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Co-founded by author, cook and food stylist Ryan Riley, Life Kitchen cooking school in Sunderland, England, helps people whose sense of taste has been affected due to cancer treatment or Covid-19. As Ryan explains, eating is not just about taste. At Life Kitchen, they focus on other elements, such as aroma, texture and trigeminal food sensations. The trigeminal system—like smell and taste—is a chemical sense; its receptors line the nasal and oral cavities. Activating this third sense with the heat of spicy chilies, the rush of horseradish or the cooling of mint can help enhance the enjoyment of eating. This super-flavorful, quick and easy carbonara has been taught at the school since its very first class because it maximizes trigeminal sensations. It's also wonderful even if your sense of taste hasn't been altered!
"Pancetta, Parmesan and peas bring that sought-after umami hit, while mint leaves and chili wake up the senses. And, of course, tagliatelle offers comfort that is so inherent in every bowl of lovely pasta. If you don't eat meat, crab (another provider of umami) is a worthy substitute." —Ryan
For more recipes from Ryan, you can download a free digital copy of his cookbook Taste & Flavour here.
Pulse the onion, garlic and chili in a food processor to finely chop. (Or, finely chop by hand.)
Place a frying pan on a medium-low heat and add a glug of oil. When hot, add the chopped mixture and the lardons and season with salt to taste. Cover with a lid (or use foil) and sweat on a low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, removing the lid to stir occasionally, until the onions have melted to a golden paste.
Meanwhile, beat together the grated Parmesan and the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the 2 teaspoons of salt and cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions.
Two minutes before the end of the cooking time, take 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water and stir it in to the Parmesan and egg mixture. Then, add the frozen peas to the pan with the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, drain it with the peas and tip everything back into the pan.
Add the Parmesan and egg mixture and the onion and bacon mixture to the pasta and peas and stir—the sauce will take 2 to 3 minutes to heat through; just keep stirring and it will turn glossy and coat the pasta. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter over the mint leaves and extra Parmesan.
Excerpted from Life Kitchen by Ryan Riley. Copyright © 2020 by Ryan Riley. Used with permission by Bloomsbury Publishing. All rights reserved.