Classic Pasta Alla Carbonara
The following is the only way to prepare classic Pasta Carbonara. There is no other way, I promise. It's orgins are questionable. There are several theories about how this dish came about. I tend to lean toward the explanation of it dating back to Ancient Roman times. Doesn't everything? "Cacio e uva" or eggs and cheese was served to coal miners. The black pepper was added to intensify the flavor. The black pepper resembles coal. The second theory has to do with two Americans throwing together their food rations, namely cheese and bacon over some pasta and pasta alla Carbonara was born. Whichever you believe, it's all good to me.
Forget the cooking shows, fancy magazines and several interesting cookbooks. Classics should be enjoyed and remembered not covered up and forgotten.
Since you never know when company will arrive at my house, it's always good to have a plan B. Pasta is a perfect plan B. I always have pancetta on hand, as salted pork jowl and guanciale is very hard to come by in Tupelo, Mississippi. Be sure whatever you use, it is salt cured as Americans like to smoke everything and smoke has nothing to do with any italian dish. I like to measure the amount of egg yolks you will need this way; One large egg per 1/4 pound of pasta or one egg per person. For this recipe, you will only be using egg yolks so be sure and reserve your egg whites for a Frittata.
Make adjustments for an increase in pasta.
One pound of good quality italian pasta (Spaghetti)
6 ounces of diced pancetta or
guanciale (salted pork cheek)
One large skillet
Pasta pot filled with salted water, brought to a rolling
salt (optional), to taste
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano
Several tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid from
cooking your pasta.
Plenty of black pepper
Method: Place your pasta Pot filled with salted water to boil. Cook your pasta until al dente. Cook your pancetta until brown lightly, without olive oil, just on it's own and until they are cooked through and slightly crisp. The strips make for a prettier presentation and gives your guests the option to set it aside (although I have never seen anyone actually do such a thing, as they are quite satisfying). Place your egg yolks in a bowl with your cooking water and cheese and give it a mix. Remember to take your egg yolks out a bit ahead as you should always be working with room temperature eggs to get a creamy consistency. Set the bowl aside as you drain your pasta.
Drain your pasta with a bowl underneath to catch some cooking watter. I set aside a little extra, just in case. The starchiness of the water contribute to the creamy texture of this sauce. Drain, add your pancetta and mix with your egg mixture. Head straight to the table and serve with plenty of black pepper. The black pepper gives this dish it's intense flavor.
If you don't believe me, just watch this wonderful video from the premier experts in Italian Food and Food culture, the Academia Barilla in Parma, Italy.