by Debra on April 19, 2010

Musical pairing – Koop Island Blues by Koop
I fell in love with Spaghetti Carbonara during my trip to Rome several years ago and it’s been one of my all-time favorite comfort dishes ever since.  Perfectly cooked al dente pasta wrapped in a silky, luscious sauce made with egg yolks and parmesan cheese, doused with copious amounts of black pepper and pancetta folded into the mix.  It’s the stuff dreams are made of I tell you!

As I look back on that trip, I’m struck by how small that kitchen was – about 10 x 10 feet – and how many people we fed – more than 30 at every meal!  The space included a single sink (no dishwasher), an apartment-sized refrigerator and a 2-burner electric stove with one very small oven; 4 of us cooked in that tiny space – one person at the stove, one person chopping veg for a salad (usually in the hallway), one person preparing dessert on a counter the size of a postage stamp and another designated as sous chef, filling in wherever needed.  To say it was challenging is an understatement – but I loved every minute of cooking side-by-side with Beya, my Italian ‘mama’, a master in creating superb dishes with few ingredients, such as this Carbonara.

Carbonara can be somewhat daunting in terms of adding the egg mixture to the cooked pasta – if the Carbonara stars aren’t in perfect alignment, you could end up with scrambled eggs . . . not good eats.  Enter the April issue of Saveur Magazine where I had one of those ‘light bulb’ moments – the recipe calls for whisking the eggs, cheese, pancetta and pepper in a large bowl and then adding the cooked pasta into the bowl to coat.  I was taught the reverse: adding eggs to hot pasta on the stovetop and then, looking like I’m ‘spinning plates in the circus’, race like crazy to get everything tossed, swirled and blended in the nano-second before the eggs become scrambled – sometimes successful, sometimes . . . well, let’s just say that I’m not ready for any plate-spinning feats . . .

Carbonara is a really fantastic dish and now armed with this new technique, I’m adding the recipe into regular rotation here at Smith Bites.  And with a few simple ingredients, lunch or dinner can be ready to eat in about 20 minutes – heck – I’ve even had it for breakfast!  What’s not to love about spaghetti, bacon and eggs?

What is your favorite comfort food?


SAVEUR MAGAZINE, April 2010, Pg 56


To make this dish the traditional way, toss together the cheese, eggs, pepper, and pork in a bowl to create a thick sauce.

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. thinly sliced pancetta cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used a good quality thick-cut bacon)
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
1-3/4 cups finely grated Parmesan
1 egg plus 3 yolks
Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. spaghetti

1.  Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add bacon (or pancetta) and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 6-8 minutes. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 2 minutes more, Transfer bacon mixture to a large bowl and let cool slightly; stir in 1-1/2 cups Parmesan (reserve last 1/4 cup) and egg and yolks and stir to combine; set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a 6-qt. pot of water to a boil; add a liberal amount of salt and taste – it should taste salty!  Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes, Reserve 3/4 cup water; drain pasta and transfer to bacon mixture; toss, adding pasta water a little at a time to make a creamy sauce, Season with salt and pepper; serve with remaining Parmesan.

SMITH BITES NOTES: Because this dish as just a few ingredients, it’s super important to use the best quality ingredients you can afford; i.e., Parmesan Reggiano grated yourself, has more flavor than cheese that’s been grated and packaged.  Niman Ranch has fantastic Applewood Smoked bacon or buy from your local butcher.