Like the back of my hand: Spaghetti alla Carbonara

17 Sep

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

The first in a series of recipes that I have made so many times that I could make them blindfolded – Spaghetti alla Carbonara.  A dish introduced to me by my best high school friend and his Italian mother, I was given this disclaimer beforehand which I pass on here – you might not want to know what goes into the “sauce”.  Forget any ideas you had about having a nice, light pasta dinner.  If I told you a sauce was made out of bacon grease, raw eggs and cheese – is that something you might be interested in?  Well, apparently my answer was something along the lines of Bring it ON, because here I am 7 or 8 years later making this dish a couple times a month.  Traditionally, SaC is a simple sauce of pancetta and its drippings, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and plenty of fresh-ground pepper tossed with hot, al dente pasta which melts the cheese and  “cooks” the eggs just enough to thicken into a sauce.  Of course, I’ve never been one to stick with tradition and tend to tinker and embellish based on what sounds good to me or what I have on hand.  Here’s the version I made tonight:

Dish: Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Ingredient Roll Call:

  • 1/2 lb long-format dried pasta ( I like bucatini)
  • 3-4 strips of bacon (or pacetta or guanciale if you can find it.  Bacon works just fine, though)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated hard Italian cheese (parmesan, romano, etc)
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • My Embellishments:
    • half an onion, thinly sliced
    • half a red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • splash each of balsamic vinegar and red wine
    • dash of dried Italian herbs
    • Serves 1 giant plate or 2 normal-person servings.  Don’t judge me.  I’m a growing boy.

How I do it:

  1. Slice bacon into thin strips and saute over medium heat with a splash of olive oil until fat begins to render out
  2. Add onion, red bell pepper and garlic with a dash of salt and balsamic vinegar and continue to saute until softened, 10 minutes or so
  3. Combine beaten eggs, grated cheese, dash of salt and ground pepper in a bowl and set aside
  4. Boil pasta until 3/4 or so cooked, drain and add to saute pan with bacon and other ingredients
  5. Add a splash of wine and cook on high for a few minutes until wine is more or less cooked off.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes before adding egg and cheese mixture
  7. Stir quickly until cheese melts and eggs coagulate into a rich sauce.
  8. Warm a plate in the microwave for a minute or two before plating pasta.  It’ll keep your food warm longer.  It makes a difference.  Trust me.

Is this health food?  GOD no.  Is it high brow?  Not exactly (it was named after the coal miners of Italy).  What it is is amazingly simple comfort food that is ready in half an hour and hits all the right spots.  Just don’t think about the sauce.  Some things are better when you just indulge.

Disclaimer: Do NOT eat this every day.  It will undoubtedly make you fat.  It also contains raw/undercooked eggs.  If that freaks you out – first, settle down.  Second, don’t eat it.  Make a nice alfredo or something.

4 Responses to “Like the back of my hand: Spaghetti alla Carbonara”

  1. fran September 17, 2009 at 6:59 AM #

    i want some of that 🙂

  2. Roomie September 17, 2009 at 10:38 AM #

    It definitely was better before I knew what was in it. Oof!


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