Spaghetti alla carbonara is the pasta you make when all you have in the house is pasta, cheese, an onion and an egg and maybe some bacon or pancetta. It’s the back up plan, easy way out, in a pinch, gotta eat now sort of dish you should know about. Take note, it does not include cream which is an American-Italian variation that is best forgotten.
Spaghetti alla carbonara is the pasta you make when all you have in the house is pasta, cheese, an onion and an egg and maybe some bacon or pancetta. It's the back up plan, easy way out, in a pinch, gotta eat now sort of dish you should know about. Take note, it does not include cream which is an American-Italian variation that is best forgotten.
Ingredients for 2
225g/8 oz/ or about a half a pack of spaghetti or fettuccine (which is a traditionalist's no-no, but I like it)
2 strips of chopped bacon strips, or 1T of chopped pancetta
1 minced shallot, or 2T of minced onion
1/2 cup of grated parmigiana or pecorino or asiago cheese
1 fresh egg
Variations on the theme: This is more of a technique than a recipe, meaning, the ingredients are flexible, but the process is always the same.
If you have pecorino or sheep cheese, that's cool, you have asiago, that's cool. You want a hard dry cheese, not a soft stringy one like Swiss cheese or Gruyere. Freshly grated is always better. This means you dig the grater out of the cabinet and rub the cheese on it. It's 45 seconds worth of labor and you worked in a bit of upper body exercise. Stop buying the pre-grated stuff, it’s full of additives to keep it from clumping and drying out and there is added filler so you don't get just cheese. Pre-packaged grated cheese is nasty stuff, so unless you find something that is 100% cheese, stay away from little green canisters of cheese-like product.
Peas are good, fresh or frozen. I'm not a fresh, local, organic saint, I'm just being practical, frozen peas aren't so bad.
Fave beans are good.
Asparagus would be good.
Get your salted pasta water boiling.
Prep the onions and pancetta. Grate the cheese into a bowl.
Set the egg out on the counter to warm up a little.
Set the table, have a glass of wine, get out of your work clothes, make a salad. You've got some time to fool around as the pasta water comes to a boil.
Put the pasta into the boiling water and assuming it takes 10 minutes to cook (look on the spaghetti package, it will tell you how long to cook it).
Sauté your pancetta or bacon, then add the onion and let it soften but not brown.
If you are adding peas, or another vegetable, cook the vegetable now, but cook it lightly because you want the dish to be fresh and lively, not over cooked and mushy. By the way, canned peas are absolutely forbidden.
OK, your pasta is done, and now you have to pay attention and move quickly.
Drain the pasta and toss into the bowl with the grated cheese. Add your vegetable. Add the pancetta and onion and mix thoroughly. Now, while its still mad hot and steaming up your glasses, break the raw egg into the pasta. Yes, break the egg into the pasta. This is the creamy secret. Stir very well and quickly…. grate lots of fresh pepper on top and go eat. Told you it was easy!
PS This recipe is for Steve, since you weren't around yesterday at lunchtime. The pasta in the photo had fresh raw peas tossed in at the last second and chopped fresh mint, parsley and basil tossed on top.