Carbonara is Steven's most requested dish. It's one of the few recipes on this blog that I make regularly, so I'm a little embarrassed I haven't updated the recipe since 2007. The ingredient list has stayed the same in the last four years but I added the trick of tempering the eggs with boiling pasta water before adding it to the pasta. On the rare occasion, I get a little fancy but I always go back to the original recipe of 5 ingredients, 6 if you include salt for pasta water. Traditionally you would use pancetta or guanicale, but let's face it, that stuff is expensive and I'm a poor student. Because this recipe is so simple, there are a few things I feel strongly about. First, I don't believe in adding cream; I think it's like cheating. But I unfortunately don't know anyone Italian who can back me up. Second, use freshly ground pepper; this is non-negotiable.
This recipe is one of our staples during medical school, because I can make this in less than 30, maybe even 20 minutes. I like to cook with ratios because it makes recipes easy to scale up or down. This recipe is no different and can be easily adjusted.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Approximately 4 ounces or 4 slices of thick-cut bacon, sliced into 1/4 inch wide strips or equivalent amount of pancetta or guanciale, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces finely grated parmesan, parmigiano, or pecorino romano
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (I go up to 1 teaspoon)
8 ounces spaghetti
Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until it is crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a piece of paper towel.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt it generously, it should taste like sea water. Cook spaghetti according to package instructions, until it is al dente.
Temper the eggs like making a custard. With one hand beat the eggs and with the other slowly drizzle approximately 1/4 cup of hot pasta water with a measuring scoop or cup into the egg mixture. Set aside.
Before draining the pasta, set aside about half a cup of the boiling pasta water to loosen the pasta if needed.
You'll have to move fast at this point. When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta then return the pasta back into the hot pot. Keep the pot off heat. The residual heat in the pot and pasta will thicken the sauce. Add the drained bacon, ground pepper, pasta and with one hand, stir the pasta while pouring in the tempered egg mixture.
Keep stirring to mix the cheese and egg evenly and the sauce will be thickened and silky smooth. Add a bit of the pasta water if needed.
Optional: top with extra freshly ground pepper and grated cheese before serving.