This pasta carbonara is an Irish twist on a traditional Italian recipe and your Italian friends may not approve. I add cream because I think it gives a nice richness to the sauce.

The bacon is very important for taste and texture. The key is to put the eggs in towards the end so that they don’t curdle.

Instead of spaghetti you might like to try penne, linguini or tagliatelle.

The meatball pasta bake is really two recipes in one.

Make sure you get quality-assured Irish beef and pork. The meatballs are very good with just a tomato sauce and I always make extra and freeze some.

Instead of spinach you might try chard or rocket. If you have made this ahead and are cooking from the fridge cold give it an extra 10 minutes in the oven.

Happy cooking,



Pasta Carbonara

Serves four

350g (12oz) dried spaghetti

15g (½oz) butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

225g (8oz) rindless pancetta or bacon rashers, cut into lardons

100ml (3 ½fl oz) dry white wine

3 eggs

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan, extra to garnish

150ml (¼ pint) cream

1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, extra torn leaves to garnish

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil and then swirl in the spaghetti. Cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes, or until just tender but still with a little bite – al dente.
  • 2 Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pan over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until softened but not coloured, stirring frequently. Add the pancetta or bacon to the pan and cook for another 8-10 minutes, until crisp and golden, stirring continuously.
  • 3 Pour the wine into the bacon mixture and reduce to about 1 tbsp. Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the Parmesan cheese and cream. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and beat until well combined.
  • 4 Drain the pasta and return it to the pan, then tip in the onions and pancetta. Pour over the beaten egg mixture and add the parsley. Cook gently for 1 minute, until the sauce thickens slightly. Be careful not to overcook the sauce, or the eggs will scramble! Season to taste.
  • 5 To serve, divide among warmed serving bowls and add a good grinding of black pepper to each one. Scatter over a little more Parmesan and parsley to serve.
  • Meatball pasta bake with spinach and mozzarella

    Serves four to six

    225g (8oz) lean minced beef

    225g (8oz) minced pork

    8 cream crackers, crushed into fine crumbs

    1 egg, lightly beaten

    1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

    2 tbsp olive oil, extra for drizzling

    1 onion, finely chopped

    1 celery stick, finely chopped

    1 large garlic clove, crushed

    500ml (18fl oz) passata

    2 tbsp tomato purée small handful of fresh basil leaves, extra to garnish

    350g (12oz) penne pasta

    Knob of butter

    225g (8oz) baby spinach leaves

    100g (4oz) mozzarella, cut into cubes

    25g (1oz) freshly grated Parmesan

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Lightly dressed mixed salad, to serve

  • 1 Place the minced beef and pork in a bowl with the crushed cream crackers, egg and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and using your hands, give everything a good mix.
  • 2 Using slightly wetted hands, make about 20 even-sized balls. Arrange on a flat baking sheet, drizzle over a little olive oil to lightly coat and chill for 1 hour to firm up if time allows.
  • 3 Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion and celery for about 5 minutes, until lightly golden. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring. Add the passata and tomato purée and season to taste. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes, until the sauce has nicely reduced and thickened. Stir in the basil leaves and remove from the heat.
  • 4 Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6). Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Plunge the penne into the boiling salted water and simmer for 6-8 minutes, until almost tender but not quite cooked through. Drain the penne well and return to the pan.
  • 5 Heat the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil in a deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the meatballs for 6-8 minutes, until almost cooked through and nicely browned.
  • 6 Heat the butter in a separate pan. Add one fistful of spinach at a time, adding another as one wilts down. Cook for 1 minute, then tip into a colander to drain. Season to taste.
  • 7 Stir the tomato sauce into the drained penne to coat and then transfer to a 30cm × 20cm (12in × 8in) 5cm (2in) deep ovenproof baking dish. Nestle in small mounds of spinach and arrange the meatballs on top. Scatter over the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  • 8 Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until bubbling. To serve, put the pasta bake straight on the table garnished with the basil leaves.
  • 9 Have a separate big bowl of salad and allow everyone to help themselves.
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