Spaghetti alla Carbonara
The first time we tasted Spaghetti alla Carbonara it was in Nice, yes Nice, France. Who knew we would find some of the best Italian food there. Carbonara is simple but timing is crutial. Have your mise en place done before you start and to achieve an authentic Italian flavor be very generous with the freshly ground black pepper. In Italy they use more black pepper when they cure their pancetta.
The measurement for the cheese is given by weight and volume. The volume is perfect if you are using an Italian cheese grater. If you use a microplane to grate your cheese weight it first or you will be cheating yourself on the cheese. You need almost twice as much cheese by volume if you use a microplane to grate it. I prefer to use the traditional Italian grater, because cheese is easy to sprinkle and it doesn’t clump.
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated (60 grams)
¼ cup pecorino (Tuscan/Tuscano or Romano), freshly grated (25 grams)
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4-6 ounces ¼ inch thick slices of pancetta or guanicale (cured pork jowl), sliced into ¼-inch strips
3 cloves garlic
6 eggs, farm fresh if possible
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound spaghetti or other dry pasta noodle
1-1 ½ teaspoons fleur de sel (sea salt)
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper and more if you like
A few sprigs of Italian parsley
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti over high heat with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Warm your pasta serving bowls in the microwave or in a warm oven while making the carbonara.
2. Mix the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside.
3. Place a large sauté pan (large enough to fit the pasta later) over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the pancetta or guanciale. Using a garlic press crush the garlic into the pan with the pancetta, sprinkle in the black pepper and cook for about 5 minutes until the pancetta has rendered some of its fat and browns. Take the pan off the heat. (The fat is critical to the flavor of the sauce so leave it.)
4. Separate 4 eggs and reserve each of the 4 yolks separately. In a bowl beat together 2 egg whites, plus 2 whole eggs (save the 2 extra whites for another recipe). Stir in three-fourths of the cheese mixture and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel. Cook the pasta (spaghetti) until al dente (it should have a firm texture and no starchy taste). This will take about 8-10 minutes, start checking it 2 minutes before end of the recommended cooking time.
5. When the pasta is done, remove and reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and add it along with 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the pancetta. Turn the heat on to medium and toss to coat well.
6. Take the pan off the heat and add the egg and cheese mixture, toss to mix everything well. If the pasta sauce is not as creamy as you like add a splash of the pasta water, about 2-4 tablespoons (The sauce should be slightly creamier and looser than you would like before you plate it so that by the time it arrives at the table it doesn’t form a clump of spaghetti.) Taste and add a few more grinds of pepper and pinch of fleur de sel if necessary. Divide onto the 4 hot pasta plates. Then using a teaspoon open the center to make a small nest in the center of the spaghetti and place the egg yolk in it. Season with fleur de sel, pepper and some of the grated cheese and parsley. Pass the rest of the grated cheese at the table.
Cook’s note: you can rinse and blanch 4 egg shell halves to place a yolk in. The egg shell is nestled in the pasta so your guests can stir in an extra yolk to make it extra creamy, or you could top it with a poached egg. If you are lucky enough to find guanciale use the four ounces rather than the six in the recipe because there is a larger portion of fat in the guanciale
©2015 Julie Logue-Riordan
Copyright © Julie Logue Riordan, Cooking with Julie