SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA

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by Debra on April 19, 2010


Musical pairing – Koop Island Blues by Koop
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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?

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SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
SAVEUR MAGAZINE, April 2010, Pg 56

SERVES 4

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

INGREDIENTS
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

METHOD:
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.

© 2010, Debra. All rights reserved.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro May 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Oh… and I forgot to mention – I’m amazed that Europeans can cook so well in such tight spaces! Maybe I should pretend my 5′ x 7′ kitchen is “European.” Not tiny and outdated. “Euurrrrropeeeean.”

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Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro May 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm

We’re baaaaack! ;-)

This dish looks wonderful. When Mr. RGBistro allows me to have carbs for dinner again, I may have to give this a go.

Hmm… favorite comfort food? Right now, it’s a cream-based penne with Spicy italian sausage, shallots, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. [K]

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sweetlife April 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

what a wonderful dish..oh I love recipes that evoke memories…yum

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Debra April 19, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Judi ~ I’m thinking Hannah will decide this is her fav pasta dish of all time! And thanks so much for the kind words on the blog – it’s nice to know people are reading and like what they see!

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Judi April 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm

This recipe is one I will definitely try – my Hannah loves her some pasta!!! Love your photography, the pictures are so good that I can almost smell the dish. Love your blog!!!

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Debra April 19, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Yes, RC, traveling and food is something that stays with us forever; and it was quite the dance in that kitchen!

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The Rowdy Chowgirl April 19, 2010 at 8:55 pm

There’s just something special about foods we fall in love with while travelling, isn’t there? Thanks for sharing the memories–I can almost see the tiny Roman kitchen full of happy cooks doing the kitchen dance around each other.

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Debra April 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Thanks Gwen – simple and wonderful!

And MJ – you should give it a go – mixing the egg, cheese and pork in a large bowl really makes a difference!

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merry jennifer April 19, 2010 at 6:00 pm

This looks amazing. I’ve never made spaghetti alla carbonara – I’ve always been concerned about the scrambled egg possibility. May have to give it a try.

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bunkycooks April 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Your pasta looks delicious! I love this dish. It is so simple, yet such a wonderful meal.

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Debra April 19, 2010 at 4:30 pm

You’re welcome – I hope you make this – it’s fab!

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Cindy H April 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Thank You Thank You Thank You!!!

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Debra April 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Maria ~ I’m so happy when a recipe creates memories like that!

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Maria April 19, 2010 at 4:17 pm

My dad and brother love this pasta dish. It reminds me of home. Thanks:)

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