Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pasta con Carbonara Sauce

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Where and when I grew up, Middle of Illinois in the 60's, pasta meant spaghetti and pasta sauce meant jarred Ragu brand.  We may have heard of something like Pasta Alfredo, but no one I knew ever ate it.  But I can tell you for sure that no one I knew ever had or served or even imagined pasta with egg, cheese, bacon and pepper as a sauce.

We missed out on a treat.

The bacon is cooked in a fat (in this case, Olive Oil.  The fat is left in the pan as cheese is added, to mix and thicken.  Once removed from the heat, raw eggs are added so that the sauce of cheese, bacon, olive oil and the creamy goodness of the eggs clings to the pasta.  As you can imagine, there is simply no comparing pasta with a tomato sauce and pasta alla Carbonara Sauce.

The origins for this dish only date back a couple of hundred years.  There is no definitive origin for the dish or the name.  The name is derived from the Italian word for "Charcoal worker", but the dish has several variations, all with different names throughout Italy.

A couple of things you should know... I made my own pasta!  It really is not very hard.  After your second or third time, you will be a pro!  The egg dough that I use (and showed in the link) are perfect for this.  They puff up thick and a little chewy and hold the sauce when added.  Give it a try, especially with this recipe.  Like those folks in central Illinois back in the 60's, you are missing out on a treat.

Second, use a great bacon.  I was lucky enough to have an in-law that cold smokes and cures pork belly that was FANTASTIC with this.  He gave me a couple of pounds of his treasure for Christmas (best Christmas gift EVER).  If you can find some smoked cured pork belly, jump on it.  If not, splurge for the thick cut select quality... or best of all, use some Italian Pancetta.

As I am finding out, Italian cooking has few ingredients in their dishes.  A limited number and quantity of spices as well.  Which makes the quality of those ingredients and spices much more important.  Grow a window garden of fresh herbs (yes, even in winter) and hunt down the best ingredients your budget will allow.

 OK, enough advice, let's see what I did...

Pasta alla
Carbonara Sauce

  • 6 SLices Thick cut Bacon or Pancetta, chopped into nickle size pieces
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1 tsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Pasta Water
  • 12 OZ Cooked Linguini
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Reggiano Cheese, grated More for garnish
  • 3 large Eggs, whisled
  • 2 TBS Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Several turns of a Pepper Grinder
Cooking Directions
  1. OK, this dish is best when you can time the pasta to be finished right as the sauce is ready to come together. have all of the ingredients prepped and ready (that TV chef thing where everything is in bowls... the French call it Mise en Place).  And get your water boiling ready for the pasta.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed frying pan, over medium high heat, add the Oil.
  3. Once it is heated to just below smoking stage, add the chopped bacon and saute for a couple of minutes until it is cooked but not yet crisp.
  4. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute
  5. At the same time, start the pasta cooking. Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried pasta, but either way, cook until al dente stage (dry pasta 1 minute below the time on the package, fresh pasta, about 3-4 minutes).
  6. When the bacon is ready and the pasta is finished, turn the heat off the pasta, add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the oil and bacon and saute as the water evaporates and the bacon finishes crisping, about 5 minutes.
  7. While the bacon is crisping in the simmering pasta water, drain the pasta, reserve a cup of the pasta water in case it is needed.
  8. As the water is almost completely evaporated, add the cheese to the bacon, stir
  9. Add the pasta to the cheesy bacon, stir
  10. remove from heat and add the whisked eggs... Stir vigorously to coat everything with the egg.  the hot pasta will warm the egg without cooking. If the egg gets to the bottom you will have pasta and scrambled eggs
  11. Add parsley, stir, add pepper, stir...
  12. Serve HOT and ENJOY!

Italian cooking is so much more than spaghetti and jarred tomato sauce.  Fresh ingredients and cooking techniques that bring out the best flavors in whatever is freshest and best in an Italian grandmother's pantry.

This pasta coated in a cheesy egg sauce with fantastic crispy bacon is a highlight for my table whenever I make it.  With fresh pasta, even better.  A treat indeed!


So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!


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1 comment:

  1. Love me some carbonara. Back in my days of heavy cycling, it was my weapon of choice for carbo-loading.

    Use a jar of carbonara sauce from Williams and Sonoma this week because I was sick. (It was a gift.) Trevor ate one small helping and his only comment was "I like it better when you feel like cooking", lol. It was bad, didn't even taste like the real thing.