spaghetti carbonara {my go-to pasta dish}

Chances are, if I’m at an Italian restaurant and in the mood for pasta as my main course, if carbonara is on the menu that’s what I’m ordering. It’s such a simple dish but is so amazingly flavorful, decadently creamy with a saltiness I find completely irresistible. This pasta of humble origins is said to have been created around the coal mines of Italy as a easily created fulfilling dish made from simple, portable ingredients. Traditionally made with guanciale {salt-cured pork from the pig’s jowls} or pancetta {also salt-cured}, in a pinch you can make this with thick slab bacon, although because most bacon is smoked, the overall flavor of the dish maybe a little stronger than if you used the more traditional choices. But they can sometimes be hard to find.

Last year, we ventured out to a neighborhood restaurant who’s antipasto was amazing but when my carbonara arrived I was so disappointed. Not sure what had happened in the kitchen but the plate arrived with virtually scrambled eggs. Okay, they were scrambled. And dry. And the pasta had no flavor. How could that be? How could a restaurant lauding itself as authentic even send something out the kitchen door like that? I felt so bad for the restaurant I didn’t have the heart to send it back. Perhaps, I didn’t have the backbone. Whatever the reason, while picking at the pasta it was right then and there I decided I would make the dish at home the next day. As I set out on the internet to find a recipe made a huge discovery: I’d been making carbonara wrong for years adding cream to the dish. Cream? Never again! Followed the recipe instructions {but adapting the cheese to incorporate some pecorino} and voila! The best carbonara I’ve ever eaten. Sometimes I make this with peas…also yummy. If you want to add frozen peas to your carbonara just add a half cup into the pasta cooking water during the last minute of cooking. Here’s how to make the perfect bowl of spaghetti alla carbonara…scrambled eggs be gone!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
serves 6 as a first course,  4 as a main

3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. guanciale, pancetta or thick slab bacon, cut into ½” cubes
¼ cup yellow onion, finely diced
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup parmesan, finely grated
1 cup pecorino romano, finely grated 
1 egg
4 egg yolks
Kosher salt
1 lb. spaghetti

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add guanciale, stirring frequently, and cook for 4 minutes. Add onions and continue to cook 2 more minutes until the guanciale is lightly browned and onions are translucent. Add black pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl; let cool slightly. 

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to reach it’s boiling point, grate cheeses adding them, the egg, and the yolks to the guanciale mixture. Stir to incorporate. 

Cook pasta just to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water; drain noodles adding them to  the guanciale cheese egg mixture, tossing gently. Add pasta water a little at a time to make the sauce creamy – to the consistency you prefer. Season with salt if needed and serve immediately with more cheese on top if desired.

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One Response to spaghetti carbonara {my go-to pasta dish}

  1. rachel says:

    I saw a variation in my everyday food magazine last week and bought all the ingredients to make it soon. maybe tomorrow! looks delicious.

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