I love carbonara. You know this though if you’ve been following me for a while. I posted about carbonara frittata back in the fall which was glorious. Eventually I figured it would be good to give a recipe for the actual pasta dish itself. You know, months and months later. Oops.
Carbonara is essentially a pasta dish with a sauce made from a bit of bacon (or pancetta) fat, eggs and cheese. You render the bacon fat while you cook some spaghetti (just shy of al dente), whisk together eggs with Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, add peas to the bacon fat, add the cooked pasta, add the egg mixture and allow the whole thing to steam cook for another couple of minutes off the heat. This gently cooks the eggs and melts the cheese so they become a luxuriously delicious sauce which coats every strand of pasta. Garnish with a bit more grated Parm and some sliced scallions and you are good to go.
Some carbonara recipes that I’ve seen involve heavy cream which just seems totally unnecessary to me. The sauce in this is simple and flavorful. I feel like the cream would just muddy that and take away from the brightness that the peas and scallions add to the dish. I love that pop of the crisp peas in the midst of this creamy pasta dish. You don’t have to add them but carbonara wouldn’t be complete to ME without them. I just grab a handful right out of the freezer (they are such an awesome thing to keep on hand for dishes like this) and throw them in with just enough time to get warm. This is right before you add the pasta to your saute pan. You could also add some minced garlic if you want but I don’t think that flavor really needs to be in this dish. Again, just complicating things. Keep it simple.
You can use bacon or pancetta in this. Last time I made it with pancetta but today I had bacon on hand so I went with that. Awesome either way!
One thing to mind in this recipe is your timing. The better you time the cooking of the pasta with the rendering of the bacon so that the pasta can go right into a medium-hot pan while it is still hot, the more successfully your egg “sauce” will come together. It’s not really a fussy recipe but don’t use leftover pasta from the fridge is what I’m saying basically. That would be unfortunate.
I got this recipe from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rockstar which is an awesome cookbook. She describes it as a “chef’s late-night favorite”. A bit indulgent, carb-y, easy and fast. So we’re going back to that “keep it simple” rationale I was talking about before. Simple really is better sometimes. Anyway, try this and you’ll see. And you probably have all the ingredients laying around already so you might as well make it. Like tonight. You won’t regret it.
(Adapted from “Pasta Carbonara” in Cook Like a Rock Star by Anne Burrell)
*Makes enough for 4-6 people (easy to cut in half for 2)
- 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 8 ounces bacon (or pancetta), cut into lardons (or a ¼-inch dice)
- 1 lb. thin spaghetti
- 8 large eggs
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano + additional for garnish, if desired
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 4 scallions, sliced on a bias, green parts only
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil
- Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to crisp, 6-8 minutes. Remove pan from the heat, leaving the bacon and the fat in the pan
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute less than the instructions on the package suggest (al dente)
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the eggs, grated Parmigiano and Pecorinio. Season lightly with salt (there is salt in the bacon and cheese so keep that in mind) and liberally but to taste with pepper (pepper is great with this dish)
- Bring the pan with the bacon back to medium heat and add the peas
- Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the bacon and peas, stirring to coat it with the residual fat
- Remove the pan from the heat and vigorously mix in the egg/cheese mixture to coat the pasta
- Cover the pan let sit for 2-3 minutes so that the steam gently cooks the eggs and melts the cheese
- Uncover and stir again
- Serve immediately, garnished with sliced scallions and additional Parmigiano