Spaghetti Carbonara is a long running obsession in my family. My Dad’s obsession, that is. He must have tried every recipe under the sun and we must have sampled dozens of versions. With cream. Without. Some claggy. Some too wet. Some too eggy. Just never quite right. Alway nice, but never reaching the dizzying heights of perfection. Then not too long ago, Dad finally served the ultimate rendition and it reminded me of the pure and fantastic simplicity of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Eggs and bacon. Perfect in every language.
Ever since then I’ve been cooking this classic almost weekly and always keep pancetta in the fridge in case of emergencies. The fantastic thing about this dish is it’s speed. In the time it takes to cook the pasta, you can have dinner on the table (and a damn fine dinner at that). No doubt I’ll get some impassioned comments below that this recipe is not right, but I’m going to risk your wrath and give you the recipe that in my experience results in silky creamy salty deliciousness.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Serves 2 hungry people
- 75g cubed pancetta (or you can use streaky bacon cut up into strips)
- a good handful of parmesan finely grated (about 75g) – you can use a mixture of parmesan and pecorino, but I often just have parmesan in the fridge
- 2 large eggs
- 200g spaghetti (I use De Cecco)
- 1 fat garlic clove, peeled
- sea salt and black pepper
Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Once you have a rolling boil, cook your spaghetti. Meanwhile, get everything else ready – grate your parmesan, peel your garlic, cut up your pancetta, etc. Lightly beat your eggs in a bowl and season with black pepper. Then set everything aside.
When the pasta is almost done, melt a generous knob of butter in a large frying pan. Then using the flat blade of your knife squash the garlic clove a bit (try not to bash it up too much though – you want it to stay together). Add this to the frying pan along with the pancetta/bacon. Cook the pancetta and the garlic together until the pancetta is nice and crispy, then pick out the garlic clove as all the buttery juices will have been infused with the garlic by now. Turn the heat off the pan and allow to cool slightly.
By now the spaghetti should be just about done. Drain it, reserving a little of the cooking liquid. Add the spaghetti to the pancetta and give it a good mix. Now stir most of the grated parmesan into the beaten egg, then pour this over the spaghetti and pancetta. Mix it quickly so that all the spaghetti strands are well coated.
Be careful not to scramble the eggs as this is what makes carbonara claggy – which is why I take the pan off the heat. Add a tablespoon or so or the pasta cooking liquid to help with the consistency of the sauce and to make it really silky. Check the seasoning, and serve immediately with the rest of the parmesan sprinkled over.
See F&G’s Never Fail Pastas #1 here.