Pasta Carbonara

Love is Bacon and Eggs for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

I come from a long line of women who cook with such confidence, it borders on defiance in following a recipe.  I can’t say that I don’t follow recipes, as I most certainly do.  But I have to admit that my favorite times in the kitchen are those when I am cooking the dishes that I know so intrinsically, using the recipe would only cause me to second guess myself.  This dish, a comforting amalgamation of fatty bacon and oozy eggs and cheese, is one I always love the best when made without a recipe.  I just know it’s going to be good by the feel of working with the ingredients that are in front of me.

Carbonara, for me, isn’t determined by the standard laundry list of ingredients (pasta, eggs, pancetta, parmasean, and a healthy dose of black pepper) so much as the proportions.  I like mine as gloriously lux as possible – comfort food at its finest – which means that I’ll be a bit of an ingredient snob in order to get it just right.  Ironically enough, this dish still manages to be one that I seem to be able to make at any time – I always have the ingredients lying around the fridge.  Maybe that’s the appeal – so easy to make, but insanely full of panache and class.  All cooking should have results such as these.

When you make this for yourself, you can certainly follow the measurements that I list here, but I’d much rather you just read the instructions and gauge the amounts as you are cooking.  I believe in qualitative measurements in the kitchen such as “an obscene amount of” and “just until it looks right” – horrible for recipes, but great for encouraging people to take a chance and do things for themselves behind the stove.  I want you to cook this dish, alter my recipe to make it delicious for you, and then save that adapted recipe for yourself.  Make it and make it and make it again.

I dedicate this recipe to my Vo, who always says that my carbonara tastes the finest EVEN THOUGH she’s never had it the moment that it emerges from the pan.  Carbonara experts know that the moment that the egg, cheese and hot pasta meld to make a glorious sauce (rather than scrambled eggs over pasta) is one of perfection.  Eat this piping hot, make it for loved ones, and know that however you choose to do this, if it makes you happy, then you’ve got the recipe absolutely correct.

Pasta Carbonara

1/2 lb. of pancetta or thick slab bacon, diced into small messy cubes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 eggs, beaten
2 tbs. heavy cream
1/2 c. of grated locatelli (or parmasean of choice)
1 lb of pasta (spaghetti or whatever is around)
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Begin by chopping your pancetta  or bacon into small bits – messy is fine for this dish.  If you end up using bacon, choose something thick and meaty – regular bacon will be much too fatty for this and you’ll end up with not a lot of protein and a whole lot of grease.  Throw the cubes into a pan and brown until crisp.  If you are using bacon, drain off all but 1 scant tablespoon of grease.  If your pancetta is a little dry, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Toss in the garlic while the pan is hot and stir to mellow a bit.  Set bacon and garlic mixture aside.

Put a pot of heavily salted water on the stove to boil.  While that gets going, beat your eggs in a small bowl.  Add the heavy cream and a good amount of black pepper (ocassionally, I’ll up the pepper content with the smallest bit of white pepper as well) and beat a bit more.  Stir in your grated cheese – the mixture should now be thick and creamy.  Set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, add your pasta and cook until al dente.  The classic recipe calls for spaghetti, but I enjoy the thicker bucatini or perciatelli for this as well.  If you are not a fan of long noodles (like my hubby), pasta cuts work as well.  I make the similar Penne ai Carciofi with (you guessed it) penne and the ribs of the pasta soak up the sauce in the same delicious way as spaghetti.  Make whatever you have in the cupboard – certainly not worth an extra trip to the store.

Before the pasta is ready to be drained, make sure you have your bacon mixture and egg mixture on hand.  Drain your pasta and quickly return it to the hot pan that you cooked it in.  Add the bacon and garlic to the pasta.  Immediately pour the egg mixture into the hot pasta in a quick stream, stirring the pot of pasta constantly as you go.  Ideally, you should need no additional heat to turn the raw egg into a glossy, saffron-colored sauce.  If it needs a little coaxing, you can turn the heat on under your pan to very low for a few more seconds and continue to stir until the sauce thickens up.  Be exceedingly careful in doing this, though, lest you end up with scrambled eggs.

Serve with grated locatelli and extra black pepper to some folks who deserve a dish whipped up with some serious love.

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