THE WONDER of home cooking lies in its simplicity. You fling open the refrigerator or cupboard door and just take it from there.
My spaghetti alla carbonara! Rich and creamy and yet, no heavy cream!
I feel that the cuisine that renders itself best interpreted at home is Italian. Their food focuses on the simplest of ingredients, the easiest of preparation, but all leading to maximum effect. A plate of pasta always seems so special. And perfect for quieting down after–midnight hunger pangs.
Which is exactly what I’m doing right now as I write this. I’ve just arrived from another long day at work. And however tired I may be, I reckon that the 10 minutes total time I need to make my pasta–fixation–of–the-moment will be time well spent.
Having been cooking for close to three decades now, I know that by the time the pasta is al dente, I shall be reaping the rewards of my solitary dinner awash with the feeling of an incredibly indulgent spoiled child.
As they say, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Spaghetti alla carbonara is a Roman invention. So I find it quite respectful to cook it as the Romans do – which means totally devoid of the heavy cream that the Filipino version swims in. Traditionally, spaghetti alla carbonara is made with olive oil, guanciale or pancetta, fresh whole eggs, equal parts of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano–Reggiano cheeses, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper.
Dried spaghetti usually takes 12 minutes to cook. Since I always cook my pasta one to two minutes less than what the package tells me, I decide on 10 minutes.
This is how I make one portion. As applicable, I indicate the brands I actually use or prefer. Feel free to use yours. Some are clearly substitutions (I don’t have guanciale or pancetta right now!).
Refrigerator and store cupboard essentials to a most satisfying spaghetti carbonara!
One whole egg when I’m less hungry. Two when I really am. Of course, two means I’m making enough for two portions, but to be consumed by only me. Haha! It is important to use UV-sterilized eggs. And oh yes, bring it to room temperature first.
Regardless of whether I’m doing one or two portions, I use three to five rashers of Danish streaky bacon every single time.
On this one time, I used exactly only three rashers.
I’ve always loved De Cecco dried pasta which I believe is simply the best. But I’m pleasantly surprised to be enjoying Arrighi lately!
I know that salt is salt is salt. But there’s something about MORTON® coarse Kosher salt that just makes any dish more delicious.
MILLEL® remains to be my favorite parmesan cheese. I’d buy it in wedges which I’d snack on without ceasing. But whenever there’s no MILLEL®, there’s always Kraft® or Perfect Italiano™. Its flavor is bold but not quite strong.
In my recipe I say “dice” the guanciale, pancetta or streaky bacon. But you can just simply slice it any which way you want.
A serving portion for one needs about a quarter of a pound of dried pasta. That’s a quarter of a pack or box. To clarify, this again is a portion for one – make that, “one eNTeNG.” Two less hungry people can share this amount.
Bring water to a boil in a pot that is deeper rather than wider. Add about a tablespoon of Morton® coarse Kosher salt (this is not the time to make your pasta water as salty as the Mediterranean!) and cook about a quarter pound of De Cecco®, Arrighi® or San Remo® spaghetti. (I set my timer at five minutes so I can check the pasta halfway through.)
To a heavy bottom skillet on medium flame, add a kiss of Bertolli® Classico olive oil (“mild taste”) and three to five strips of SuperFresh® Danish streaky bacon that have been diced. While the fat renders out, crack one large whole egg into a bowl and beat it until frothy. In a separate bowl or on to a huge wooden cutting board, grate half a cup each of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano–Reggiano cheese. Or, just cheat by using Kraft® 100% real grated parmesan cheese – nothing wrong with that. Add the cheese (or cheeses) to the beaten egg and freshly crack lots of McCormick® black pepper into the mixture. Stir to combine.
Drain the pasta when it is done, but set aside about a quarter of a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the egg and cheese mixture and quickly toss it well. You’re essentially cooking the egg with the heat of the pasta. To further emulsify the sauce, add the pasta water gradually – you don’t need to add all of it in. Now, add the crisped streaky bacon, a splash of the rendered out fat (already mixed with that “kiss” of the olive oil), and toss all together. Taste for seasoning. As needed, you may add a little more cheese and black pepper.
Enjoy! Didn’t I tell you that this can make you feel rewarded, spoiled, and incredibly indulgent? Heaven. I’m in heaven.
The ease of making pasta lies in the fact that the sauce will almost always be ready by the time the pasta is done. That is, “al dente”. For my spaghetti alla carbonara, I start rendering the bacon (fat) after I have plunged the dried pasta in the boiling water. From this point, total cooking time should be 10 minutes almost exactly!
Get ‘em sizzling. To a heavy bottom skillet on medium flame, add a kiss of Bertolli® Classico olive oil (“mild taste”) and three to five strips of SuperFresh® Danish streaky bacon that have been diced.
Get it crackin’! While the fat renders out from the streaky bacon, crack one large whole egg into a bowl and beat it until frothy. To this, you add the cheese or cheeses. No hard rule as to how much, besides “as much as you want of equal parts Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano–Reggiano.” My recipes will never hold you under s tyranny.
See, sometimes I don’t even follow my own recipe. On nights when I would feel as over incredibly indulgent as lazy, I wouldn’t even mind beating the eggs until frothy before I dump the cheese and freshly cracked black pepper in. Clearly it works just fine. Just don’t start by whisking vigorously or you’ll end up with cheese all over your face.
This is the golden sunshine of a sauce, waiting to be hit by the heat of the pasta. This is quite “savory” – the cheeses are nutty, the egg creamy, and the freshly cracked black pepper oozing with boskiness. Yum.
Getting there. The pasta and the bacon are done. At this point, all you need to prepare for is to.. toss, toss, toss… and toss well! Make sure you did set aside a little of the pasta water! The starch that the dried pasta gave off to the water will help further emulsify the sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
I do beg you to please try to follow my recipe. BUT, nothing is keeping you from tipping the pasta over to the pot where the bacon rendered its fat. Again, one of those lazy nights. Haha! The only drawback of doing this is that the strands of spaghetti will be coated with the oil and fat, and to a certain extent, will make it a bit difficult for the (egg) sauce to cling to the pasta. But the result is delicious just the same.
In keeping with the lazy mood I was in on the night I took this, I poured the sauce on to the already-mixed spaghetti and bacon. Then, I tossed like crazy.
I tumbled the tossed pasta back into the bowl where I mixed the sauce. I have to say, this was such a delicious, scrumptious bowl I brought back to the bedroom with me.
This was the last one I made. Just last night. Make that way past midnight! This bowl was the result of all the steps outlined in my recipe.
I must’ve slurped my way through the spaghetti. Hahaha! It was so good.
Spaghetti alla carbonara loosely translates to “coal miner’s spaghetti”. Like the other pasta I’m quite fond of, spaghetti alla carbonara has an interesting story. Legend has it, Italian men who work in the mines would whip this dish up quickly for lunch time. The generous sprinkling of black pepper reminds them of the coals. Hence the name. Hahaha!
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