Happy birthday, dude! Spaghetti alla carbonara is my sons favorite dish and is a smash whenever I make it, but this is the one he wants on his birthday today!
I have to begin this recipe with an honest warning. It involves eggs that are not ‘properly’ cooked. Technically, if you do this correctly, the eggs will be cooked, but not by applying direct heat. There is a lot of room for ending up with uncooked egg if you move slowly or start with cooler ingredients to begin with.
The ingredients for this insanely tasty dish are simple and few. Bacon, pasta, eggs, Parmesan or Romano cheese, and freshly ground black pepper. Traditionally, this uses guanciale, which is made from hog jowls (cheeks) instead of the belly(bacon), but we cannot get guanciale here and I am not butchering hog (yet) to get the specific cuts I need.
2-3 tbsp Olive oil
1/2 pound bacon, guanciale, or pancetta
1 pound pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, linguini)
4 egg yolks, separated
1 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
Freshly ground black pepper
Start the oil in a frying pan and slice your bacon or guanciale into chunks or smaller bits. I like chunks the size of grapes or so, or sliced bacon cut into 3/4 inch bits… Bite size, but not like meat dust. Slowly cook the bacon to render the fat out of it and let it get slightly crispy edges. You do not want it burnt since it will be added to a lightly colored sauce in a little bit here. Once the metnis finished, remove it from the heat, but do not drain the fat and oil mix.
Drain the pasta water (except what you reserved) and pour the pasta into the meat, oil, fat mixture and add the hot, salted pasta water, except 2 tbsp (used in a second here). Stir or flip the pasta to be sure it is coated.
Add the 2 tbsp of water to your egg yolks and keep them moving. You do not want scrambled eggs here, and adding the hot water to the eggs will temper them. Add the eggs to the pasta, oil, meat mix and stir to prevent the egg from cooking and clumping. Add the 1 cup of Romano or Parmesan and continue mixing.
No heat was added since the pasta water was dumped and the bacon was turned off. The heat in the bacon fat and in the pasta will cook the egg yolks, so you want to keep the pasta moving and the eggs will cook in to a velvety, creamy sauce loaded with flavor… Pause too long or miss a corner of the pasta for a while and the egg will clump. Your end result will taste more like a pasta omelet than a savory dinner pasta… If you take too long to drain the pasta or your pasta and meat finish at different times, your dish will be too cold to cook the egg.
Once the dish is mixed for about 3-5 minutes, serve it on a plate, twirled into nests or haystacks and top it with grated Romano and a few fresh cracks of black pepper.
This has a beautifully smoky and warm flavor with a velvety texture that will make your mouth buzz with delight. You can ‘warm’ the flavor with a little more fresh cracked pepper. You can get a little more ‘flavor’ by adding a smoidge more cheese.
Using fresher cheese, or packaged ‘strips’ of cheese as opposed to the powdered versions of Parmesan will result in a much better dish. Using freshly ground peppercorns will make a huge difference. And if you do use bacon, use an awesome bacon with exceptional flavor. I use my own eggs from my backyard flock, so the yolks have an almost orange color vs the pale yellow yolks found in most store bought eggs. The difference comes from the insects my chickens eat. It is part of a natural chicken diet and results in much healthier and more flavorful yolks than you get from chickens raised indoors and fed unnatural chicken diets their whole lives.
This dish has other variations common in the states such as using cream, peas, mushrooms, or broccoli. If you are making this with a cream sauce, you can cook the sauce separately to make sure the egg is fully cooked (keep stirring to prevent the egg from cooking to itself).
I used to love this with cream and peas, then I learned ‘the old way’ of making this dish! Yum!