Pasta alla carbonara

September 25, 2019

La pasta alla carbonara is one of the best known Italian dishes outside Italy.

Needless to mention how many versions of its preparation exist. I try to keep my recipe very simple and “roman”. Roman cuisine is founded on a few but intense flavours therefore it is of crucial importance to choose the right ingredients.

Perhaps guanciale and/ or pecorino cheese are not alway easy to buy. You can replace them with other ingredients like bacon, pancetta and parmesan. It will not be the same but very close.

Serves 4:

  • 360 g of spaghetti or rigatoni type pasta
  • 4 egg yolks plus a tablespoon of an egg white left from separating the eggs
  • 150 g of guanciale, cut into cubes or lardons (outer rim cut off)
  • 120 g of finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese*
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • salt if needed

*Pecorino cheese has a fairly intense flavour. You can if soften it by using equal parts of parmesan and pecorino cheese.

Heat a pan on a medium heat and add the cut guanciale pieces. Fry them for a few minutes stirring  frequently until they become lightly golden in colour and some juices have been released. Leave on the side.

In a bowl beat the egg yolks, a tablespoon of egg white adding half of the grated cheese, some fat released by the guanciale and some freshly ground pepper. If you are using parmesan cheese add also a pinch of salt.

In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta  of your choice and cook it al dente (check the timing on the packaging). Drain the pasta reserving a small cup of the cooking water on the side.

Immediately add the pasta to the egg mixture and stir energetically adding some cooking water if needed to dilute the sauce. Now add the guanciale, the rest of the cheese and give it a good stir. 

If the sauce is too thick add another few drops of cooking water. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the pasta and hold to it. 

The secret of the sauce is to obtain an emulsion of the egg yolk, cheese, guanciale fat and some water after cooking the pasta. By stirring everything in the bowl after adding the pasta the sauce should start to thicken and turn creamy.

In case it does’t thicken move everything into a pan and place it on a very low heat stirring everything all the time for about a minute. As soon as the creamy sauce thickens, take it off the heat. If you keep it on for too long, the egg yolks will set and you risk ruining the whole dish. 

Serve immediately garnishing with some extra grated cheese and black pepper.