Well, I took a break from cooking my CSA vegetables last night to make my husband’s favorite: Spaghetti Carbonara.
This is a super simple, easy-to-make dish that can be on the table in half an hour (as long as you are a fast bacon-chopper!) We split the duties: He puts the water on to boil for the pasta, and I mince the garlic, grate the cheese and prepare the egg mixture so it’s ready to go as soon as he’s done chopping the bacon.
My recipe was inspired by one of my favorite food writers, Ruch Reichl. Hers calls for pancetta or high-quality, thick-cut bacon, but regular old Supermarket bacon will do just fine (I use Trader Joe’s). When possible, I buy Niman Ranch products because of their compassionate farming philosophy. You can really taste the difference that humane treatment and natural feed makes in your food.
- 1 package spaghetti (I only use Linguine or spaghetti. Something thin like angel hair won’t bind correctly.)
- 2 large eggs, whisked together with salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced (adjust to your taste; jarred garlic is OK)
- 1 package of bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- at least 1 cup grated parmesan (*My secret tip: using half parm and half pecorino, which is a tangy Italian cheese made from Ewe’s milk. It’s the same price and texture as parmesan, but it adds a nice zip!)
- 1 cup pasta water, reserved
First, set the water on to boil while you cut the bacon. It should take the water just about as long to boil as it takes you to chop or cut the bacon into a hefty skillet (I find scissors are easier than a knife for snipping bacon this small). I also use a non-stick pan so I get to save as much of the bacon fat as possible, since it holds the dish together.
Meanwhile, prepare the seasoned egg mixture and grate your cheese. You want to use a cup minimum — the more cheese the better.
Throw the pasta in to boil at the same time as you turn on the skillet of bacon over medium heat. Toss your minced or crushed garlic into the skillet as the bacon starts to cook. Stir occasionally, taking care not to let it brown or burn. If it gets crisp, the dish won’t blend together.
When the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and transfer the it with a slotted spoon or spaghetti tongs directly from the pot into the skillet, mixing the bacon, garlic and pasta together with a few turns of the pan. (Another tip: I use kitchen tongs like these to really grip, stir and mix the pasta without scratching my pan). Throw in a cup or so of pasta cooking water and stir some more.
Next, pour the egg mixture over the pasta and STIRRRRR it up! You do NOT want the eggs to scramble, so whip it into a frenzy and in less than a minute you’ll have a gorgeous sauce. If it’s too sticky or thick, add more pasta water as needed.
The best part is sprinkling all that cheese on top. I put half the cheese on, stir the whole thing up some more, and then top the dish with a hefty sprinkling more before I serve it.
Goes great with white wine and a salad!
Optional variations: You can always adjust the garlic up or down. You can also use jarred minced garlic in an emergency — this is one dish where it doesn’t ruin the flavor too much. Some people like to add parsley on top, and others throw some white wine in the bacon skillet to deglaze their pan a bit before adding the pasta. Any of these are fine additions. What’s a no-no (if you’re sticking to authentic Italian cooking, anyway)? Pre-grated, refrigerated parmesan cheese (YUCK!) and using cream to thicken the sauce. Some things are best kept simple!