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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Warning: this is another one of those controversial recipes where plenty of people have a very specific way of making it. But this way tastes good, so I don't mind if it's not 100% authentic. 

Carbonara is one of several miracle pasta recipes that come together with pasta water, this time adding bacon, eggs and cheese.  What could be better?  Well I also like to add fresh peas, although that's not strictly traditional.   

I was lucky enough to find shelled fresh peas at the market, but frozen peas work great in this.  I like peas but I never eat them as a side dish, only as an addition to pasta or curry.  

Also, you need bacon. I prefer to use pancetta which is Italian bacon that's not smoked. You can also just use regular bacon.

In addition to the pancetta, some eggs, at room temperature if possible.   

Start a large pot of salted water boiling for the pasta. 

I used whole wheat spaghetti.  I found this brand at my local Italian speciality store but they don't have it any more. I wish I could find it again, it's good!  You can use whatever spaghetti you like.

Once the water is boiling, add the pasta. 

Meanwhile, chop your pancetta into a medium dice.

Sauté in a pan until just slightly crisp.

You'll need lots of good parmesan cheese for this.  

I use Parmigiano Reggiano, about a cup grated.   

Crack 2 eggs in a bowl.  

And lightly mix with the cheese to form a thick paste.

I also like to add some fresh parsley.

I chop it and throw it right in to the egg mixture but you can add it in at the end too.  

Now here's where there are some difference in opinion on how to proceed.  In the authentic recipe there are no peas allowed.  But I like the fresh flavour they bring to this otherwise heavy dish. 

I threw the fresh peas into the past water for the last few minutes of cooking. Frozen peas would get the same treatment. 

Before draining the pasta and peas, scoop out a cup of the hot pasta water. Try not to get any peas in it!  

Drain the pasta and peas.

Then throw the whole lot into the pan with the pancetta.  Top with the egg and cheese mixture and toss to combine, adding hot pasta water as needed to thin the sauce and help cook the eggs.  The warmth of the pasta and water cooks the eggs without scrambling them.  

Sprinkle generously with freshly ground pepper and serve.  This isn't a light meal but it is very tasty and can easily be thrown together with pantry staples as long as you have some kind of bacon on hand.  

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