Sunday, May 23, 2010


I love Carbonara. First of all, what's not to like? It's a simple pasta made of eggs, cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, or bacon), Parmesan or Romano cheese, and black pepper. Second, I have a double dose of nostalgia for this dish. When I was growing up one of my most favorite dinners was one Mom called Bacon Spaghetti. She laughed to hear that is was my favorite because it was something she made when she was feeling broke and the cupboards were a little lean. It wasn't until I went to Rome in college that I realized that Bacon Spaghetti was really Spaghetti alla Carbonara. As I continued to travel in Europe I had Carbonara almost every time I saw it on a menu. In Italy, it is often came as a swirl of creamy, salty, perfect spaghetti with a raw egg yolk floating in the center. The second it arrives at the table you stir in the yolk.
The night we made this we splurged and bought guanciale (cured pork jowl) from Sea Breeze Farms and, though not necessary, it made it extra good.

Pasta alla Carbonara
serves 4

1 poound spaghetti or bucatini
8 oz. cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, or bacon)
1 egg and 3 yolks
1 cup finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
black pepper and/or red chili flakes
  • Put your pasta water on to boil. This dinner comes together very quickly.
  • Cut the bacon into cubes and cook in a pan until just starting to brown. Sprinkle generously with fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of red chili flakes. Continue to cook until the pork is light brown (about 2 or 3 minutes more).  If you're using pancetta or guanciale, add a little olive oil and be careful not to over-brown - they have less fat and are a little more sensitive to temperature than bacon
  • Remove the pan from the heat and let cool while you wait for the pasta.
  • When the pasta has about 5 minutes left, put the eggs, 1 cup of the cheese, and everything from the bacon pan, including the fat and the pepper, in a largish bowl. Using a fork, beat the heck of this mixture. It should be really well combined and maybe a little like a paste.
  • When the pasta is done, scoop out about a half cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and quickly add it to the bowl. Use your fork to mix everything together. Add a little pasta water bit by bit until the sauce is silky. Using very hot pasta and hot pasta water, is important so that the eggs are tempered.
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