Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Classic Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara - it's a classic. It's pasta's little black dress. Hold the cream, please. The velvety smooth coating is from the eggs and eggs alone. The eggs are insulted when cream is added. This is not a quiche. Carbonara is not Alfredo. They are not twins.

Carbonara's origins are a bit murky. Because "carbonara" is derived from the Italian word for "charcoal," many theories abound. Some believe it started as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. Others think it was originally cooked over charcoal. And yet another theory is that is the specks of black pepper and pancetta in the velvety pasta looked like little charcoals on the dish.
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When the opportunity came my way to cook a recipe from the culinary school at Baltimore International College, I pounced on the Classic Carbonara recipe. When I became engaged to my husband, my mother made carbonara for a welcoming dinner for his family. My sister and I made Bon Appetit's Fettuccine Carbonara (with a fried egg on top no less - really, the Easter Bunny applauded our egg consumption that evening) for my family a little while ago - it was a splendid meal.


It's also a fast meal. Gather your ingredients: (For 4-6 people)
  • 1/2 pound bacon - chopped (Italians use pancetta - I do like the meaty bacon in this)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten (I used organic)
  • 1 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (can use 2/3 Parm and 1/3 Pecorino-Romano)
  • 1 pound spaghetti, cooked al dente
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parlsey (I used 1/4 of a cup)
  • salt and pepper to taste
(Note: there is no cream)
While the bacon sizzles, take note that the pasta will be thrown into a portion of the bacon grease and coated with it. The grease and pasta need to be hot - because your eggs will "cook" the pasta. That's right. You remove the pan from the heat (so you don't have scrambled eggs and pasta) and let the pasta do the cooking of the eggs. If you have a terror of salmonella, this may not be your recipe as it's the only way to do it. You must trust that the pasta will cook the raw eggs. And adding cream will not help.
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1. In a large saute pan (I used a Dutch oven - easier to hold the pasta), cook the bacon until crispy - about 6 minutes.

2. Beat your eggs.
3. Cook your pasta according to package directions.


4. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels. When cool, "crisp" them into millions of little pieces.
5. Drain all but 3 tablespoons of bacon grease.




6. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Return bacon to the pot.
7. Add pasta to pot and swirl - coating it with garlic, bacon and yes - the grease.

8. Remove pot from heat (important or the eggs will curdle) and immediately add the eggs. (Could also add some of the cheese into the beaten eggs and add it together). Swirl the eggs until the hot pasta is coated and cooking the eggs. The rich, buttercup, velevty texture appears once the eggs are cooked. All is smooth and beckoning.
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9. Add the cheese and mix in well. It is important that the cheese be freshly-grated. Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is so soft and billowy - you would never know it was from a hard cheese! It quickly attaches itself to the eggs and melts into the pasta. The pasta coating becomes rich and vibrant. It begs for a taste. And so you must - for you now need to season the pasta. Taste and add salt and pepper according to taste (I rarely salt and I am generous with the pepper).

9. Put spaghetti in serving bowl and top with parsley (as stated I used a lot more than the recipe called for). Toss well.


10. Toss again. (And just to be sure - have another taste).



11. Serve.
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This dish elevates bacon and eggs to an engagement dinner. The luxurious coating on the spaghetti is fit for a royal occasion. There's a reason Calvin Trillin wanted to replace the Thanksgiving turkey with spaghetti carbonara. Trillin actually waged a campaign to have Thanskgiving changed to Spaghetti Carbonara Day. And Mr. Trillin never had cream in his carbonara.
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I noted my changes as I went along. This recipe is a classic. I am an herb-nerd and always add more. I also am a clumsy herb-nerd so I used a Dutch oven instead of thinking I could toss the pasta well in a large saute pan. I've picked up strands of spaghetti from many unlikely places. I do acquire dictator tendencies in the last few minutes of cooking this dish. I want to be absolutely sure that the eggs are cooked so I have my bowl of beaten eggs six inches from the cooking pot. The dog and cat are removed from the kitchen so when I start adding the eggs and stirring like crazy, I don't trip on them. Nobody dares come near me to get a glass of water.

I love that the recipe is a classic, "don't mess with me, straight forward, use fresh ingredients" recipe. It's a dish reserved for special occasions and it lives up to its reputation (even if it won't replace the Thanksgiving turkey, even if there is no cream). With a little heat, Parmigiano-Reggiano melts into eggs and together they are transformed into velvet. It's truly a magical dish.
When we last made carbonara - we added broccoli. It actually worked well and wouldn't hurt. Pancetta instead of bacon? Absolultely! Just remember to use freshly-grated cheese, trust that the pasta will cook your eggs and please - hold the cream.

Carbonara - 'tis a classic. Like a trench coat, Cary Grant....


... or a perfect autumn day.
Disclosure: I was given some compesation to cover the cost of ingredients. I was not given any compensation for the blogpost. The opinions in my posting are all mine.

54 comments:

Mister Meatball said...

Doesn't get much better, yes?

If you're interested in yet another recipe, the link below posts one from "Cooking the Roman Way." I have the book and have made some very good dishes from it. The Carbonara was the best I've ever made.

http://www.ichef.com/recipe.cfm?task=display&itemid=279180&recipeid=110613

Jean said...

Pasta Carbonara is one of my all-time favorite dishes. It's so nice to see it showcased properly--without the cream. Yours looks perfect. Very nice. :-)

Wendy said...

I've always wanted to try carbonara at home, but I'm always afraid it won't come out right! Your step-by-step instructions have made me want to try. Perhaps this weekend...I've been on an Italian cook lately! I received some saffron from a friend in Sardinia, so I made Risotto alla Milanese last Friday.

Claudia said...

Jeean and Wendy - do let me know what you think. I usually do two cheeses - some grated Pecorino - a little sharpness there.

Mister Meatball: I looked at the recipe - interesting because he does the eggs in the hot frying pan first! I'd be terrified of scrambling them. But shall try it (with other eggs ready to go in case I curdle). And I shall check out the cookbook.(You knew I would.)

Pegasuslegend said...

what a great read...the Autumn color is absolutely breath taking, you made me realize how beautiful the fall is that we miss here in Florida..Although this isnt one of my favorite dishes you certainly made this mouth watering and gave fabulous instructions on this dish, I never knew what really went into it never making it myself, such a wealth of information here. I only had tasted this one time, you;ve intrigued me to revisit this one for sure~

My Carolina Kitchen said...

You've just reminded me that there's nothing quite as good as a Carbonara. Thanks for setting the record straight that no cream is allowed in this beautiful dish.
Sam

Proud Italian Cook said...

OMG this looks as smooth as silk!
and to think I made this recently with canadian bacon trying to keep the fat content down. What was I thinking! It's all or nothing!

Anna said...

Yummmmm, Claudia you made me so hungry right now. It looks delicious.

Koci said...

Yum, yum, YUM!! I never knew that carbonara had eggs in it--must be why it looks so silky and gorgeous. Your version sounds delicious!

Monet said...

What a beautiful autumn day, and what a beautiful dish! I was first introduced to pasta carbonara when I visited Italy in high school, and I've been too intimidated to make it at home (which is silly since it looks like such an easy process) Thank you for sharing the recipe with me...now I'm inspired!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I have a weakness for bacon, so Carbonara is another weakness, Claudia. It is such a temptation.
Your photos look so good I could dive right in!

Gera@SweetsFoodsBlog said...

Ohh spaghetti Carbonara a dish that can eat all weeks :) What a beautiful photos of the pasta and the fall there!

Cheers,

Gera

fromBAtoParis said...

I loved your phrase "It's pasta's little black dress" AND your recipe without cream !!!
Excellent

Donna-FFW said...

How fabulous is this!! and no ceam for saving on the calories. It looks seriously delicious!! I. Want. it. now.

ravienomnoms said...

This looks delicious!

denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

Lovely rendition of a great Italian classic :) I'll never add cream again - I would not want to insult any egg! Thanks for setting me straight ;)

It's a sore point that I've never seen a full blown Autumn in all its burnished glory *sigh* Love that last photo - just beautiful!

5 Star Foodie said...

Pasta carbonara sounds amazing right now! My daughter decided bacon & especially pancetta is her favorite now so I will definitely be making this for her very soon!

My Little Space said...

I've learned a new recipe today. This is a brand new way to serve the pasta. Thank you very much. Bye bye summer! Guess, more pumpkin & squash recipes coming up soon. Looking forward for more, claudia. Have a great day.
Cheers, Kristy

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

Do you fed ex? I do love it the classic way. Looking forward to fall and more dishes like this. You have me starving now!
-Gina-

Tasteofbeirut said...

I have had the best carbonara in england of all places. When done right and the bacon has to be superior it is a magnificent pasta and such a glorious treat!

Angie's Recipes said...

Claudia, I love your carbonara with broccoli! Simply mouthwatering and perfect for any autumn day!

We Are Not Martha said...

Carbonara is definitely one of the best dishes ever!! This looks beautiful and I love that you call yourself an herb nerd :)

Sues

Magic of Spice said...

Perfectly done, looks beautiful...and I love your opening statements :)

Jen_from_NJ said...

Wow your pasta looks silky and delicious! You can't go wrong with a classic made with top quality ingredients. I am craving carbonara now!

Reeni said...

This is one of my favorites Claudia! But I have a problem because my family won't eat it unless I add cream. They're fussy like that! It's something to do with the raw eggs...I know - I want to shake them and tell them to snap out of it!

bella (roz) said...

An excellent carbonara is literally food for the foodie gods. Yum; sorry I've been so absent; gotta add you to my reader so I can keep up with your posts! I love fresh eggs added to pasta because what people don't realize is that they cook up perfectly with the hot pasta's contact!

Chow and Chatter said...

wow amazing instructions I may have to give it a try hope I don't scramble the eggs ! thanks for the sweet words on my blog wish I cooked as well as you LOL

A SPICY PERSPECTIVE said...

Ahhh, bacon and pasta! HEAVEN!

megan @ whatmegansmaking said...

Loved your intro paragraph! This looks really good. I've never had this dish before - I need to try it!

the constant hunger said...

What a perfect dish for the colder months. I'm happy to see you don't use cream and are going at this recipe the REAL way.

Foodessa said...

Claudia...I do love the classic version...however, I confess to having betrayed it on occasion. I've used turkey bacon, sausage and a good splash of Limoncello. Well, that's my confession for the day. Now, I'll recite a few prayers. LOL

Love that photo of your beautiful path into Autumn...my favourite season.

Enjoy the fresh, colorful air ;o)

Ciao for now,
Claudia

Pam said...

One of my very favorite pasta dishes ever - yours looks wonderful.

pigpigscorner said...

My all time fav =)

Fresh Local and Best said...

I am salivating from the greatness of this recipe! I know what you mean, you have to cook the eggs lightly, so it stays nice and creamy. This is my favorite winter pasta, I used to call it the pasta with the "goopy sauce," it's so wonderful!

Wanda..... said...

I will try making this again and doing it your way, Claudia!

Kim said...

Claudia- You did carbonara proud with this post! Who needs cream when you have eggs and lots of fluffy cheese? I'm due for a good carbonara. Thanks for the reminder!

Choices said...

Just catching up on my favorite blogs. I have been away for awhile, but I am back for now.
Another yummy recipe for me to try. I have tried so many of your recipes with much success and raves.
Thank you!

Lynda said...

Perfect Carbonara Claudia! What fun to think we could be celebrating Thanksgiving with carbonara.
I've wanted to try my hand at making this dish for some time now. Thanks for all the insructions-it looks amazing.

Barbara GF said...

I like that "little black dress" reference, Claudia - very creative thinking! And, of course, your pasta is a classic.

Katy ~ said...

This has been on my to do list forever, and now I see how super good yours looks and I wonder why I have put this off...I just know it's sensational!!!

girlichef said...

Gorgeous fall scene! And gorgeous carbonara...so creamy and beckoning.

Chef Dennis said...

a true carbonara is wonderful thing, and not something you see very often!
Thanks for picking a classical dish and staying true to it, Claudia.
I love that last image, such a beautiful fall day!

Kristen said...

I just love carbonara. Yours looks perfect.

My Kitchen in the Rockies said...

LOVE Carbonara. My favorite restaurant here in Denver serves a deconstructed version of it. It is to die for.

Spicie Foodie said...

Looks so delicious. I am not very good at making Italian or even pasta dishes. You make it look manageable for me. And no cream, sounds good to me.

Velva said...

Pasta Carbonara is a classic Italian dish. I love it. It's a very romantic dish too-I can see why it was perfect for your engagement dinner.

Your autumn photo is stunning! Wow.

myfrenchkitchen said...

Isn't Carbonara just one of those things you have to love? thanks for the little bit of background...I have never given a thought to the origins of Carbonara...looks so delicious, I could easily have some now!
bisous
Ronelle

Ruth said...

Sheer perfection! Just like I was taught in Italy! Love that you say you can add the cheese to the eggs. Thats how I always do it!

Reeni said...

Hi Claudia - Just stopped by to tell you I dreamed of you last night. You sent me a pastry bag full of your cannoli cream to taste! Through the computer! How funny is that? It was my job to taste it and pass it on to another blogger...if only that were possible...

Juliana said...

Claudia, your pasta carbonara looks fabulous...perfect! The photos of the pasta really transcribe the yumminest of this dish :-)

Lori Lynn said...

"an engagement dinner" love that
too bad carbonara is not suitable for my heart health, used to love the dish, yours looks so tasty
LL

Claudia said...

LL: Given that I was "so not a bride" I did and do appreciate my mother's lovely touches of proper and loving etiquette in my life!

Sophie said...

I also love a classic pasta carbonara,..My husband makes a good one. Yours looks quite pretty & mighty tasty too!

Yummie food!

Diana's Cocina said...

Pasta Carbonara is one of my all time favorite dishes. I remember the first time I made it, I was 19! Trust me it has inproved over the years but, nothin compared to yours. Great post!