Sunday, August 29, 2010

Needless complication

The other night, someone I follow on Facebook posted a query: “Anyone have an easy carbonara recipe?”

I thought, “Huh? Easy carbonara recipes? Is there such a thing as a difficult recipe for spaghetti carbonara?....I’ll just post a link to my recipe….um….”

At which point I remembered that I’ve never posted about spaghetti carbonara. Possibly the dish I make most regularly. The one that DP requests for every last meal before he goes away, and every first meal when he gets back. The one he requests so often, in fact, that when I say, “What should I make for dinner for X?” I now immediately follow it with, “…and don’t say carbonara!” He would be completely on board with Calvin Trillin’s campaign to have it replace turkey as the national dish for Thanksgiving.

Every time I think about posting it, I think, “But that’s so basic. Everyone knows how to make carbonara. It’s so simple.”

Then I read other people’s replies to this request, which:
- included ingredients like chopped red pepper, peas, pesto, and chicken;
- said things like, “Oh no! That’s a company dish—too complicated!”’
- provided detailed instructions for what sounded suspiciously like fettucine alfredo; and
- recommended favorite versions sold in microwave packets and jars.

Okay…so maybe everyone doesn’t already know how to make carbonara after all.

Spaghetti alla carbonara
Despite having encountered much debate and countless variations on this theme, I remain firmly of the opinion that real, true Roman spaghetti alla carbonara includes only the following ingredients.

pancetta (or bacon)
parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano cheese
white wine or chicken stock
butter or olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Please note that cream in any form does not appear on this list.

1. Put pasta water on to boil.

2. Chop 8 oz/250 g/8 pieces of pancetta/bacon and start frying them over med-low heat, stirring occasionally.

3. Grate ~1 cup parmigiano or pecorino.

4. Add salt, then 1 lb/500 g spaghetti to boiling water. Stir and leave to cook.

5. Throw a splash of white wine or chicken stock into the bacon when it is starting to get crispy.

6. Mix three eggs in a small bowl.

7. When pasta is very al dente, reserve 1 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and return to hot pan. Return pan to hot stovetop.

8. Mix 2 Tbsp/1 oz/30 g butter into hot pasta and stir to coat. Grind in some black pepper and throw in some cheese while mixing.

9. Add bacon and liquid from pan. More black pepper & cheese. More mixing.

10. Add beaten eggs. More black pepper & cheese. A splash of pasta water. More mixing.

11. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately, with more black pepper & cheese at the table.

While mixing, be sure to keep the pan on the hot stovetop, and the residual heat from stove, pan, and pasta will lightly cook the eggs into a creamy sauce. No cream is necessary. (Yes, I know I already said that. It cannot be said enough.) The whole thing can be done in the time it takes to heat the water and cook the pasta. It is the second-easiest pasta dish there is. It is the ultimate pantry/storecupboard meal.

Serves 4, barely, as a main course. Any leftovers will be rapidly hoovered up, especially if any of my household are in the vicinity.


dana said... Best Blogger Tips

for the longest time this was the only way i could get my daughter to eat eggs. she was a pasta lover from day one and this is still one of her faves. ocasionally i'll add spinach and she'll still eat it, that's how much she likes it.
i feel the same way posting about most pasta dishes. but i got frustrated lately looking for info on sourdough starters. i killed mine, and all the stuff i found assumed you already knew how to activate it. so with pasta - it may be simple, but if you've never seen it done, it can pose a problem.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you for posting your perfectly simple recipe! Ours has always had a little cream, but I'm going to try it your way next time..especially now we have our own eggs!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

There is no cream in Spaghetti alla Carbonara. 'Nuff said. This is similar to the recipe I use from a book that has been in storage (air-conditioned) for 18 months. So I can't give it to you.

Your adventure took you to Missouri, ours took us to Utah! Thanks for checking out the blog - can I reference yours on my blogroll? WP just changed everything so I have to work on it.

Well, for a while we're nearly neighbors. Imagine that. Keep cooking and writing! Dee

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips

Dana - same with my daughter and eggs! And you're so right about how helpful really basic information can be.

Celia - I'll be interested to hear how it comes out--it should be amazing with your home-raised eggs!

Dee - hurrah, another member of the no-cream brigade! I'd be pleased to be included on your blogroll, and my sympathies on having all your stuff in storage--been there too often!

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