Behind the Scenes

The Life of a Plated Recipe: Cauliflower Carbonara

Ever wonder how our chefs come up with hundreds of different recipes for you to cook at home each week? Of course you do! The lifecycle of a Plated recipe follows pretty much the same path, but with a few delicious surprises along the way. Here, we take a peek into the story behind this week’s Cauliflower Carbonara with Bacon and Spinach.

Like any truly dedicated educational institution, the ever-learning Culinary team takes monthly field trips to explore New York City’s dining scene and soak up recipe inspiration. We keep a running list of restaurants we’re dying to try, or favorite dishes we just have to revisit and ask, “How’d they do that?!” Our latest exploratory meal was at Barbuto in the West Village, an Italian restaurant helmed by chef Jonathan Waxman. While the restaurant is probably best known for its roasted chicken—seriously, we dream about that crispy skin—we sampled a mind-blowingly simple yet classically delicious pasta dish: bucatini alla carbonara.

As we twirled stacks of long bucatini around our forks, we marveled at how the gooey sauce—a mix of cream, egg, and plenty of grated Parmesan cheese—clung to every noodle. Studded with the traditional bits of crispy pancetta and finished with a dusting of black pepper, it was like our own Italian grandmother had whipped up a personal bowl of warm comfort, just for us. Love you, nonna.

Full of fresh culinary inspiration and toting leftovers to share with the office, our chefs head back to the kitchen to write their own recipes. Head chef Elana focused on the many strengths of classic carbonara: al dente pasta coated in a super-cheesy sauce, packed with bacon (always a good thing), and balanced by plenty of black pepper. But Elana craved even more balance for all the rich flavors, plus a little more color. So she added tender cauliflower florets, thinly sliced chives, and just-wilted spinach. Okay: hearty Italian pasta and all the veggies and the requisite crispy bacon? We immediately approved.

Once we’ve got the blueprint for a must-have Plated recipe, or chefs test, re-test, and sometimes re-re-test it in our aptly named test kitchen to ensure total perfection when it arrives at your door. At this stage, a recipe is fully fleshed out, with top-notch ingredients and our chefs’ insider tips and tricks. Here, they refined a totally awesome technique for melting the cheese sauce without creating lumps. Pouring the sauce over just-cooked spaghetti, right off the stove, means there’s enough residual heat to lightly cook the egg yolk without scrambling it, and melt the grated Parmesan into velvety, noodle-hugging perfection.

The test kitchen cooks the recipe one more time, and our photographer snaps photos for every recipe step and the final plated dish that you see on the website, in the app, and on the recipe card. (Read: food porn.) Getting up close and personal with this steaming bowl of carb-onara (sorry!), we got a little weak in the knees.

Finally, it’s time for you to hand-pick the expertly written, thoroughly tested (and thoroughly tasted) recipe, then make it at home. While you’re tucking into this platonic pasta ideal, just remember the inquiring, inspired, and innovating chefs who made it happen!

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