Sunday, 25 March 2012

Spaghetti Carbonara

Carbonara is so easy and quick to make, yet it is probably one of the recipes that have suffered the most corruption. Done well it is dreamy, done badly it is stodgy and bland. The worst thing I've seen done to a spaghetti carbonara is it being coated with bechamel sauce in place of mixing the pasta with the raw egg. Bottled carbonara sauce is a horrendous idea too, especially as the 'sauce' required merely involves beating some eggs.
White wine is sometimes listed as an ingredient- it'll taste nice, but I'm not sure could call it carbonara. Sometimes I add a little cream, just to gild the lily. I wouldn't buy cream especially for the dish, but if I have some in the fridge I'll happily add a tablespoon or two to the beaten eggs.
I wouldn't complain if I was served carbonara made with pancetta or lardons and parmesan instead of the original guanciale and pecorino romano- I think these are perfectly acceptable substitutions. If you could never have carbonara because cured pig jowl is never available in your local morrisons, then that would be very sad. Try to avoid rashers of bacon in place of the guanciale or pancetta- the little cubes are far nicer here. 
This recipe is probably right for about 3 or 2 hungry people.

250g spaghetti
2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
1-2 tbsp double cream
2 tbsp finely grated pecorino or parmesan
1tsp olive oil
100g diced pancetta or lardons

Put a pan of water on the heat. When it starts to boil, add a large pinch of salt and the spaghetti, and cook for as long as the pack tell you tom or until it's cooked as you like it. Beat together the eggs, cream and parmesan, and season with freshly ground black pepper. Add some salt if you like, just remember that the pancetta and parmesan will also make the dish salty.
To avoid the eggs overcooking when mixed with the pasta, I put the beaten egg mix in the fridge until I want to use it. If you have a serving bowl you can put the egg in there, and mix with the cooked pasta. Doing this as opposed to using the same (hot) saucepan you used for cooking pasta will also lessen the risk of an overcooked, grainy sauce.
Fry the pancetta or lardons in the olive oil until slightly crispy, and set aside. Once the pasta is cooked, mix quickly with egg and bacon, and serve.

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