Thursday, January 3, 2013

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

A tangle of pepper-spangled spaghetti alla carbonara is one of my favorite simple meals - only five basic ingredients and 15 minutes needed to make this light yet lusciously creamy dish. The name is derived from the Italian carbone, charcoal, which the dusting of pepper on top of the dish is meant to evoke. Coal miner's pasta is how it's described in English on occasion, and you can almost imagine a sooty chap setting down to make something easy and robust over a cookstove with some cured meat, eggs taken from out of a kerchief, a hank of dried pasta and a knob of cheese from his pocket, inadvertently shaking off coal debris into the mix as he goes.

Mastering temperature when tempering the eggs is one wants a grainy and ungainly sauce (although in truth I've scrambled my eggs on more than one occasion, and it still comes out tasting delicious). Peas and cream are anathemas here as far as I'm concerned, but if you'd prefer to sub pancetta (or guanciale!) in place of bacon, go right ahead! I prefer the bit of smokiness that good bacon lends to the dish.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Makes 2 servings

*8 oz spaghetti
*3 slices good slab bacon
*1 large organic egg + 1 egg yolk at near-room temperature
*2 tablespoons finely grated Parm-Reg, plus more for serving
*Copious amounts of freshly cracked black pepper

Boil spaghetti until al dente. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a pan and remove the slices when crispy; crumble and set aside (save that sweetsweet bacon fat for another use). In a stainless steel bowl whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons grated Parm-Reg. Reserve a tablespoon or so of the cooking water before draining the pasta, and then whisk in just a touch of the water with the egg mixture to temper the eggs ever so slightly. Then, add the pasta to the bowl and stir rapidly. Taste, and add a smidge more water if necessary. Throw the bacon in with the pasta, dish out onto plates, and dust liberally with pepper and more grated Parm.

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