I’m a little jealous of my friends who get these regular “date nights” with their spouses. I know we made the choice to have a whole litter of small children, but I still long for that time alone with my husband to connect, eat fancy food, and maybe watch a movie. Those things tend to be a little on the pricier side, and then there’s the whole issue of paying someone to watch the kids as well. And well, having four kids kind of drains you financially – as well as physically and emotionally too.
Occasionally we’ll do a date night at home, if we can get all of the kids to bed at a normal hour of course. My idea of the perfect at home date night is my husband coming down the stairs after the kids are all asleep, the table is set with a fantastic 3-course meal that I whipped up, with chocolate fondue for dessert and some candles to set the mood, my hair and makeup look fantastic and I have some cute and comfy outfit on. My reality of a date night is us eating cold pizza for dinner, and ice cream right out of the container for dessert, while sitting on the couch in our PJ’s and catching up on shows we haven’t had time to watch before I pass out from the exhaustion of being at home with the kids day to day.
Not so fancy.
I do like cooking. I love it actually. But I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all evening when my aim is to spend a few quiet hours with my husband. I want to actually spend those hours with him relaxing, not cooking and cleaning. I put together this easy recipe that tastes amazing, is totally husband-pleasing, and is quick to make. I can have it cooked and ready and my dishes cleaned before my husband finishes the bed time routine. If I time it just right, it’s piping hot for him when he gets down the stairs. Maybe it’s not a three-course gourmet meal, but it’s pretty darn good.
Only seven ingredients make up this masterpiece. It’s a take on a traditional carbonara, which is egg, bacon, parsley, and parmesan cheese, tossed with hot pasta. (Some people argue that it also includes cream, but I skip that and just use a little of the bacon fat.) For this version I used Pepperoni instead of bacon and added mozzarella cheese and fresh oregano to compliment that pizza flavor.
I started by bringing my water to a boil, that probably takes the longest out of all the steps in this recipe. While that was heating up I prepped everything else. I decided to slice the pepperoni in half so that it would be roughly the same size as my pasta. (You can also use mini pepperoni slices. They’re fun!) I threw the pepperoni in a separate pot, but I didn’t turn it on until the pasta started cooking. You want to start your pepperoni in a cold pot so that it releases the oil and doesn’t stick while cooking.
Then I finely shredded my cheeses. I used a really nice parmigiano reggiano, and a fresh low-moisture mozzarella. I use the smallest holes on the grater because I want it to melt super duper quick.
I got my eggs ready, just a quick scramble. Nothing particularly exciting about this step.
The cheese goes right in there with the eggs, and I added a tiny bit of salt and pepper as well. Don’t overdo it. There’s a lot of flavors going on.
I also chopped my fresh herbs, both Oregano and Parsley, and just mixed them together and set them aside for last.
At this point my pasta was boiling away and my pepperoni was frying. It doesn’t take long for the pepperoni to cook since it’s thinly sliced already. If it’s finished before the pasta, just turn the heat off so it doesn’t overcook. Once my pasta was al dente, I reserved a cup of the water, then drained it and dumped it right into the pepperoni. I did a quick stir, then added the pasta water. Right away I added in the egg and cheese mixture and stirred and stirred until it was really nice and mixed together. The residual heat is what cooks the eggs and gives it a really good texture.
Once that was all combined I tossed in the herbs, save for a pinch, and did another quick stir. I transferred it into a serving dish and then garnished with the pinch of herbs and some freshly grated parmesan.
And that’s seriously it. Before you transfer it to the bowl you can get your dishes washed really quick. If you do your prep (shredding and chopping) earlier in the day, clean up is even easier. You can literally just throw this together and then enjoy it. It looks and tastes like you spent hours on it.
But it only took like 20 minutes. Let your husband/wife/partner think you slaved away to make this date night extra special. I won’t tell if you won’t tell. And when you’re done with your fancy dinner it’s totally appropriate to eat ice cream out of the carton while watching Netflix.
Not everything has to be fancy.