Thursday, 3 April 2008

Pizza carborana (Καρμπονάρα ελληνική)

I know my mother loves me, but I sometimes wonder why she cooks food that she knows we don't like. She's always sticking little green bits or big brown pieces into our food, even though I tell her I don't like coloured bits and pieces in my food. She says that I don't have to eat them, but I mustn't complain; I'm allowed to push them to the side of my plate.

When mum gives me a choice about what I can eat so that she can cook it, I always tell her I want makaronia. I love makaronia, whatever shape and size they come in. I've had long thin makaronia, long thick makaronia with holes in the middle, long wide makaronia with no holes, shell-shaped makaronia, twisty-ties, bowties, spirals, wheels, short thick tubes and trumpet-shaped makaronia, makaronia the size of rice grains, alphabet makaronia, number makaronia... the list goes on. If I go to the supermarket with her, she lets me choose whatever shape makaronia I want, and I always choose a different one each time. But she always warns me: "Are you sure about what you're buying, because you're going to have to eat it, and I don't want to throw away good food and money." So I always make sure to buy something I'd like to eat because she'll make me eat it anyway. My favorite makaronia are the multi-coloured ones.

When Mum's in the kitchen cooking, she doesn't like being bothered, so I go and watch a DVD or play on my computer until she's finished. When the makaronia are ready, she tells me to come into the kitchen because it's time to eat. I get my fork and cup, and fetch my tea-towel. Then I wait until she brings me the plate to the table. (I'm only six and my hands are like buttered fingers.)

But when the makaronia come to the table, they never look like the makaronia I chose. I can hardly see them swimming in the gunk she cooked them in. Sometimes there's an oily red sauce covering them which leaves me with a moustache; other times they have yellow fluffy bits that make stringy lines when you pick them up with a fork. Today they had little green strips and soft brown things in them, even though I've told her a million times I don't like green and brown things in them. And she put them in the oven - makaronia only come out of a pot (sometimes I think dad is right when he says she can never cook the same meal twice).

Whenever I tell her that I just want plain makaronia, she says I can't have them just plain boiled. "Why?" I ask her. "Because," she says, people don't eat them that way, you have to put something on them, otherwise it's like eating just plain bread." When I tell her that we eat Chinese makaronia just plain as they are, she reminds me: "Only when we go to London," and then she says "Well, I've cooked now, and that's all there is to eat, unless you want to cook something else yourself." When I tell her I don't want the green and brown things, she says I can just push them onto the side of my plate, and eat just the makaronia. At times like this, I wonder why she bothered to cook the makaronia with all those other bits if she knew I was simply going to push them to the side of the plate and eat just the makaronia. She may as well have cooked just some red, white and green makaronia, and it would have looked the same as this carbonara stuff she says she made.

My recipe for makaronia is really simple: just boil your favorite pasta shapes, drain them in a colander, and sprinkle some grated cheese over them on your plate. She only lets me eat them like this when she makes a brown crumbly oily sauce for makaronia that dad likes. She never eats it herself, which is extremely rare for my mother: she eats everything.

Anyhow, the makaronia tasted really good. I ate the whole plate (except for the green and brown things). I told her afterwards that they were really good. "Mama, who taught you how to cook makaronia in the oven?" I asked her. "I found a recipe on the internet, dear," she told me. So that's what she's been doing for hours on the computer: learning how to cook makaronia.

To make carbonara pizza, you need:
500g thick'n'holey pasta shapes (trompetini work very well)
2-3 tablespoons of oil
5-6 strips of bacon, chopped small
1 large onion, chopped small
2 cloves of garlic, minced
I tomato, pureed
1 green bell pepper chopped into short thin slivers (optional)
400g chopped mushrooms (canned ones work well in this dish)
200g double cream
100g grated cheese (Cretan malaka worked very well here)
ground pepper (salt is unnecessary)
Boil the pasta till al dente - it will be cooked twice, so it doesn't need to be boiled thoroughly. Drain it well, then place it in a deep baking tin. Put it aside until you cook the 'filling'.
Heat the oil in a pan and cook the bacon on moderate heat. When it has lost its uncooked colour, add the onion and garlic, and let it cook with the bacon for 2-3 minutes. Then add the ground pepper, mushrooms, tomato and pepper, and let the mixture cook for five minutes on moderate heat to blend well.

Pour the bacon mix over the cooked pasta, spreading it well to cover all the tin. Then pour the cream into the tin and mix again. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the pasta and put the tin in the oven. Cook for half an hour, until the cheese takes on a golden brown colour.

Serve it immediately (the cheese goes hard otherwise) with a tomato salad, which is the only pizza ingredient missing from this pasta dish, which otherwise looks and smells like pizza; The next time I made this, I added some thin slices of tomato on top of the grated cheese, so that the cheese didn't dry out - and it looked and smelled even more like a pizza.

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