As mentioned in my previous post and when we visited Milan last summer, I fell in love with a saffron, zucchini and ham pasta. The fussili alla carbonarina served at Tarantella, my (now) favorite restaurant is so different and full of flavor, that I needed to try it at home.

I wish I could tell you that I’d succeeded completely. I haven’t yet, though my attempts so far have been tasty. From a very very simple version to a more advanced version to make a better sauce, the taste has been good, maybe even great, but definitely not the taste explosion the original gave me.

Obviously I googled the heck out of this recipe. Googling ingredients, the name, different things, however, apparently the combination of these main ingredients and the name of the recipe are both frequent on the internet, however not together. I’ve found hundreds of ‘carbonarine’, that had no mention of saffron or zucchini. The thousands of recipes with zucchini and saffron and rice, or pasta, or meats or whatever, didn’t completely look like what we ate at Tarantella.

I decided to give it the good old college try. Just boil the pasta, reserve a bit op the salted pasta water and dissolve the saffron powder in there, frying zucchini and speck (okay, okay, I used a different cured ham) combining, pasta, zucchini, ham and add the saffron water, add parmigiano, stir and serve. It tasted good. But it certainly wan’t any explosion of tastes.

A couple of days later I decided to try again. From reading through tons of blogs and recipes I’d found that carbonarina was either a carbonara type sauce that used cream instead of eggs (making it more suitable for very little kids, as there’s no chance of ingesting raw egg) or a carbonara (with egg) that’s just been altered. I figured I’d give option number 2 a try.

I chopped up my ham again (I used Serrano, which is, like speck, a seasoned, air cured ham, I preferred this to Parma, as that’s not seasoned and cured longer, Serrano seemed closer.)

I cooked the ham and zucchini in a big skillet again. I used a little bit of olive oil in addition to the natural fats rendered from the ham. I boiled the pasta in salted water. I grabbed my big block of parmigiano and my microplane grater and grated a nice heap of the cheese into a little bowl. I added 1 egg and beat the cheese and egg together, then added the saffron powder and a splash of white wine.
Once the pasta was cooked al dente, I drained it and added it to the skillet. The pasta, ham and zucchini were stirred together before I moved the pan off the heat. I poured in the beaten egg, cheese, saffron and wine mixture and stirred everything through vigorously, making sure to stir quick enough to prevent scrambled eggs.

The plated result, again, tasted wonderful. A nice, different pasta, full of flavor and something entirely different from the standard tomato or pesto sauce. But again, it wasn’t the same as Tarantella’s.

I’m at a loss by now. From the taste I’m fairly convinced we do need the egg in there, but it’s still a slightly different color and there are flavors missing. I guess I have no choice but going back to Milan and ask the chef for the recipe! (And hey, if you have any tips or tricks or ideas of what totally different things I can try to make a saffron/zucchini pasta, please let me know!!! I’m obsessed!)

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