Spaghetti Carbonara is a great combination of pasta with bacon, eggs, cheese and black pepper. It’s a familiar, comfortable dish. Because most of us will have these ingredients on hand, Spaghetti Carbonara is particularly welcoming on a cold, rainy weeknight when a trip to the grocery store just does not seem like a worthwhile expedition.
I first made Spaghetti Carbonara from a recipe in one of a series of cookbooks published by Time-Life. That was in the pre-World Wide Web days and before entire television channels were devoted to food and cooking. Search the Internet today and thousands of similar recipes for Spaghetti Carbonara will appear. So why post another version of Carbonara on this blog? Quite simply because this is my take on a classic dish that I took comfort in on a recent cold and rainy Wednesday night in San Francisco.
I don’t recall ever making Spaghetti Carbonara for more that two people. It seems to be a dish that begs to be intimately shared. I don’t believe it scales up very well. The recipe here is for two servings.
Many recipes call for Pancetta and some suggest Guanciale. But neither is a staple in my pantry. I used a couple of slices of European Style bacon for this version because it was on hand. It is not as fatty as thick cut American Style bacon – my first choice for Spaghetti Carbonara.
The cheese used is either Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. Give the its association with Rome; Pecorino is most often called for. I usually have both in the refrigerator and pulled out the Pecorino this time. Either works great.
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 6 cups salted, boiling water (for the spaghetti)
- 2 slices thick cut bacon cut into small strips crosswise
- 2 tablespoons everyday olive oil
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 whole egg
- ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus extra for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ½ handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
- Place a saucepan with salted water over medium heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the spaghetti and prepare according to package directions.
- While the spaghetti is cooking, sauté the bacon with olive oil until the fat is rendered and the bacon becomes crisp. Add minced garlic to the pan midway through cooking the bacon.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and grated cheese. (Those paying close attention will see in the photographs that I skipped this step by adding the egg and cheese directly to the pasta. Whisking these ingredients together first produces a more reliable outcome.)
- Drain the spaghetti when it is done reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Moving quickly, add the cooked spaghetti to the sauté pan with the bacon and toss. Place the spaghetti with bacon in a large bowl, add the egg and cheese mixture and toss to distribute. Add a generous amount of ground black pepper and toss again. If needed a tablespoon, or two of the reserved cooking water may be added to thin the sauce, but I seldom find this necessary.
- Divide the spaghetti into serving size bowls, sprinkle with additional grated cheese and apply chopped parsley as a garnish. Additional cheese and black pepper can be added at the table to taste.