Spaghetti alla carbonara

Comfort food to the rescue

Originally appeared in the October 13, 2011 edition of The Southside Times.

With chilly temps creeping in, and fall breezes coaxing brittle leaves off the trees, it’s about that time when our eyes and appetites start favoring “heavier” selections on the menu.  Today’s recipe is a classic, and will fit the bill for any comfort-food craving.  Read more here:Just about as rich as pasta gets, classic carbonara is what alfredo sauce wishes it could be—a well-balanced mixture of pancetta, heavy cream, egg yolks, and sometimes parmesan cheese.  And while it may seem like a contradiction with all these “heavy” ingredients, the result is silky and delicate.

The key to this recipe lies in the technique of gently incorporating the egg yolk into the sauce.  You want to temper the yolk—meaning you have to keep a keen eye on the heat.  Low and slow is the way to go.  To achieve the velvety texture of carbonara, don’t boil your sauce, or else the eggs will curdle (and if you do, don’t beat yourself up—aesthetics and textures aside, I bet ya it’d still taste pretty good.)

And if you can’t get ahold of pancetta, an ersatz replacement would be a few slices of smoky, thick-cut bacon.  While you should strive for precision, it’s more fulfilling to be a pleaser.

Spaghetti alla carbonara

Serves 2

  • ½ pound dry spaghetti
  • 4 – 6 ounces pancetta (or thick-bacon), small chop
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • As needed, chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • (Optional:  parmesan cheese)

1.  Cook pasta in salted water to al dente.  Combine egg yolks and heavy cream in a bowl, and whisk together until well combined.

2.  Meanwhile, in a sauté pan with olive oil over medium-high heat, cook pancetta until crisp.  Remove.  Reduce heat and sweat garlic briefly; deglaze pan with white wine.

3.  Drain pasta.  Add butter to deglazed sauté pan; add pasta and toss with butter.  Adjust heat and slowly stir in yolk cream mixture—cook gently until sauce becomes thick (don’t boil).

4.  Add in a bit of reserved pancetta and toss together.  (Optional:  add a small amount of parmesan cheese.)  At service, garnish with Italian parsley and chopped pancetta.

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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