Pasta Carbonara is very likely my favorite pasta dish. With just a little bit of practice, it is a snap to make and the payoff is huge. A great dish to impress a date! Although best when it is chilly, I don't know anyone who would turn it down in the middle of summer.
It pops up on a lot of menus, but so many versions are inauthentic. Who uses cream in Pasta Carbonara?!? Sacrilege.
Traditionally the ingredients include pecorino, guanciale, and raw eggs. There seems to be significant debate about this. Some people even use white wine! Ack!
I do think there is flexibility when it comes to the pork and the cheese. I routinely use parmesan. I have never used guanciale. Sinner!
I'll use pancetta, but am completely satisfied with bacon. And I'll also confess that I like to add red pepper flakes (from Penzey's, preferably) and chopped parsley.
Hilariously, I have just read this quotation in Giuliano Bugialli's Bugialli on Pasta: "Of course, smoked bacon should never be substituted in this dish, since pancetta itself must dominate." See what I mean?
Damani Thomas taught me how to make this dish back at Oswald in Santa Cruz. It has been in my repertoire for about fifteen years. Thank god.
The idea is to combine the hot fat from the olive oil and bacon with the raw eggs to make a creamy emulsion. The hot fat cooks the eggs.
There is a luscious quality to this dish. It is creamy and rich thanks to the eggs, the cheese and the fat. But there is also the garlic kick and the salt of the pork and the heat of the chili that satisfy your most constant cravings. Or mine, anyway.
1/2 pound or a bit more spaghetti (or linguine if you have recently discovered that this is your favorite pasta, like me)
2 eggs (I figure an egg per person.)
8 or so slices of bacon, chopped into lardons or approximately 1/2 cup pancetta, chopped into lardons (This could vary depending on your love of pork.)
4 or so tablespoons olive oil
1 cup or more grated parmesan
2 or 3 plump cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
red pepper flakes, to taste
salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Cook the spaghetti until al dente.
Cook bacon in a large sauté pan in olive oil, until browning but not too crisp. Add garlic and stir. Do not let the garlic brown. If necessary remove from heat until pasta is ready.
Meanwhile whisk eggs in a large metal bowl. Mix in cheese, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
Drain spaghetti and add to the pan of bacon. Stir until combined and the spaghetti and oil are hot.
Add the ingredients in the pan to the egg mixture, stirring immediately until well combined and you have arrived upon a creamy sauce. If necessary, stir while holding metal bowl over heat for a minute.
Taste for salt and pepper.
Serve immediately. This cools far too quickly, so hurry up!