vegetable-heavy, consider sauteeing thinly shaved Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, or spinach in with the garlic and onions, or fold in cubes of roasted butternut squash at the end. Fried sage leaves or shallots make a tasty and pretty garnish, as do candied walnuts, pecans, or pepitas for a sweet and toasty touch.

Of course, to double down on the pumpkin not just in taste but in appearance as well, opt for zucchette pasta — Trader Joe's carries a version that is also available online. These bite-sized noodles look like tiny pumpkins with an open top that is perfect for capturing that luscious sauce.