Apologies in advance to any Italians who stumble across my blog, this is not a traditional carbonara. I’ve been making different versions of Spaghetti Carbonara for over 20 years. When I first met himself, it was his favourite dinner. Being keen to impress I used to make it fairly regularly. But that version of carbonara was the Irish version of the dish, with lots of double cream. Very rich, stodgy and leaving me barely able to wash up after! When I first had proper carbonara it was a revelation. Then I started using Nigella’s recipe from How to Eat.
To be fair, the internet needs another carbonara recipe like Dublin Airport needs another queue. Yet, here we are. Over the years I have adapted and changed my own recipe. When I went to make it last month, I couldn’t find the notebook that I had jotted the recipe down in. So while this isn’t anything too original, I felt I had to add it to the blog so that I couldn’t lose it again.
Carbonara is a very simple dish to make and ready in no time. It tastes like a special meal that took hours to prepare but is less than 20 minutes from start to finish.
Useful tips & links:
- Traditionally the meat used in carbonara is guanciale. This is not too easy to find in your local supermarket so I use smoked pancetta. At a push you can use streaky bacon.
- I used to make this with parmesan only. However I found it could be strong tasting, probably because I like so much cheese, but using half pecorino and half parmesan gives it a milder flavour and smoother sauce.
- I pour a little bacon fat into the egg and cheese mixture. The reason for this is to help to temper the eggs so that they gradually come up in temperature without scrambling. Adding the pasta water helps with this as well as emulsifying the sauce.
- Check out Chef Mimi’s gorgeous Smoked Mozzarella Carbonara, I love a smoked cheese!
- You can see the late great Paolo Tullio’s recipe for Carbonara here.
- Regular followers will know that I make a pasta dish at least once a week. For more quick tasty pasta dishes, see my Lemon Spaghetti or this Nduja Mascarpone and Lemon Pasta.
Makes 2 very generous portions
- 200g of spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 100g of diced pancetta
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
- 3 egg yolks
- 30g of parmesan cheese finely grated
- 30g of pecorino cheese finely grated
- Fresh black pepper
- Place a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook the spaghetti until it still has a slight bite to it and do not drain the spaghetti.
- While the spaghetti is cooking, heat the oil in a wide shallow pan, add the garlic and pancetta, and cook the pancetta or guanciale until crisp. Remove some of the meat and drain to kitchen paper to keep it crisp. Discard the garlic.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the cheese. Season with plenty of black pepper, it will not need salt as the meat and cheese are salty enough.
- Pour about a tablespoon of the bacon fat into the egg mix and whisk through. Next add 60ml or 4 tablespoons of the starchy pasta water into the eggs. Whisk thoroughly to emulsify the sauce.
- Using a tongs, pull the cooked spaghetti from the pot and into the pancetta in the wide pan. This will bring some more of the pasta water into the pan and make it easier to stir through.
- Toss the pasta in the pancetta and fat until evenly coated. Pour over the egg mixture and remove the pan from the heat.
- Work quickly with the tongs to mix the pasta and the sauce until all of the pasta is coated in the sauce. The residual heat will cook the eggs. If you want more of a sauce you can add a little more pasta water.
- Plate immediately with more parmesan grated on top and more black pepper. Crumble over the reserved crispy bacon.
- Serve with a simple salad to cut through the richness and a nice glass of cold white wine wouldn’t be a bad idea!