Not until I saw a waiter in Rome crack eggs into bowl of warm pasta, did I realize that the simple old world preparation for spaghetti carbonara did not include cream or peas or bacon.  And not until I ate that carbonara this summer on a repressively hot day in the city of Eternal Love, did I understand why I don’t eat much pasta at home.  Al dente noodles coated with a silky light sauce that carried cheese happiness to every inch of every strand, heightened with salty bursts of guanciale and confirmed in the mouths by pepper granules, pinched our tongues in belief that we just ate a perfect bite of pasta. Five ingredients, five accessible ingredients , when mindfully combined in the right moment can give us restaurant quality, no make that Italian restaurant quality pasta, in our own kitchens.  This comes together in a moment. Hey, if I can do it…

Spaghetti, eggs, cheese, pancetta, pepper.

If you want to take it up a notch and you’re lucky enough to have plentiful ingredients in your town, use guanciale for the meat and pecorino cheese.  Los Angelenos: Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica offers the real deal and you can pre-order online without the wait.

Also, I used De Cecco’s spaghetti found at most large grocery chains and of course through Amazon in bulk.  Here’s why I won’t use any other boxed pasta from now on.  Back to vacation in Italy….on an island just off of the Amalfi Coast, at an outdoor restaurant where ‘the locals go,’ we ate like kings. I was certain we were eating freshly made pasta by skilled nonnas kneading it out in an ancient kitchen, until I saw a kitchen helper hauling in boxes of De Cecco pasta boxes.  There you have it, when in Rome or Italy or Ralph’s grocery store.  For this recipe, I followed the suggested timing for al dente to the second.  It was perfect.

The trick is incorporating the eggs into hot pasta so the eggs temper, heat, and cook without scrambling.  It worked so easily for me with a few modifications to an Epicurious recipe, that I know it will work for anyone else.

spaghetti carbonara

The recipe calls for eggs at room temperature.  If you can remember, take the eggs out of the refrigerator much earlier in the day. Freshest eggs work and taste best. You will use a few bowls and pans for this, but it’s not messy. Rather, we’re controlling temperatures – hang in there, it’s worth it.  Finally, I give lots of instructions about preparation. I apologize if it’s a bit meticulous.  Spaghetti carbonara is much like stir-frying.  We have all ingredients prepped, utensils and pans readied, and the table set.  Then, the cooking begins.  Last-minute cooked meals are great for any time crunch because the cooking itself is minimal and flexible to schedules, if the prep is considered ahead of time.

preptime: 20 min                                               serves 4

  • 4 ounces pancetta or guanciale, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 10 rounded tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano, or half pecorino romano and half parmigiano-reggiano
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti pasta (shape optional)
  1. Are eggs at room temperature? If not, at least take them out of the refrigerator now.
  2. Bring 5 quarts of water to boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat. When the water is boiling, add 3 Tbsp kosher salt.  We want salty water to season the pasta. Never add oil, despite what you’ve heard.
  3. While the water comes to a boil, prep the ingredients: cut pancetta, grate cheese, crack eggs into medium bowl.  Have your table set with reserved grated cheese.
  4. In a larger pan, cook pancetta on medium heat just until edges brown, then remove pan from heat.  You don’t want to crisp the meat.
  5. Now you’re ready for go time.  Put your pasta in the pot of boiling waterand set timer for al dente.  10 minutes for De Cecco.  You’ll stir this occasionally to separate strands.
  6. While the pasta cooks:
    1. add grated cheese and pepper to the eggs and whisk together until smooth.
    2. get a few items that you’ll need at the moment the pasta is finished:  a colander for draining, a large bowl (ceramic best, metal will be too cold) for final prep, tongs, and a measuring cup for gathering pasta water before it’s drained.
    3. just before the timer goes off, dip the measuring cup into the pasta pot and reserve a cup of starchy pasta water, in case you need to thin the final dish.
  7. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in the colander.
  8. Add drained, hot pasta to the pancetta pan and gently toss with tongs. You’re absorbing all of the meat flavor into the pasta. 30 seconds.
  9. Then, immediately pour pasta and pancetta into the large bowl.
  10. Add egg mixture and toss gently and thoroughly, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is mostly incorporated.  No more than 30-60 seconds.  If the sauce is too thick, add enough pasta water to thin accordingly.
  11. Serve immediately with grated cheese.
  12. Way to go, you!

 

recipe adapted from epicures and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com

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