My husband and I have a few favourite local restaurants we frequent regularly. I enjoy going to places where I either can't or don't want to make those dishes at home. Sushi, for example, I'm honestly just not interested in making at home. There's an Italian restaurant in our neighbourhood that makes fresh pasta. It's delicious. Rick always orders the Carbonara, but the traditional style, meaning it's made and served with raw egg yolk. One night he mentioned he was missing the Carbonara, and unfortunately the restaurant was closed for holiday. It was then my quest to learn how to make Carbonara began.
So I've discovered a few things about Carbonara in my quest to make the best at home.
The real italian way does not use cream.
The real italian way does not simply use bacon.
You also must use fresh eggs. Good tasting eggs elevate the flavour of this dish.
Either pancetta, or guanciale work for this recipe. Pancetta is more meaty. Guanciale is fatty, but my goodness it adds flavor.
Pasta water is KEY
Pancetta Vs. Guanciale
Pancetta is made from pork belly, the underside of a pig. It's rolled and cured. Pancetta can be eaten both cooked and uncooked, and it has a fatty, silky texture and light pink color. Guanciale is from the cheek of a pig. It's a rich, very fatty piece of meat that is cured, but not rolled like pancetta. The flavor of the guanciale permeates each bite and gives the sauce an umami richness and a bit of a salty, velvety backbone. When you're cooking down your chosen meat/fat for this dish, rendering it to the point of crispiness is ideal. You won't go wrong with whichever one you choose for this dish.
The brilliant creaminess comes when some of the cooked pasta water combines with the pancetta fat and freshly finely shredded parmesan cheese. When you add the egg yolks at the very end, it becomes even more silky and rich.
Classic Spaghetti Carbonara
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 8 oz pancetta, chopped into bite sized pieces 1 lb pasta spaghetti 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 4 large fresh egg yolks cracked black pepper 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and add 2 tablespoons salt.
Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and pancetta in a med-large saute pan set over medium heat.
Cook until the pancetta is crispy and golden and has rendered the fat into the olive oil.
Remove from the heat and set aside (do not drain the fat).
Cook the spaghetti once the water is at a boil, until just al dente.
Remove 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water and set aside. Drain the pasta.
Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the pancetta, stir, and then toss in the pasta and return to the heat, stirring, for 1 minute.
Remove from the heat, add 1 cup of the Parmigiano and pepper to taste, and toss until thoroughly mixed.
Divide the pasta among four warmed serving bowls.
Make a nest in the center of each one, and gently drop an egg yolk into each nest.
Season the egg yolks with more pepper and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano over the top.
If you find it not salty enough (although between the bacon or pancetta and the parmesan you should be fine) you can serve some on the table.
Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley.
Serve immediately. Have each person pierce their egg yolks to release their golden treasure to mix in with the rest of the sauce.