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need a chef's advice - pasta carbonara/ cacio e pepe/ mac n cheese cookoff idea

I am signed up for a mac'n'cheese cook off at my local bar. My idea is to create an italian inspired carbonara-cacio e pepe style mac n cheese offering. Black pepper, parmigiano, and al dente pasta is a winning combination imo. Add a bit of smoked bacon and egg to the mix and it will take it over the top.

What I'd like to include is:
-Applewood smoked bacon
-2 or three white cheeses such as parmigiano/asiago/pecorino/grana
-a bunch of coarse ground black pepper

I guess essentially it will be a very cheesy peppery version of carbonara so that it will be considered a mac n cheese.

I will be making a big hotel pan of this stuff. I'm concerned about the safety - the eggs are technically "cooked" from the heat of the pasta by turning off the heat of the pan and adding the eggs and cheese to the pasta. It's always been a tug of war for me to cook the eggs to a safe temperature without the eggs coagulating from the heat. For this I am cooking for the public, not for my guests in my kitchen so I'm very concerned about food safety with the eggs. Is there a way to ensure the eggs are cooked besides wishful thinking? Is there a way to "denature" the eggs before adding so that they can withstand a high heat temperature and get cooked? Do I need to use some kind of pasteurized eggs?


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  1. I can't speak for the science of eggs.......but i would suggest you use a mini version of penne

    1. Have you considered using the eggs to create a custard sauce that you could toss the pasta with at the end? That way you wold have your eggs without the concern you are expressing about doneness. I have to say you are straying very far from the traditional cacio e pepe with so many cheese, let alone the bacon and eggs, so you might want to reconsider the name. To keep it a little more Italian, why not use pancetta? Good luck, it sounds like fun.

      5 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        Thank you. I want to use applewood smoked bacon (rather than pancetta or guanciale) because I've used it before when making carbonara and I actually liked it better.

        I agree my idea is definitely not cacio e pepe - it is just influenced by it.

        I'd like to learn more of this custard sauce - what were you thinking?

        1. re: brickscoli

          My thought was you could make a basic savory custard with cream and eggs and then add cheeses or make a cream and cheese sauce and beat in the eggs. I'm sure there is an official name for what I'm talking about and hope someone will jump in and let me know if this makes sense.

          1. re: escondido123

            Mornay sauce = white sauce with egg, cheese, and usually onion.

            1. re: greygarious

              Mornay sauce does not have egg or onion in it classically.

              1. re: chefj

                My mornay sauce does not have onion in it.

      2. Just use pasteurized eggs and you will not have the worry. Or make your B├ęchamel sauce the way you make pastry cream. The starch from the flour will keep the eggs from curdling.
        Of course you will be testing your recipes before entering them in the contest.
        Good luck

        2 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          This sounds interesting - a bechamel sauce the way you make pastry cream. How do I do this? I've never made bechamel or pastry cream. Thanks!

          1. re: brickscoli

            First off you should look these up so you do know and you will find better more well thought out explanations than I can provide you. They are both very classical and should be easy to find.

        2. - Penne - Be sure to use a rigate so the sauce adheres.
          - Applewood smoked bacon - hmmm, I'm thinking rendered pancetta would be best. Although maybe a hint of smoked paprika for some subtle flavor?
          - parmigiano/asiago/pecorino/grana - while all good cheeses, I would try to incorporate some kind of mild melting cheese (cacio cavallo, talegio) and maybe finish the top off with one of the hard grating cheeses so it can brown nicely.

          If you want to get away from the egg worries, perhaps you could make a nice thick bechamel with the softer melting cheeses and stir in with the pasta?

          I don't know...my .02

          1 Reply
          1. re: Novelli

            the move to incorporate a mild melting cheese like talegio is fantastic, thanks.

          2. I would switch to bechamel. One of the few things I've ever gotten food poisoning from is bad carbonara, because of the eggs, as you surmise.

            1. Try making it with powdered whole eggs. I have a packet bought online from Barry Farm. I keep several dried dairy products on hand in the winter, when I only grocery shop every 3-4 weeks, in order to increase my cooking/baking options. I've only used the powdered eggs for cupcakes and cookies, where they work fine.

              1. If you have a thermometer and can hold eggs at 58-60 Celsius for about half an hour, you can then fish them out of the water, ice bath them, and then hold in the fridge or proceed as usual.

                  1. re: runwestierun

                    I've had a long standing question about bechamel sauce for mac and cheese. Why do those of you who recommend it feel it is better than a cheese and cream sauce? Some people say that sauce will break without the flour but that has never been a problem for me. Others say it is about calories, but I figure if you're making and eating mac and cheese you really aren't worrying about calories. I really would love to understand the virtues of adding the flour, since whenever I've tried it it just seemed to make the dish heavier but not better. Thanks much.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      It actually makes for a lighter dish because you do not use all heavy cream. Milk has a tendency to separate and the roux stop this. It also helps to stabilize the cheese and keep it from breaking( especially if aged Cheddar is used).

                      1. re: escondido123

                        Oh, It also gives a velvety mouth feel.

                        1. re: chefj

                          Oh, ok, you're looking for a lighter dish. But more velvety than cheese and heavy cream? About breaking, I generally use a variety of cheeses including Parmigiano & aged Cheddar, and it never breaks.

                          1. re: escondido123

                            I am not looking for a lower calorie dish if that is what you mean by "lighter". I mean with more pleasant mouth feel and not sickeningly rich.
                            The combination of heavy cream and cheese together in this application is greasy feeling and overly rich in my opinion. Not silken or velvety.
                            So yes more velvety than using heavy cream.

                            1. re: chefj

                              Thanks for the clairification, guess we just have different tastes though I'm glad to say guests have almost licked the dish clean. My recipe is a takeoff on the one used by the chefs at Al Forno in Providence...they were one of the early wood fire baked pasta makers in the US and they have a cookbook called "Cucina Simpatica." They combine cheese, heavy cream and other ingredients and combine them cold with partially cooked penne and then bake in a very hot oven. Amazing dish with a smoky flavor from the wood fired oven...wish I could duplicate that in my house. In case anyone's interested in their method I found one of their recipes here: http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/b...