Tuesday, June 5, 2012
The best Spaghetti Carbonara
Tell the truth. Have you eaten more very good Spaghetti alla Carbonara in your lifetime, or more so-so?
That's what I figured. If ever a dish proved that simple recipes are the most difficult to prepare, this one is it.
Carbonara is one of my top go-to meals, and so I figure it's about time I shared it here. The recipe is from David Downie's "Cooking the Roman Way." It's a reliable, honest, authentic Roman preparation, and I've been using it for several years now.
Best of all it isn't at all so-so. Give it a shot, you'll see.
You start out with a nice piece of pancetta (this is my homemade stuff), guanciale or even bacon if you prefer.
Dice it all up so's to fry it in olive oil.
Mix together some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, a good hit of freshly ground pepper, three eggs, and an egg yolk.
Here's the part that is most important (the full recipe is below). The egg and cheese mixture is added to the cooked pancetta, but only after the pan has been allowed to cool for three minutes.
You can see that the pan isn't hot enough to cook the eggs, but it does allow for just enough of a head start on the cooking.
As soon as the pasta is cooked it's added to the warm pan with all the other ingredients.
This is when the combination of the hot pasta and the already-warmed ingredients allows things to actually become cooked. (If it remains uncooked after stirring, turn on the heat and keep stirring, but only briefly; otherwise the eggs will scramble.)
Here's how a proper Carbonara should look, as far as I'm concerned anyway.
And I'm concerned an awful lot.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Adapted from "Cooking the Roman Way" by David Downie
4 ounces pancetta, guanciale or bacon (I use a little more)
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp freshly grated Pecorino Romano (I use twice that amount)
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt or coarse sea salt (I use regular salt)
1 lb. spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated cheese, half Parmigiano-Reggiano, half Pecorino Romano
Bring at least 5 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.
Roughly chop the pancetta, guanciale or bacon. You should have about 3/4 of a cup. (I use about a cup.)
Heat the oil in a very large, high-sided frying pan over medium. Add the pork and stir, sautéing until crisp. Turn off the heat under the frying pan and let it cool for 3 minutes.
Separate one of the eggs. Put the yolk in a small mixing bowl and save the white for other uses. Crack the remaining 3 eggs into the mixing bowl and beat thoroughly, incorporating 2 heaping tablespoons of Pecorino Romano and an extremely generous pinch of black pepper. Pour the mixture into the warm frying pan and stir.
Add a pinch of salt to the boiling water (I use lots of salt to cook pasta, not just a pinch). Drop the pasta, stir and cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil remove the lid and cook, uncovered, until the pasta is barely al dente.
Drain the pasta and transfer it immediately to the frying pan with the egg mixture. Stir vigorously until thoroughly coated. Cover the frying pan and let stand for 1 minute.
Serve with a peppermill and a bowl of Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano on the side.