Monday, April 13, 2009

Lou's Most Excellent Spaghetti Carbonara

Too many people mess with this dish up by adding additional ingredients, like cream and onion. I’ll eat it, hell, I’ll even order it knowing that it may come out not like mine unless I know in advance it has peas in it. WTF is that all about?

I’m a big fan of fresh pasta except here. The preparation can be a bit tough on delicate pasta so dried works best because it has a higher crunch factor. Also, fresh pasta takes on a lot more water than dried and can wind up becoming gummy here.

I’m always one for adding more stuff to everything I make…except this. Carbonara shouldn’t be fucked with and everyone loves my carbonara and that’s the proof. Try this recipe and you’ll see why. Proof to my obsession with this dish? My old roommate in grad school (Liz) and I tried to coteam on making carbonara and we got into a huge fight about it. There wasn’t enough bacon and I flat out didn’t want to help her because of that reason alone. Happily we laugh about it today. But…well…still…never mind….

This recipe happens quickly, like restaurant kitchen quickly. Assuming no distractions you can easily have this done in 15 minutes or less (once you have the water boiling) from start to finish.

1 pound spaghetti
½ pound of pancetta (substitute thick cut bacon if unavailable)
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 large eggs, room temperature
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 TBS fresh grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
2 TSP minced parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Extra Parmesan for serving, if desired

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil according to the pasta directions. You will cook the noodles to al dente, which is critical to great carbonara. Start cooking the pasta when you’re ready to proceed below.

Heat the 2 TBS of olive oil in a skillet over medium/medium-high heat. While heating, cut the pancetta into dime sized chunks. Add the garlic cloves and pancetta and cook until browned; discard the garlic. Drain the oil, reduce heat to medium and add the wine. Simmer until the wine is cooked into the meat, about 5 minutes.

While pancetta is cooking, in a very large bowl scramble the eggs. Add the cheeses, parsley, and 5 – 8 cranks of fresh ground pepper. Mix thoroughly.

By this time your pasta should be near al dente. When ready, QUICKLY drain and then pour the pasta – still a little wet – into the cheese/egg mixture. With salad tongs quickly toss – don’t stir – the mixture together; the egg mix should start to coddle. Sprinkle the pancetta over and toss together.

Serve immediately on warmed plates.

If using pancetta instead of bacon you may need to add a little more salt. Also, if you don’t have Pecorino-Romano you can do without; just add more Parmesan. The trade off is you won’t have the flavor bite one should get with carbonara – it should sting your nose just a little with some pungent aroma in the steam rising off the plate. That bite, along with the bite of the al dente pasta and crisp pancetta, is what makes this great dish.

But it’s still great without.

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