NOTES ON: Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Quite possibly the richest, heartiest, most satisfying of all comfort foods in my recipe repertoire is this one: my beloved spaghetti alla carbonara. This Roman dish is quite simple, consisting of cheese, bacon, pepper, egg, and pasta (in this case as in most, that pasta is spaghetti). That list in consideration, this plate is certainly more than the sum of its parts. Prepare your body by eating a light lunch (and a light breakfast), because while some carbonara will surely warm you from your head to your toes, it fills you up fast.


1 lb uncooked spaghetti


olive oil

at least 6 oz. guanciale or pancetta 

1 + 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese

3-4 large eggs

italian herbs such as parsley & oregano, to taste

  1. Bring a stockpot of water to a boil. Then add salt. A decent bit. At least a table spoon. Maybe two. No, you don’t need to add the salt to the water beforehand, it definitely won’t be enough salt to raise the temperature of the water and actually make your pasta cook significantly faster, you just need to add the salt because it tastes better. Nobody likes bland pasta. Add salt.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, grate your cheese and start your bacon (guanciale is more widely used in Italy, but pancetta is going to be easier to find here in the states). Cut it into little pieces.
  3. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook until al dente, probably nine minutes, maybe less. Drain it but save a bit of the pasta water in the pot–like a tablespoon or two–and keep the spaghetti in the pot as well.
  4. Cook it over medium heat in a skillet. You can add the tiniest bit of olive oil, but the bacon will produce a bath of its own fat soon enough. I like to cook it until just before it starts to crisp.
  5. When it’s done, add the whole pan to the pasta, fat and all. Add a little bit of olive oil to this mixture and leave it on a low heat, so it’s still hot when you add the cheese next. Stir so the cheese melts all over the place, then remove your pot from the heat and place on a potholder on the counter or the table.
  6. Here’s the fun part: crack the raw eggs over your pasta. Assure everyone that the hot pasta will cook the eggs, and that we cook carbonara this way so that the eggs don’t coagulate, but rather create this lovely creamy sauce. Season with plenty of cracked pepper. Add a dash of some dry herbs as desired. Make sure to have plenty of extra cacio for the table.
  7. Pair with a pinot bianco, or another that is refreshing and of decent acidity.




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