By Alia Al-Chalabi
Carbonara is a delicious, minimalistic pasta dish that uses very few ingredients for a combination of the best possible flavors: egg, hard cheese, pork and black pepper. Traditionally, this Italian-American recipe features guanciale, a cured meat made from pork cheeks, but pancetta and bacon can work as substitutes (since guanciale can be difficult to find). Additionally, a vegetarian version can be made by omitting the meat component completely. I vouch for the vegetarian option as it’s a great way to cut back on eating meat.
- 1 whole egg, plus 3 yolks
- 1 box of pasta
- Half a pound of guanciale (or previously mentioned substitutes)
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Half a cup of parmesan and pecorino cheese (or to taste)
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 1 pot
- 1 frying pan
In a large bowl, whisk together the whole egg and three yolks. Next, in a pan over medium heat, fry the guanciale until golden brown and crisp in appearance. No need to add oil, the fat will render itself. Then, boil the pasta in a pot of heavily-salted water.
Grate about half a cup (or more) of pecorino romano and parmesan cheese into the beaten eggs, stirring to combine. Mixing both cheeses is essential for achieving a full flavor. Then, add a few turns of freshly ground black pepper into the egg and cheese mixture.
Once the pasta is cooked to al dente and strained in a colander, add some of the egg and cheese mixture, along with the fried guanciale. Make sure to do this step in the pot used to cook the pasta, so the heat is retained. Also, be careful not to mix all of the guanciale’s rendered fat with the pasta, as this will give the carbonara an overpoweringly oily flavor and dirty appearance.
While still as hot as possible, stir in the remaining egg and cheese mixture, mixing vigorously and constantly until the temperature drops enough that the eggs don’t cook or scramble. See the end of this recipe for an alternative method.
To serve this dish, add salt to taste and extra grating of cheese and black pepper. The final product should be a delicious, silky carbonara loaded with tons of flavor.
Alternative method: If you’re worried about consuming or tempering raw egg, mix the pasta and cheese-egg mixture in a double boiler. To do this, just leave some of the already boiling water in the pot and as it’s gently boiling, hold a bowl over the top and mix together the pasta, egg and cheese.