Aired February 14, 2017
“The first birthday I celebrated with my husband John, I asked him what he wanted me to make for his special dinner. I listed options from Veal Oscar to Lobster Thermidor. He stopped me and replied firmly, “Carbonara. I want some spaghetti Carbonara!” Bacon-and-egg coalminer spaghetti is simple, inexpensive and hands-down my husband’s number one favorite meal. I have to prepare bacon-and-egg pasta for every special occasion throughout every calendar year. To keep it interesting, sometimes I add in seasonal ingredients like scapes or ramps or green onions and lemon. Sometimes I add homemade fennel sausage crumbles, making it into bacon-and-sausage-and-egg pasta, etc.
The only trick to Carbonara is tempering the egg yolks to ensure you do not end up with scrambled eggs. For the brightest color I use Araucana eggs, which are widely available at Whole Foods and farmers’ markets. The eggs have a greenish-blue tint to the shell and the hens that lay them are often fed marigolds, which make the egg yolks intensely bright yellow-orange. Many recipes for carbonara include cream but I never add cream. The creamy quality of the sauce should come from the tempered eggs emulsifying with the cheeses and pasta.”
About 4 tablespoons good quality EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 pound (2 slab-cut chunks) meaty pancetta or guanciale, cut into small dice
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
About 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup white wine
6 large egg yolks
1 pound pasta, such as chitarra (guitar string spaghetti), square-cut spaghetti or linguini
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano, plus more to pass
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to pass
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta.
In a large, deep skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil, 4 turns of the pan. Add pancetta or guanciale and brown 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and black pepper, and stir 1-2 minutes more. Add wine and reduce by half then reduce heat of pan to low.
In a bowl, whisk up egg yolks and season with salt. Add both grated cheeses to egg yolks while whisking.
Add pasta to liberally salted boiling water and cook to 1 minute less than al dente per package recommendation.
Remove 1 full cup of starchy cooking water and whisk into egg yolks in a steady stream to temper them. Reserve an extra half-cup of starchy water in case the pasta gets too tight when you toss it.
Drain pasta and add to the pan with the pancetta and garlic. Remove from heat and toss with tempered egg yolks and handfuls of parsley. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.