I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this until now! Bad me!
So, it’s snowing again. This year, there’s been a lot of that. So I was pondering my lunch options, and then I realized: carbonara. It’s perfect for winter (It’s really perfect anytime, though it’s more of a fall/winter dish, in general) and I needed my fix.
I first had carbonara in a hotel restaurant in New York City, when I was 21. My college friends and I were there for the New Year’s celebrations, and after a morning of museums and shopping, my friend and I went back to our hotel for lunch. ON the menu was carbonara. I ordered, I ate, I swooned.
This is not that exact carbonara. Ever since that discovery, I have tried many carbonara recipes. This one is the best, from Nigella Lawson’s How to Cook. I do not like carbonara that requires cream. I do not like carbonara that requires anything green or any sort of vegetable. I like this carbonara because I can make it with pantry ingredients. (I always have pancetta on hand, so I can make this, or indeed any number of wonderful Italian things. You can find pancetta, diced in the 4 oz. amounts called for, in almost any Supermarket, although I prefer Trader Joe’s because the price is the best there.)
Carbonara recipes can be fiddly to read, and even fiddlier to execute. There are a lot of things that have to happen quickly near the end. So: do your mise en place–get all your ingredients ready before you start (not mixed, just out and ready to go, portioned in little bowls, if you have them. If you don’t have them, I highly recommend them, they are wonderful).
I’ve broken up Nigella’s recipe into its three parts: The pasta, the pancetta, the egg. Together, they make perfect carbonara. I’ve adapted her recipe slightly.
Perfect Carbonara–serves two big servings (maybe three. possibly. Not four.)
1/2 lb spaghetti
4 oz. pancetta, diced (you CAN use bacon, but it’s not nearly as good. Get the pancetta.)
2 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. white wine or vermouth (I always use white wine, so I have no idea what it tastes like with the vermouth. However, if you want to try….)
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
freshly ground black pepper. I probably end up with between 1 and 1 1/2 tbsp. ground
Whole nutmeg (yes, this is a Nigella edition. And yes, it is good)
1 generous tbsp. unsalted butter
For the pasta: Set a big pot of water to boil. When it’s boiling, add a LOT of salt. When it’s boiling again, add the pasta.
For the pancetta: Once you’ve got the pasta in the water, place the olive oil in a large skillet and warm it. Add pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes, until bubbly and starting to crisp up. Add the wine or vermouth, and let bubble away for another 3 minutes. If the pasta’s not ready yet, turn off the heat and let it sit (but the pasta should be ready, or close to ready).
For the eggs: While the pancetta is cooking, mix together the cheese, the egg, the pepper, and the nutmeg. Grate it as much nutmeg as you want–I go for about a teaspoon, but there’s really no measure. Until it looks good to you. Set aside.
When the pasta is done, drain it. Return the pancetta pan to the heat, and add the butter. Add the hot pasta to the pancetta pan and coat the pasta with the mixture, until all liquid is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat, and then add the egg mixture. Toss and toss until every strand is deliciously coated with the egg mixture.
Put it in a deep bowl (my choice) or to a plate, and enjoy. Oh, boy, enjoy.