Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara

What is more simple, delicious, and comforting than spaghetti carbonara on a rainy (or snowy- pick your poison) winter evening? 

I looked at a number of spaghetti carbonara recipes for this, because every book in which we have Italian recipes has spaghetti carbonara. Well. They're all pretty much the same. With a recipe this simple, there is little variation to be had. The real differences are whether you use bacon vs. pancetta, Parmesan vs. Romano, and whether or not you add an extra egg yolk. Now, some may argue those differences are significant, but in the grand scheme of things, I think not. Though I started with the recipe from The World Kitchen, in the middle of making it I remembered Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise (a memoir, with some recipes). And I remembered she had a spaghetti carbonara recipe. And I thought it might have included garlic. And obviously garlic is a necessity. However, many carbonara recipes - including that in The World Kitchen - do not include garlic. But I repeat- garlic is a necessity. In Italian cooking. In life in general. We may or may not use an entire head of garlic a week. At least. So. Use Ruth's recipe. And read that book, it's pretty hilarious.

The original recipe:
Contrary to the recipe so often used in restaurants, real carbonara contains no cream. The real thing also uses guanciale, cured pork jowl, but to be honest, I like bacon better. I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast. It's the perfect last minute dinner, and I've yet to meet a child who doesn't like it.

1 pound spaghetti
1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon (I prefer Nueske's)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 large eggs
Black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook,and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won't meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you're going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.

Our thoughts and notes:

We used pancetta instead of bacon, only because we had a few ounces left over from an earlier recipe. It was perfectly tasty, though I think bacon would be equally as delicious. And perhaps the next time we have a little extra bacon (but I mean, when is there EVER leftover bacon??), we'll use that. 

This is so very simple, and so very delicious. I think we made it in under 15 minutes. And it will warm your tummy and your spirit. 

Buon appetito!


Velma Van Ault said...

I don't have bacon but do you think I could substitute it with sausage slices?

Liz Jones said...

You could certainly give it a try! I think one of the keys to its deliciousness is the bacon grease as part of the "sauce," so maybe ground pork or pancetta would be a good substitute, or if you include any grease from the sausage?