Don’t you just love spaghetti alla carbonara? If you are saying carba-whatta, it is okay, I don’t judge. My parents never made it either. Trust me, you gotta try it anyways. The ingredients and steps are few, and with a little timing, is an easy dish to whip together. Comfort food doesn’t need to be hard and finicky to be tasty. Step by step directions will follow, but you basically cook pancetta (or bacon), add hot pasta and a bit of the pasta water and pour in a combination of eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano. Toss together so that the hot pasta cooks the eggs enough to make them a creamy sauce-not so much that you are eating scrambled eggs and pasta. You add black pepper and you eat.
I make mine a touch different, but mainly because (gasp) I don’t care for black pepper. If you leave it out, the dish is missing something. I fill that gap by cooking shallots with the pancetta. If you are now asking “Pan-whatta?”, I will help. pancetta is basically bacon that isn’t smoked when it is cured. More and more grocery stores are stocking it as more and more folks get addicted to the Food Network. I go to an Italian store on the East Side for mine, as my grocery store only sells it pre-chopped or sliced. Don’t go on a mad hunt, bacon substitutes just fine in the dish. For me, I just like to cube the pancetta and have meatier chunks in my dish. That is one of the things that makes this dish great, it stands up to simple substitutions well. In the picture, I made it with Capellini (angel hair) rather than spaghetti. Remember, in cooking recipes are often guidelines rather than rules. Tinker away and don’t forget to let me know what you changed and how it turned out. I might like your version even better than mine!
Pasta alla Carbonara
- 1 pound (16 ounces) dry spaghetti
- ½ pound pancetta cubed-or bacon diced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and NO, the green tube of grated Parmesan is not the same (there are many substitutions that can be made this is not one of them)
- Heat a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta to al dente (tender yet firm)
- As the pasta cooks, saute the pancetta in olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet. Cook until the fat renders.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat and add the shallot, cooking for a minute or so.
- Turn off the heat on the skillet and move from the hot burner.
- Whisk together the eggs and Parmigiano in a small bowl, until uniform in color
- Do not drain the pasta in the sink, instead lift it out of its pot and place into skillet
- Toss the hot pasta with the fat from the pancetta for 1-2 minutes
- Pour the egg mix into the pasta and toss-the pasta should be just the right temperature to cook the eggs enough to make them creamy and not curdle
- Add up to a ½ cup of the pasta cooking water to the dish to thin out the sauce a bit and bind everything all together
- Serve immediately and enjoy!