The 4 Secrets to a Foolproof Pasta Carbonara

Question:  Are people still eating pasta?

And, by “pasta”, I mean real pasta.

The kind that we ate as kids.

Not gluten free pasta, not whole wheat pasta, and definitely not the pasta made out of unicorn dust that promises to make you skinny and a live beautiful, coherent life until you are 134 years old.

Nope, I’m talking the good ol’ regular kind of pasta.

I love pasta but I’ve definitely cut back on it because of all the new food information out there.  In addition to all of the stats that say we need to increase our vegetable intake, we also know that having a plateful of creamy (aka no veggies) pasta for dinner with a side of garlic bread and finished off with a bowl of vanilla ice cream is ‘no bueno’.

Good for your soul but not so good for your waistline – not to mention your arteries.

So, whenever I want to have pasta, I always make a simple dish and make sure it makes up the ‘starch’ portion of our meal – meaning I serve a protein and lots of veggies with our pasta.  And, when we do have pasta, I don’t skimp on fat/calories/flavour….we just eat less of it!

Let me, now, introduce you to Pasta Carbonara, an Italian pasta dish from Rome made with egg, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano (or a combination of the two), pancetta or guanciale, and lots of freshly ground pepper. The pasta I use is almost always a good quality spaghetti but you can also use fettuccine, rigatoni, linguine, or bucatini. It is ridiculously easy to make (like 15-minutes-from-pot-to-table easy) and it will make that tummy of yours oh-so-happy.The Fastest Carbonara

So, now you’re wondering what the 4 secrets are, right?  Well, I won’t make you wait any longer…

  1.  The Cheese:  Traditionally, this dish uses good quality parmigiano (Parmigiano Reggiano if you can find it!).  But, if you want to up your game, add in a bit of Pecorino Romano. Pecorino Romano is saltier and tangy, whereas Parmigiano Reggiano is nutty and a bit milder overall. Combining the two puts this dish over the top.The Fastest Carbonara
  2. The Meat:  Again, traditionalists use guanciale, which is cured like pancetta but instead of using pork belly, it uses pork cheek.  But, if you have a hard time finding it, pancetta is good (try not to use bacon…the smokiness will overpower the delicate balance of the dish).The Fastest Carbonara
  3. The Pepper:  Under no circumstances should you use pre-ground pepper.  The freshness of the pepper is one of the highlights of the dish and you’ll miss it if you don’t grind it yourself.
  4. The Pasta (or more specifically, the pasta water):  The trick to a luxuriously smooth carbonara (which means, no curdled eggs on your plate) is to temper the egg mixture before it gets stirred into the pasta.  Some purists will put the mixture over a double boiler to temper it, but ain’t nobody got time for that business.  So, once the eggs, cheese and pepper are mixed, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water to increase the temperature of the egg mixture ever-so-slightly… enough for the eggs not to “cook” when they hit the hot pasta. Works like a charm!

The Fastest Carbonara

Now you have all the goods on making that perfect pasta carbonara.  If I were you, I would pick up a bottle of red on the way home and make a plate of this for dinner. Make a light salad to go with it and pick up the phone.

Because you’re gonna wanna call me…you know, for testing purposes.

And for company. ‘Cause you definitely can’t finish that pasta (or wine) on your own.

Pasta Carbonara

One of the most iconic, yet simple, pasta dishes of Rome!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pasta
Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks (plus extra yolks for serving if desired)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano (about 60g) (a combo pf pecorino romano and parmigiano reggiano is the best)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 g spaghetti (about 1/2 package)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped pancetta (about 150g)

Instructions

  1. Put the egg and yolks into a bowl and add in half (about 1/4 cup) of the Parmesan and season with pepper, combine well with fork and set aside.

  2. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water (if you need to know, rule of thumb is 10g salt to every litre of water - the pasta water should taste like the sea) until al dente.

  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil; slice the garlic clove in half and add it to the pan, leaving it in to flavour the oil.

  4. Stir in the pancetta, then cook for 4 minutes, or until it starts to crisp up.
  5. Working quickly, dump the hot drained (always reserve some water to finish the dish) spaghetti into the skillet with the pancetta. Dribble a bit of the reserved cooking water into the beaten eggs and whisk quickly. This will help to cook the egg gently, rather than scrambling it. Toss well, adding more cooking water incrementally, tossing as everything magically creates a velvety sauce that coats each strand until it’s lovely and glossy.

  6. Serve with a grating of Parmesan and an extra grinding of pepper

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