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spaghetti carbonara

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I wrote up my spaghetti carbonara recipe for my cousin last night and though I'd post it here. It's probably non-traditional in many ways, I'd be interested in hearing how other folks cook this great dish. Enjoy.

Spaghetti Carbonara

6 eggs
1 package bacon
1 cup grated romano cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 package bucatini
1 head garlic
milk
red pepper flakes
olive oil

Boil bucatini in salted water until al dente, drain
with sieve.

Cut bacon into 1.5 inch lengths and cook until just
brown (or however you prefer it), pour off fat, and
put bacon aside on a paper towel.

Chop about 10 medium cloves of garlic into small pieces.
Scramble eggs and mix in maybe 1/3 cup milk.

Cook garlic in olive oil for maybe a minute at medium
heat (don't let it brown), add bacon and stir
together. Add bucatini and mix with bacon and garlic
(this makes a great dish stopping right here). Add
cheese, eggs, and red pepper flakes to taste, mix for
maybe a minute until eggs are cooked (this will depend
upon how hot the bucatini and the pan is). Serve.

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  1. WILD MUSHROOM VARIATION
    I just made a tasty variation on carbonara. With no pork!
    I love pancetta too, but
    I had a gorgeous maitake/hen of the woods wild mushroom, so I broke it apart and chopped it up and steeped it with white wine in shallots and a whole crushed clove of garlic that I sauteed in butter.
    Boiled the pasta...
    Fine grated a hunk of parmesan, and beat it with a couple of eggs and let it sit for a couple of minutes to rise with that funny chemical reaction parm and eggs have
    (only two eggs 'cause I was making a light dinner for two)

    Tossed it all together, magic yum.
    The pork products would have overtaken the delicate mushroom flavor . . .

    4 Replies
    1. re: pitu

      This sounds great, I'll have to try it. Interesting about the parm and eggs, what is the "funny chemical reaction" I'm not familiar with this.

      1. re: steinpilz

        when you beat eggs and parm, the mixture puffs up in the bowl as it sits

      2. re: pitu

        That sounds good but shouldn't you call it something else? Just because it has eggs doesn't make it Carbonara (the rest of the recipe doesn't resemble Carbonara at all).

        1. re: christy319

          call it what you like
          for me, scrambling the eggs with the cheese and letting the hot pasta cook it as a unctious rich sauce is a method I only know from carbonara
          the prep for the mushrooms is a way to get them in there, instead of frying like you would pancetta

      3. Cook pasta, whilst that's going on,

        take a whole salami cut a decent chunk, cut along its length in to fine batons. Dry fry with some chili flakes, pour off fat.

        Drain pasta, add egg yolk, cream and some finely grated parmesan, stir so the heat in the pan doesn't scramble the egg yolk.

        Pour a bit of vermouth in to the salami pan (I like the salami to be slightly browned so there is a little bit of crunch) flambe - or just boil down so the alcohol is burnt off.

        Toss the salami and pasta together, serve with some more grated parmesan.

        Also works well with pancetta - just don't use a hard salami (not soft either but not one of the really dried out ones) as they are hard and hurt, not a pleasure to eat!

        1 Reply
        1. re: ali patts

          Just made this tonight ali patts, and it was DELISH, thanks for the recipe. It would have NEVER occured to me to fry salami instead using bacon/pancetta! I like crispy bits of meat in a soft pasta too. I had some leftover Fra'mani salami that was a bit too salty to eat straight, so this worked out great. Thanks again!

        2. No no no to milk and cream in carbonara. The only ingredients should be guanciale/pancetta/bacon, pasta, parmesan/pecorino romano, black pepper and eggs.

          I don't have the precise measurements infront of me, but for every pound of pasta, I think you need 4 eggs, separated, 1 cup of grated cheese and 1/2 lb of pork, guanciale is best, then pancetta then bacon. Cook pasta till just shy of al dente. In the meantime, fry up the pork until crispy. When the pork is crispy add the pasta (Do not remove the fat from the pan) and some of the pasta cooking water, maybe 1/4 cup, to the pan. Mix and heat for a minutes or so till the pork is well mixed with the pasta. Add the grated cheese, egg whites and some black pepper. Mix until everything is incorporated. Then divide among four warmed serving bowls and make a well in each bowl. Add the egg yolk, some add'l cheese and pepper. Serve.

          No milk or garlic needed. Just a silky sauce from the eggs.

          11 Replies
          1. re: ESNY

            what exactly is guanciale? I've never come across it!

            1. re: ali patts

              I believe it is pig's cheek that has been cured in some fashion.

              1. re: MMRuth

                Yes, it's cured and dried but not smoked.

                1. re: cheryl_h

                  OK, on to pancetta as a topic - by deli sells smoked and unsmoked versions. Is the implication from all of these other posts that pancetta is only pancetta if it is smoked?

                  1. re: ali patts

                    I think there are both types ... can't remember what the Italian names for them are ... saw it my River Cafe cookbook once.

                    1. re: ali patts

                      I think pancetta ia always unsmoked. See this site:

                      http://www.foodsubs.com/MeatcureBacon...

                      If it's smoked, it might be speck which is more similar to our bacon.

                      1. re: cheryl_h

                        I checked River Cafe - the glossary says there are several types of pancetta:

                        Pancetta stesa - cured for 3 weeks, airdried for up to 4 months
                        Pancetta arrotolata" - leaner, rolled, flavored with herbs/spices/garlic and airdried
                        Pancetta affumicata - smoked, from the north, fattier

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          And googling found something called "pancetta coppata" - haven't figure out what it is.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Pancetta = bacon, but in Italy it's always unsmoked unless labeled "pancetta affumicata," which is usually imported from Denmark.

                      2. re: cheryl_h

                        It's actually pretty easy to find these days in higher end specialty markets, or it's not hard to make at home, once you acquire the hog's jowl. It's more "porky" and maybe a little sweeter than pancetta.

                    2. re: ali patts

                      Guanciale has such an creamy, silky, non-fatty mouthfeel that I cook it until it curls a bit, but not till crispy. This will mean less rendered fat in the pan, but you will not regret it.

                  2. I learnt to make pasta carbonara from my Italian college roommates decades ago. Grazia used 1 egg per 2 eaters, so for a pound of pasta that would be 4 eggs at most, probably less. I would use 3. She preferred Canadian bacon to regular but pancetta wasn't widely available in those days. I would guess that she used less than 8oz for a pound of pasta. She used half-parmesan, half-pecorino cheese, and onions - around 1 medium to large onion for 1 lb pasta. That's it. No dairy, no seasonings except salt and pepper.

                    The main difference between her method and the ones already described is the way the eggs are cooked. She beat the eggs in a bowl with the cheeses. While the pasta was cooking, she cooked the onion and bacon separately. The instant the pasta was done, she drained it and tossed it with the eggs, adding the onion/bacon mixture as well. The eggs cooked entirely from the heat of the pasta, bacon and onion. They shouldn't ever be completely cooked, but still slightly moist when the dish is served. Finish with fresh grated pepper and adjust salt if necessary.

                    My other roommates, from Bologna and Venice, had slight variations on this, all to do with the eggs which they said could be less cooked than Grazia liked. So they let the pasta cool slightly which made the final dish distinctly eggy.

                    I've tried a slew of other recipes but come back to Grazia's as the most pleasing combination of flavors. Like many Italian pasta dishes, the emphasis is on the pasta, not the sauce which is much lighter than some American-Italian versions.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: cheryl_h

                      Thanks for this recipe, I'll try it too. Seems no one uses garlic from what I've seen, don't know where I got that but it's really good.

                      1. re: steinpilz

                        Marcella Hazan uses garlic! She uses 4 cloves of garlic, sauteed in olive oil until brown and then removed before adding the pancetta. I like her recipe (the already mentioned oil and discarded garlic, pancetta, white wine, pecorino, parm, eggs, a couple tbs chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper) better than any I've ever had.

                        1. re: christy319

                          You took the words out of my mouth!

                          Although I must say that I've tried it with wine but I prefer it without. Also, I add quite a bit of parsley.

                      2. re: cheryl_h

                        I beat the eggs and pecorino together until fluffy, and toss the guanciale and fat with the pasta before adding the egg mixture. I find that those two things help the eggs set.

                        1. re: cheryl_h

                          I've perfected my recipe for carbonara over the years, and that's exactly how we like it too. The only difference from your roomate's version is I use pancetta or guanciale, and add some white wine to the pancetta/onion mixture and reduce it a little. Now I'm hungry.

                        2. mario batali just made a spaghetti carbonara earlier today. He just used eggs, guanciale, tons of black pepper, and spaghetti.

                          Guanciale is actually made from the pig's jowl. It looks yummier to me than pancetta, it seems to have a completely different look to me and according to mario has more flavor because it's worked more.

                          anyways, it looked absolutely delicious

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bitsubeats

                            no cheese ?

                          2. here is the recipe from food network

                            8 ounces guanciale, may substitute pancetta or good bacon
                            1 pound dry spaghetti
                            1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
                            4 eggs, separated
                            Freshly ground black pepper

                            In a 12 to 14-inch saute pan, render and brown guanciale until crispy and golden. Do not drain fat from pan; set aside.
                            Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook spaghetti according to the package directions, until tender yet al dente, reserving the pasta cooking water.

                            Reheat the guanciale in the pan with the fat and add approximately 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water to the pan. Toss in the cooked pasta and heat, shaking the pan, for 1 minute. Add the grated cheese, egg whites, and black pepper and toss until fully incorporated. Divide the pasta among 4 warmed serving bowls. Make a nest in the center for the egg yolk. Gently drop an egg yolk into each serving, season with more freshly ground black pepper and grate additional cheese over the top. Serve immediately.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: bitsubeats

                              That's the recipe I use with great results, except that I use bucatini instead of spaghetti, and sometimes substitute some or all of the P-R with Pecorino-Romano.

                              -Nick

                              1. re: bitsubeats

                                reading this I'll probably ammend my recipe to 1/2 cup PR and 1/2 cup PR, I think one cup of each would be too much.

                                1. re: bitsubeats

                                  There's a great bit in Bill Buford's "Heat" where Mario's mentor-the woman in Italy who taught him to cook-is horrified by his rendition of Carbonara. The raw egg yolk on top made her (and me, too) absolutely aghast.

                                2. Does anyone worry about not cooking the eggs? I make this all the time but the thought goes through my head each time. I've read the stats about only 1 in 10,000 or 20,000 eggs, depending on what you read, having salmonella but with children, it worries me.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I'm not worried about the eggs I usually buy.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      nope, I don't worry about not cooking eggs. You definitely don't want to use old eggs that have been sitting around for weeks.

                                      i eat raw eggs all the time and have never gotten sick.

                                      If you don't feel safe eating them, then don't!

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I wouldn't worry to much about them if they are fresh. I've also heard the 1 in 10,000 stats and in addition to that it would take a lot more than 1 to make a healthy adult very sick.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          you can always buy pasturized eggs, if you're really concerned, but at 2-3x the price of even the most organic egg in the case, I figure I'll take my chances.

                                        2. I prefer to pre-mix the pasta and whole eggs rather than serve the yolks separately. Actually when going all out the best result is to use whole eggs for the basic recipe and then serve with extra yolks, reserving the extra whites for something else. But I share the concerns with fully cooking the eggs and only do that with the freshest eggs.

                                          And traditionalist will scoff but a couple tablespoons of cream or 1/2 & 1/2 prevents the eggs from scrambling and gives the egg sheen just the slightest creamy consistency. Good stuff, if not entirely faithful to the original.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Grubbjunkie

                                            I noticed that the River Cafe cookbook calls for a little cream - surprised me...

                                          2. THe risks from the eggs are way lower than other possible contaminants, from your own self included.

                                            The dollop of dairy can help (the heavier in fat the better; the lower in fat, the more milk proteins it has and thus more likely to curdle in the heat), especially if you use the egg whites (which are much more liable to curdle than when you properly use the yolks alone).

                                            Another tip: add yolks/dairy off heat. Ideally, not in the hot pot but in a warmed mixing bowl. Must serve on properly warmed plates -- serving carbonara on cold plates ruins the dish.

                                            1. I'm frequently disappointed at the "cream sauce" nature of restaurant versions -- if I wanted Alfredo, I'd order Alfredo.

                                              (Not that I'm altogether the traditionalist -- my most successful versions at home have used Dubliner cheese.)

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                Exactly and the cream makes the whole dish setup like concrete.

                                                1. re: Scagnetti

                                                  I also agree, the recipe I gave avoids this - along with the bacon fat. These other recipes do look great though.

                                                2. re: Bill on Capitol Hill

                                                  Exactly! I've also had it prepared with ham...and peas. Ugh!

                                                  Unless my memory is failing me, that is how Little Joe's on Broadway used to prepare it.

                                                3. I just made mine a la Marcella and it was fabulous - two smallish diversions - I used penne (all I had, and used in the River Cafe recipe) and I only used Parm - didn't have Romano, mainly b/c I don't really like Romano.

                                                  Thanks for your post today - led to the perfect dinner for a rainy night in NYC.

                                                  1. Occasionally if I do not have bacon on hand I use a lightly smoked kielbasa cut into very thin coins and then browned in the pan. I use the freshest eggs I can, and I try to time the cooking of the pasta so that when I am ready to add the eggs and sausage, everything comes together hot hot hot. That bit of heat from the freshly drained pasta tempers the raw egg a little and makes me feel better, making me think its nor THAT raw, so its kind of OK. I sometimes have to tell myself these little stories so I can eat it.

                                                    I love carbonara, but since I'm pregnant I a) can't have raw eggs at all and b) am a little skeeved by eggs in my current condition.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: MaspethMaven

                                                      That's true Italian cooking. Use what ya have.

                                                    2. i am pretty traditional about my carbonara. no dairy, etc. i've found that the key is to use a little reserved pasta water or just lift the pasta out of the pot with tongs instead of draining it. then toss it around vigorously with the eggs. also, like mario, lots of black pepper is crucial. carbonari are coal miners. one theory is that the pepper is supposed to resemble the coal. there are several theories...

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: ndl

                                                        A "carbonara" is a woman who sold charcoal (somewhat obsolete job description). A miner is a "minatore."

                                                        1. re: ndl

                                                          Yes, use some of the hot pasta water to temper the egg mixture before you combine it with the pasta. You can get a smoother, silkier egg coating that way without adding cream. Lots of pepper, and absolutely use some Romano and not all parmesan.

                                                        2. Thanks for the good discussion, I learned a lot and now have some good recipes to try.