Monday, April 3, 2017
I'm the last guy to mess with tradition. Ask anybody who has eaten in my home when I am working the line and all will tell you the same thing: The guy leans heavily towards perfecting the classics, not merely approximating or (gasp!) reinventing them.
Take Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It took me years to get this seemingly simple Roman classic right—a lot of them. When I did finally manage it ("The Best Spaghetti Carbonara") I never looked back.
Until last night, that is. For reasons that cannot be explained I spent the entire day pondering how the addition of chestnuts—yes, chestnuts—might impact a classic carbonara.
Scratch that, actually. I spent the entire day convinced that the addition of chestnuts would make an absolutely terrific addition to this classic. So what if a Web search around midday discovered virtually no evidence that anybody else in the culinary universe had come to the same conclusion.
So, this is around one-third pound of my homemade pancetta. It's what I begin every carbonara with. You can use pancetta, or guanciale, or even thick-cut bacon.
Chop the meat into small, thick chunks, like so. (Of course, this is also a good time to get your pasta water going, as this won't take very much time at all.)
This is around a quarter pound of cooked-and-peeled chestnuts, which should also be chopped, like so.
This is three large eggs, one egg yolk, and 1/2 cup of grated and mixed Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.
Mix the egg and cheese together and then add a good dose of freshly grated black pepper.
In a large skillet cook the pancetta in olive oil, slowly and at a low flame, until lightly browned. Stir in the chestnuts and saute for another minute, then turn off the heat and wait for three minutes before proceeding further.
After the pan with the pancetta and chestnuts has cooled for three minutes add the egg and cheese mixture and let it stand until your pasta is cooked.
When your pasta is al dente add it to the pan and quickly incorporate. The hot pasta and slightly warmed egg and cheese mixure should provide ample heat to cook the egg to proper carbonara consistency. If not, and the egg remains very wet, carefully apply just a little flame to finish things off—but be very careful, as too much heat will scramble the eggs.
All that's left to do now is plate the pasta (I used bucatini here, which works well with carbonara), grate some cheese over it, and serve.
I was right about this being a swell idea, by the way. But take the recipe out for a spin and let me know what you think.
1/3 pound pancetta, diced into cubes
1/4 pound cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, plus one egg yolk
1/2 cup freshly grated mix of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. pasta (spaghetti is traditional but here I used bucatini)
Heat the oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, then stir in the chestnuts and sauté another minute. Turn off the heat and let cool for 3 minutes.
Mix 3 large eggs and one egg yolk in a bowl with the grated cheese and a generous dose of black pepper. Pour the mixture into the warm pan and stir.
When the pasta is al dente add it to the pan and stir vigorously until thoroughly coated. Plate, top with grated cheese and serve.