Recipe: pasta carbonara
The other day as I was wrapping up a product shoot, I noticed Kaweah lying on the floor next to a light stand, looking bored. I walked over to stroke her silky ears and she casually lifted her front paw asking for a belly rub. Kaweah was in a mellow mood, which used to be a rare thing but is now the norm. Instead of putting the studio gear away, I pulled the background down to the floor and coaxed the dog over with treats. I need to remind myself to do this more often while she’s still with us. It’s so easy to get busy and tell yourself that you’ll do it later, and then one day… later is just too late.
she reminds me of a plush toy sometimes
kaweah got bored
We took care of house things on Saturday which involved lots of running up and down the stairs to do laundry, to seal the driveway before the next snow storm, to consolidate our recycling and trash to take to the dump, to move our deck furniture into the basement until summer. That sort of house stuff. Kaweah, in her old age, no longer likes hearing loud sounds (despite being mostly deaf). She also dislikes seeing furniture or large appliances moved about. And it makes her nervous when we go in and out of a room too much. So after getting wigged out for most of Saturday and hiding in the office, she finally emerged when I started making dinner.
pasta carbonara: linguine, olive oil, pepper, parmigiano-reggiano, eggs, pancetta, salt
Yes, leave it to cured pork (or any meat) to pique Kaweah’s interest. Truth be told, I was interested too. I’ve never made pasta carbonara before. It’s something I have seen and heard praises about for eons, but I had never even tasted it. Pasta carbonara had been sitting on a long list of dishes I wanted to make and/or try. I had no idea it was so simple.
dice the pancetta
grate the cheese
Originally, I intended to make a full recipe which serves four, but wound up buying half the amount of pancetta I needed because I got two recipes mixed up in my head. This was actually a good thing, because pasta carbonara doesn’t reheat well. It’s one of those dishes that is best eaten fresh. I wound up making enough for the two of us.
place the olive oil and pancetta in a frying pan
brown the pancetta, but don’t fry it to a crisp
whisk the eggs, cheese, and pepper together
the egg-cheese mixture should become thick and creamy
Another thing about this pasta carbonara… it needs to come together quickly. So have your mise en place ready because timing is important. Get the pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Fry the pancetta. Whisk the eggs and cheese and pepper together. As soon as the pasta is just shy of al dente, reserve a cup of pasta water, drain the pasta, and place the pasta in the frying pan with the pancetta. Whisk a quarter cup of the pasta water into the egg mixture. Pour the egg over the pasta. Toss it all together. You can imagine what a nightmare this was to shoot with Kaweah underfoot in her undying devotion to pork.
place the pasta in the frying pan
whisk some pasta water into the egg mixture
pour the sauce over the pasta
toss to coat
Rich, decadent, salty, creamy. If you fear raw eggs, they say the heat of the pasta is supposed to cook the eggs in the sauce, which explains why the pasta has to be added right after draining. But water boils at a lower temperature the higher you go in elevation, so keep that in mind. We thought this was especially delightful with a glass of bubbles (bubbly tends to do well with salty and creamy). It’s not a good make-ahead meal because it doesn’t reheat well, but pasta carbonara is quick to prepare and an indulgence to be eaten hot.
quick and decadent
from Fine Cooking
1 lb. dried spaghetti or linguine (or 24 oz. fresh)
2 tbsps kosher salt
1/2 lb. pancetta or guanciale, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
4 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 3 1/2 cups)
black pepper, freshly ground
flake salt to season
Bring 8 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a boil in a large stock pot. Boil the pasta just shy of al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. While you wait for the water to boil, place the olive oil and the pancetta or guanciale in a skillet (NOT cast iron) and cook over medium heat. Stir the meat occasionally to bring it to a golden brown, but don’t render all of the fat and fry it to a crisp. The guanciale should take about 3-5 minutes. Pancetta takes 5-7 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cheese, and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper together until combined. Whisk in a slow stream of 1/4 cup of the pasta water into the egg mixture. As soon as you drain the pasta, place it in the skillet with the pancetta or guanciale. Pour the egg mixture over the pasta and toss everything with tongs until the pasta is completely coated with sauce (about 15 to 30 seconds). Add more pasta water if necessary to achieve a creamy constistency. Serve hot with black pepper. Serves 4.
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