Recipe: Spaghetti alla Carbonara (bacon and eggs) (video)

Spaghetti alla carbonara is a rich and decadently creamy pasta dish - made without cream - from simple ingredients: pasta, pancetta or bacon, eggs, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, and black pepper. The hot oil from the bacon cooks the egg and cheese mixture as all the ingredients are combined in a hot pan.

Simple in concept but challenging to execute without creating scrambled eggs and pasta.

Watch the quick video below from Steven Dolby of Stevescooking, a Chef Tube channel, for tips on how to master this delectable dish.

Carbonara is a very satisfying late night supper or quick school night dinner that is sure to please. After all, who doesn't like pasta, bacon, eggs and cheese?

Bowl of pasta carbonara

Spaghetti alla carbonara is a simple dish can be made with a wide variety of pasta shapes. Traditionally, it is made with a long, thin pasta such as spaghetti (shown here), linguini or fettuccini. Personally, I like to use farfalle (bowties, also called butterflies) or shell pasta to catch and hold all those delicious bacon bits!

Pasta alla carbonara (pasta made in the charcoal -or carbon- workers' style) is essentially a peasant dish made with inexpensive, available ingredients. It originates from the latium region (Rome) in Italy, and today can be found on the menus of most Roman restaurants.

I learned to make this dish in Italy using pancetta (a pork belly meat flavored with peppercorns) but I have also seen recipes that use guanciale (pork jowls). Both of these are inexpensive cuts of meat. I now use low-sodium, center-cut bacon as I find the texture more pleasing and I almost always have a package or two in my freezer.

For the cheese...you don't need much so use a high quality Pecorino Romano (a gamey sheep's milk cheese) or real Parmegiano Reggiano (Parmesan) or a blend of the two. Be sure and grate the cheese just before using for the best flavor. If you are short on time, small bags or containers of freshly-grated cheese can usually be found in the deli department - or near the specialty cheeses - of most grocery stores. You definitely want to avoid the cans of pre-grated cheese as these tend to have fillers and can taste really flat.

Whatever pasta shape, meat or cheese you choose, make sure you use quality ingredients and work quickly. While the recipe is simple, the mastery of the dish can be challenging. Read my tips below to improve your chances of achieving a creamy, smooth carbonara - and not scrambled eggs!

TIP: Take the eggs from the fridge and allow them to come to room temperature before adding  the cheese.
TIP: Grate the cheese using one of the smaller settings so it's light and fluffy rather than big bits or shavings. This will help the cheese incorporate better with the eggs and produce a smoother, creamier sauce.
TIP: Make sure you use a sauce pan that will be large enough to hold and mix all the cooked pasta. I drain my pasta and return the hot pasta to the cooking pot, off the heat. I then add the hot bacon oil to the pasta, using a plastic spatula to scrape up all the delicious bits. I stir to coat the pasta with the oil, then add the egg mixture, putting it back on the (low) heat only if necessary. Or you can just add the hot pasta directly to the hot pan of oil and then add the egg mixture.
TIP: If you are using bacon, you may want to drain some of the grease from the pan (1 tbs. or so) so the dish isn't too greasy. For a slightly lighter, somewhat heathier version, drain the bacon fat completely and replace it with a good quality olive oil. Scrape up the bits on the bottom of the pan and allow the bacon pieces to flavor the oil over low heat. Make sure the oil is nice and hot before adding the pasta.
TIP: Use some of the starchy reserved pasta water to smooth out your dish.
TIP: The pasta will continue to absorb the sauce even after being plated so it's OK if it seems a tiny bit runny when first served. If it seems too dry, add in a bit of the pasta water and mix gently to smooth it out.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Quick and simple (not necessarily easy!) this is a great late night supper, quick school night dinner or decadent lunch. Pasta, bacon, eggs and cheese...what's not to love about this recipe?!?

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) pkg. dried spaghetti (can use fettuccini, linguini, farfalle or shells)
  • 1/2 lb. pancetta, guanciale or bacon, diced small
  • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (if using pancetta or guanciale)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, FRESHLY grated on the fine setting. Reserve some for garnish.
  • 1 tbs. FRESH ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tbs. kosher salt for the pasta water only.
  • 1/2 cup reserved pasta water for later.

Instructions

  1. Start with a cold pan to render the fat from the meat. (Otherwise, the meat may stick to the pan and not brown sufficiently.)
  2. Drizzle the olive oil into a medium sauce pan and add the diced pancetta. Cook slowly over medium-low heat until brown and crispy, stirring occasionally. (no oil needed for bacon)
  3. Once the pancetta is cooked, turn the pan to low and KEEP IT HOT. Do NOT drain the pancetta...you need the oil to cook the egg sauce. (If using bacon, you may drain it a bit but leave at least 3 tablespoons of oil for the sauce.)
  4. While the pancetta is cooking, put your pasta water on to boil in a large pot with at least 4 quarts (liters) of water. Once it is at a rolling bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons of Kosher salt. Anne Burell, celebrity chef at the Food Network, likes her water to taste like the ocean but you can adjust it to your taste. The pancetta and the cheese have plenty of salt so there is no need to add more to this dish. Cook the pasta according to the package directions but check it for doneness about a minute before the time is up. The pasta should be just al dente, still firm with a bite to it. Keep in mind, the pasta will continue to cook in the hot pan once it has been combined with the egg sauce so don't overcook it! Carefully reserve a half cup or so of the starchy pasta water for later.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, crack 6 eggs into a medium bowl, add the grated cheese and lots of freshly cracked black pepper and wisk together until fully incorporated. Set aside.
  6. Drain the pasta quickly and keep it fairly moist. Dump the hot pasta carefully into the saucepan with the hot oil. Anne dumps her pasta into her pan this way, adds the egg mixture and tosses everything together quickly with tongs.
  7. NOTE: I prefer to put the hot pasta back in the hot pot, add in the oil, mix until fully coated and then add the egg mixture. Find what works for you.
  8. KEEP THE PASTA MOVING QUICKLY to prevent the eggs from scrambling!! You can remove the pan from the heat if necessary to slow down the cooking process. The heat from the oil, the pan and the hot pasta will cook the egg sauce and form a lovely creamy texture.
  9. Add a splash or two of the reserved starchy pasta water to smooth out the texture. Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to absorb the sauce even after it has been plated so it's OK if it seems a tiny bit runny when you serve it. By the time it hits the table, it will be perfect! Anne garnishes hers with sliced scallions (green onion).
  10. Personally, I add a healthy garnish of more grated cheese and a generous grind of fresh black pepper and serve immediately.

Notes

Make sure the oil is hot and the eggs are well combined before assembling the dish. The last 2 minutes are key! Keep the pasta moving quickly as it cooks to avoid making pasta with scrambled eggs. If you fail, don't worry, it will taste fine, it just won't have the correct texture. Try and try again!

www.MyFavoritePastaRecipes.com

http://www.MyFavoritePastaRecipes.com/articles/pasta-recipes/recipe-spaghetti-alla-carbonara-bacon-and-eggs-video/

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