Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Easy Carbonara

Historically speaking, my favorite type of pasta is a gnocchi or pappardelle with a lamb ragu. There was one time at ricotta fest when Gretchen made an unbelievable ricotta carbonara, but since then I hardly paid much attention to the dish. That is, until my sister and I ordered the dish at L'Artusi, and now I am obsessed. After L'Artusi, I went to Lupa, then I also went to Ciccio's, and, most recently, I ordered it for lunch one day from Lamarca. I couldn't get enough! Finally I decided to give it a try and make it at home. It was actually very easy! 
I read over a few recipes I found on the internet, and found two that said cream was not needed. I was a little skeptical as anytime I have seen chefs make carbonara at restaurants, I've seen them pour in a cream. But, I've been eating (almost daily) pints of Jeni's Ice Cream since it showed up in my grocery store downstairs, and decided that I don't need more cream in my diet.  I picked a recipe from Mario Batali (over the other runner up Ruth Reichl) because his recipe instructed to fold in the egg yolk last, nested in the middle of the pasta. This is exactly how it was served at L'Artusi!

The ingredients for this dish are very simple - spaghetti, guanciale (or pancetta), eggs, and black pepper. I'm not kidding when I say the longest part was waiting for the six quarts of water to boil.  

{Pancetta "golden-browning" away}

{Tossing pasta}

The final step before devouring the plate in one gulp is to pour the egg yolk into the center of the pasta nest. I was a little nervous that the egg yolks would scramble in my pasta and we would have to order sushi or something from seamless web, but, I got lucky this time. 

{Two yolks are better than one*}

I was expecting the worst in terms of the recipe not going as planned, but this came out really well! If I weren't so full I would have taken seconds.

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara, recipe from Mario Batali

Serves 4


  • 3 tbsp. EVOO
  • 8 ounces guanciale, pancetta, or bacon
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • 1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
In a large pot, bring about 6 quarts of pasta to a boil, adding in 2 tablespoons of salt. This will take forever, so you can make the rest of the dish in the meantime.

In a large saute pan (I used a wok - you will be adding your spaghetti to this so make sure it is large enough), heat the EVOO over medium heat and add in the guanciale/pancetta/bacon. Cook this until the fat has rendered and the meat is a crispy golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside, do not drain the fat.

Separate the eggs - bear in mind that the pasta will be served in individual bowls, so it might be easier to have one small bowl for each egg yolk.

Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until it is al dente, this was about 10 minutes for me. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta.

Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the guanciale, then toss in the pasta and heat, shaking the pan, for about a minute. Remove pan from the heat, add one cup of the cheese, the egg whites, and pepper to taste, and toss until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Heat the serving bowl/plate (I did this in the microwave for about 30 seconds), and then divide the pasta into the bowls or plates. Make a nest in the center of each dish, and then drop one egg yolk into each nest*. Season the egg yolk with some peper and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese over each dish. Serve immediately! Guests can gently "toss" the pasta with their silverware so the creaminess of the egg yolk permeates the dish and creates a nice sauce for the pasta.

*Ok, I followed the recipe to serve four, but was only serving two. I ended up using two egg yolks in each dish (and had leftover pasta in the wok), so mine was extra creamy.

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