From the Chronicle Kitchen
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Spaghetti alla carbonara (Spaghetti with Pancetta and Eggs)
This is the quintessential Roman pasta. Cooks commonly disagree about the amount of black pepper, the proper ratio of pancetta (Romans actually prefer guanciale, cured pig’s cheek, which is hard to find in the United States) and whether it should be allowed to crisp, or if the cheese should be Parmesan only or part Parmesan and part pecorino. No matter what they decide, the pasta will be delicious. True carbonara contains only pancetta, eggs, and cheese—no cream. Because our supermarket eggs do not have the flavor or color of the golden yolks of Roman eggs, you can add an extra yolk to the mixture.
Wine Dolcetto, Valpolicella, Trebbiano, or Frascati
Serves 8 as a first course or 6 as a main course
3/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons salt
3 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
6 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 pound spaghetti
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons olive oil
Unroll each pancetta slice and cut it crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide pieces. Set aside.
Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil. Drop in the salt and then the pasta, stir well, and cook until al dente, according to package directions.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and egg yolks, the cheeses, and the pepper. Place the bowl near the stove or on a warming shelf.
In a sauté pan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until a layer of bubbles appears in the pan, about 7 minutes. The pancetta will be cooked but not crisp.
When the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the egg mixture. Immediately add the hot pancetta and most of the drippings, and toss very quickly to combine. The sauce should be a thick, creamy liquid. Taste and add more cheese and pepper, if desired.
Divide immediately among warmed pasta bowls and serve at once. This pasta does not reheat so make just enough.
Variation with Vegetables Although it is not authentic, you can add a vegetable to lighten this very rich pasta. Cook 1/2 cup shelled peas, a small handful of broccoli florets, or 1/2 cup cut-up asparagus (1-inch pieces) in boiling salted water until tender yet still quite firm. Refresh under cold running water to halt the cooking and set the color, and drain again. When the pasta is a minute or two away from being al dente, drop the vegetable into the pasta pot to warm through briefly. Drain the pasta and vegetables and proceed as directed.
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