Dish of the Week: Spaghetti alla Carbonara
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.
This week, we're looking at a classic Italian pasta dish: Spaghetti alla Carbonara.
Made with pork, eggs, and grated cheese, the simple dish is believed to have originated in Rome after the World War II, when U.S. troops brought supplies of bacon and eggs to Italy (according to the Oxford Companion to Food). Though the exact origin of the dish is unclear, its name is derived from the word carbonoro, meaning charcoal burner, leading some to believe dish was conceived to provide Italian charcoal workers with a hearty meal.
To make it, pork (likely guanciale, pancetta, or bacon) is cooked in fat, then tossed, off the heat, with hot pasta, raw eggs, and grated cheese (Pecorino-Romano and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano). The result is a creamy, decadent sauce that coats each and every strand of pasta. Some less traditional recipes call for cream, but when made right, it is certainly not needed. Though it's commonly made with spaghetti, other pastas like linguini, fettuccine, and bucatini can also be used.
This recipe, slightly adapted from chef Mario Batali, is made the traditional Roman way, without the use of cream. Though his recipe calls for all Parmigiano-Reggiano, we like using a mix of the buttery Parmigiano and a sharper, slightly saltier Pecorino to add bite.
Ingredients serves 4 2 tbsp salt, for pasta 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 8 oz guanciale, pancetta, or good-quality bacon, diced 1 pound spaghetti 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano 4 large eggs Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and add 2 tbsp salt.
Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and guanciale in large skillet pan set over medium heat. Cook until the fat has rendered and the pork is crisp and golden. Remove from the heat and set aside, leaving all of the fat and the pork in the pan.
Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until just al dente. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta.
Add the reserved pasta water to the pan with the guanciale, then toss in the pasta and add back to the heat, shaking the pan, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, add about 3/4 of the Parmigiano, all of the Pecorino, whisked eggs*, and pepper to taste. Toss until pasta thoroughly mixed. *Alternatively, you can toss the pasta with just egg whites and serve the egg yolks in an individual nest of pasta, allowing each guest to mix the egg yolks in upon serving.
Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano over the top and finish with more freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
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