If you’re like me and of all things Italian have a particular fondness for pasta, carbonara should be in your top 10. Scratch that… make it top 5!
With such few ingredients it’s imperative to use the best quality. Traditionally guanciale, an Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks is used. Pancetta, Italian cured pork belly is a more than agreeable substitute – and for most of us, much easier to find.
I found that cream is numero uno on that list. In my mind, while it would deliver richness – which is soooooo not needed – I suppose if you don’t like the velvety punch of egg yolk so much, it would definitely dilute the eggi-ness. But then again, the dish is all about the egg. And the pork. If the thought of tucking into the perfectly poached soft egg nestled under some hollandaise in eggs benedict or nestled atop greens, lardons and crunchy croutons on a salad… you’re gonna love this.
The other big debate is on whether to use the whole egg (not my preference) or just the yolk (yes!!) What to do..? Try both. How else you gonna know??
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Warming the egg(s) before combining with the pasta is one of the best tricks I’ve found. It definitely stops them from becoming ‘scrambled’ and turns them into an unctuous marvel. The next best tip is mixing the ingredients in the bowl you’ll serve in. The first time you try it, do a practice run and make one serving. It’ll help get the timing right and give you confidence to make it for more.
Ingredients per serving:
2 oz diced pancetta
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 packet/115 grams good durum wheat spaghetti
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1/8 cup each grated Pecorino Romano & Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses
few grindings, fresh black pepper
Put a large pot of water on to boil, for the pasta.
In a saute pan large enough to hold the pasta, add the diced pancetta and olive oil to the cold pan and fry until partially crisp; turn off heat.
Salt the boiling water, add the spaghetti and set the timer for 1 minute less than recommended cooking time.
Grate your cheeses and set aside.
Take 1/4 cup or so of the boiling water to warm your serving bowl.
About 2 minutes before the pasta is ready, drain the bowl leaving a few drops of water.
Add the yolk and whisk for about a minute. Then add the cheeses & pepper, stirring to combine.
When the timer you set for the pasta goes, turn the heat to medium under the saute pan.
When the pasta is ready, either drain or carefully fish it out with tongs and add to the saute pan (if draining be sure to save 1/4 cup – like finishing all pasta dishes, you may need a bit later to loosen the sauce). Stir to get the lovely pork flavour throughout, then transfer it to the bowl with the yolk & cheese mix.
Toss with tongs or two forks to combine (taste a strand to see if it needs any salt). Garnish with another sprinkle of cheese, then serve and marvel at how lovely this dish is.