Saturday, May 17, 2014

Pasta alla Carbonara

Pasta alla Carbonara is an authentic Italian dish that is very simple to make with a small number of ingredients ( a great way to use leftover breakfast foods!).  The final result has a complex and rich flavor, and is comparable to the familiar American classic, Mac n Cheese.  The sauce is mainly comprised of raw eggs yolks and Parmesan cheese, which are tempered with some of the seasoned pasta water and become a creamy, wonderful sauce.  There are also a lot of variations to this recipe, so odds are you could throw this together with the stuff you've already got sitting around the fridge!


  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces slab bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 large egg yolks plus 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 cup seasoned pasta water 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian Seasoning or Oregano
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • To begin, I cut my bacon into lardons and put them in the frying pan over medium.  I did not add oil to the pan, but rather cooked the bacon in its own fat.  These should be well done, so the bacon remains crispy and creates a contrasting crunch to the pasta.  Once it has cooked completely, set aside on a paper towel to cool.

    Next, boil a large pot of water and add salt and olive oil to season it.  Once it boils, set a timer and cook the pasta to be Al dente.  This dish is traditionally cooked with spaghetti or fettuccine, but I used Campanelle simply because I had it on hand and like the shape.  For the pasta I chose, it took 11 minutes to cook perfectly.

    Using the egg shell, separate 4 eggs yolks and put them in a large bowl (that will later hold the pasta).  Add one whole egg and whisk.

    Add the Parmesan cheese, whisk.  Add the bacon, fresh pepper, and Italian Seasoning; more whisking!

    The sauce should become quite thick.  The eggs will scramble (which we do not want!) if they are not slowly brought to a higher temperature.  At this point, take a ladle of the hot pasta water and add it slowly while constantly whisking the sauce.  The sauce should become smooth and glossy.  An alternative to this would be to add cream or milk which has been heated.

    Add the hot pasta to the large bowl containing your sauce mixture, again this is to keep the eggs from curdling by keeping the sauce away from direct heat while it tempers.  Mix the ingredients until the sauce is evenly coated- And serve!  It is notable that salt was only added to season the water and not to the final dish; the bacon will act as a source of salt in the pasta and creates a wonderful balance with the freshly ground pepper.  Top it all off with a sprinkling of Parmesan or Romano Cheese.

    Some variations to this recipes would be to add mushrooms, peas, broccoli, onions or other vegetables - or to add a cream instead of pasta water to the sauce.  I hope you enjoy eating this quick and delicious recipe as much as I did!