I consider Spaghetti alla Carbonara one of my culinary secret weapons. No matter how sad the state of my refrigerator, chances are that I have all of the ingredients on hand to produce a steaming and satisfying plate of carbonara. I've learned over the years that as long as I have a few eggs, a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and some sort of cured pork product, I will never go hungry nor will I be disappointed.
There might be a few other incarnations of pasta that are equally as quick, but none deliver the richness of this simple mix of bacon, eggs, and pasta. If you have never made this dish before, Ari Weinzweig's recipe from Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon is a great place to start. Boil the pasta, crisp up some pork (bacon, pancetta, guanciale, even diced salt pork will do), drain the pasta, add it to the rendered pork fat, mix in the eggs and grated cheese, toss with a generous amount of black pepper, and you are finished.
Once you learn the basic formula you can add your own touches. Fresh herbs are always a nice addition—I am particularly fond of parsley and chives. You can deglaze the pan with white wine for a little added acidity or add a touch of cream if you like your pasta a bit saucier.
- Yield:4 as a main course, or 6 to 8 as a side dish
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 6 ounces (about 3 slices) pancetta (or guanciale), diced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 fresh eggs, beaten
- 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, or more to taste
- Coarse sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Stir well to keep from sticking. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet fry the pancetta in the olive oil until the fat has melted completely and the meat is crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan, reserving the fat. Reduce the heat to low, being careful not to burn the fat.
When the spaghetti is done, drain and toss with the fat in the skillet.
Working quickly, pour the eggs over the pasta. Don't dally or the mix will get cold; at the same time you don't want the pan too hot, lest the eggs overcook. Quickly add the pancetta, lots of freshly ground pepper, stir well, and get it out of the skillet and into very warm bowls ASAP. Salt to taste, then sprinkle some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top, and eat while it's hot!