The Right Stuff
Over the years I have tinkered with the classic Roman dish spaghetti alla Carbonara. It requires just a few ingredients but the right technique. We are talking about eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, coarse black pepper and guanciale, cured pigs cheek as the sauce. These are the original ingredients although often guanciale may be hard to find in the states and more often than not pancetta is used. To make the dish properly, it is really critical not to scramble the eggs when they are added to the hot spaghetti. I have had a few flubs in the past but with trial and error I think I have the technique down. My trick is to keep the eggs cold before adding them to the hot spaghetti; this way they will not curdle and will still make a creamy and hot sauce.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
¼ pound guanciale or pancetta, diced
4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
12 ounces spaghetti such as Delverde or other imported brand
½ cup or more cooking water used to boil the spaghetti
Grinding coarse black pepper
Fill a pasta pot with 4 quarts water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and stir it into the water
Meanwhile in a saute’ pan large enough to hold the cooked spaghetti, cook the guanciale or pancetta in 1tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or lard until the guanciale or pancetta is crispy. Turn heat down to simmer and set aside.
In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and whole egg together until creamy; whisk in the cheese until the mixture is very creamy. Set aside.
Cook the pasta until al dente and transfer it with a pasta fork to the saute’ pan and reheat slowly, stirring all the while
Take ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and a stir it into the egg and cheese mixture and whisk until creamy.
Off the heat, rapidly stir the egg mixture into the pasta and guanciale, stirring to combine well. Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and continue to stir vigorously until the sauce is creamy and coating the pasta. Add a good grinding of black pepper over the spaghetti and serve at once with additional grated cheese on the side.