Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

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.

Spaghetti Carbonara

March 2007


Miss Tiffie said...

I like eating my carbonara with the egg yolk put in after it's all done cooking and then you mix it together. But then I like raw eggs.. haha

Patricia Scarpin said...

I love spaghetti alla carbonara - it's delicious and and, in my opinion, totally comfort food. :D

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so hungry now. Have not taken my lunch. This looks so slurpible, so smooth.
Portions too little, not enough for me :D

Amy said...

Hi Miss Tiffie,
I love egg yolks too, an extra egg yolk will be even more luscious. :)

Hi Patricia,
I agree! I always love a hearty bowl of pasta.

Hi Tigerfish,
The photograph is literally a bite of pasta (I swirled some around a fork and put it on a plate). Of course I can never just eat a bite of pasta, especially carbonara, so that portion size is a bit silly in retrospect. ;)

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I use regular bacon in mine too for the exact same reason. Also, b/c it's a lot cheaper than pancetta. :P

Sometimes I add kale or collard greens. Just slice the leaves into strips and toss into pasta while it's boiling.

Ruth Daniels said...

What a beautiful looking version of a truly great carbonara.

Thanks for sharing and taking part in Presto Pasta Night. Hopefully, you'll join in the fun again.

Amy said...

Hi WC,
I use bacon and parmesan because they're cheaper too. I buy the bacon ends and pieces that are always $2.25/lb, no need for strips if I'm just going to chop it up. :) The greens sound like it'd be a nice addition to the pasta. I'll definitely keep it in mind for next time.

Hi Ruth,
Steven and I love pasta so I'm sure I'll be participating more in the future. It's an awesome event. :)

Anonymous said...

I must admit carbonara is my comfort food of choice (i lived off the stuff at my corner restaurant in milan) ~ and this is my *first* recipe i've cooked from tastespotting since launching tastespotting ~ thanks a TON for posting it ~ it was incredibly good! (and a very nice alternative to those other recipes floating around that call for large amounts of butter and cream!)

Unknown said...

I made this, with the Baked Scallops with Creamy Spicy Sauce that recently appeared on taste spotting as well. This turned out as an excellent side and blended perfectly with the sea food. Great/easy dish and I will surely recommend this to friends. ***note to others (use high quality parmesan cheese if you bake this).
~Thanks so much for the recipe!

Amy said...

Hi Jean,
Welcome! Aww thank you for the kind words, I'm sooo flattered you liked the recipe! I've seen many recipes that call for adding cream or butter and as much as I love those things, I agree that carbonara does not need it. With the bacon, cheese, and generous amount of egg, I think it's rich enough. :) And I love Tastespotting, I think the idea is brilliant and I go there for my daily dose of food porn. :P

Hi Stephen,
Thanks for visiting! I'm so glad you made this and liked it. That is a very good note; the cheese is very important and using a high quality parmesan or parmigiano reggiano makes this dish divine.

Anonymous said...

Mmm. Just followed your recipe for lunch. I'm a happy girl. Thanks.

Amy said...

Thanks for visiting. I'm so glad you liked the recipe! :)

Anonymous said...

You can do lots of variations on this dish depending on the ingredients you have at your disposal. For example, if you don't have any cheese around you can use sour cream or heavy cream instead. I've even used a hot dog instead of bacon or pancetta and it turned out great.

Thanks for posting the recipe.


Troy Johnson said...

When I was taught to make Carbonara, the woman teaching the class emphasized getting the spaghetti directly into the egg mixture before it can really drain. That way you don't have to worry about saving some liquid (or getting dry carbonara) since the pasta is still really wet when it is mixed with the egg.

It is great to see the authentic recipe being shared about!

katie said...

mmmmmmm..... this looks good. My friend cured soem bacon and unloaded 3/4 lb of it on me. Such a prize! I'm thinking carbonara, because it showcases the bacon. Definitely going to eat it tonight. I'm starving!

I think I am going to use a squid ink pasta to offset the color. then blogging here I come!


Amy said...

Thank you for reminding me of that great tip. It's something I started doing recently and it definitely streamlines the process more. I need to rephotograph this dish also. :)

The fruitful mama said...

Hi! all your recipes look delicious! (great pics too btw). I am going to try quite a few of them or maybe most of them! with this one, do you think beef bacon would taste good in it? it has a different texture too. My husband keeps kosher and so I didn't know if it would taste good without the bacon.


Amy said...

I've never had beef bacon before but it wouldn't hurt to try. Let me know how it turns out.

Unknown said...

You should also grate a little more pepper and parmesan onto the finished version of this dish. Adds a little more bite without making the sauce too thick.


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