Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pasta alla Carbonara

Pork. Cheese. Garlic. Eggs.  That spells yummy, for those of you that can't decipher. 

I had a hankering for pasta with carbonara sauce the past week, mostly because we got some eggs from the farmers' market and I wanted a recipe that put them to shining use without being an omelet or anything.  Too much egg is not good for Kevin's reflux (or my egg tolerance).

I am VERY embarrassed for my husband to say that when I suggested pasta alla carbonara with enthusiasm, he responded with what was considerably less than joy. This did not please me. No, not at all.  However, I forged on, mostly because I think Kevin sometimes doubts a new dish I'm going to make because he has had a version in the past which was sucky so that's the one forever ingrained in his memory.  I wanted to show him who's boss.

There are a bunch of recipes for carbonara sauce--as I started looking through them I decided that I wanted a recipe without onions and one using pancetta or guanciale.  My go-to Lidia Bastianich's Italian American Kitchen uses onions and bacon in her recipe, so it was a no-go.  Go-to was no-go. Heehee. (Of course I could have just subbed pancetta for bacon and cut out the onions, but I just wanted a recipe geared for a non-onion dish because...just because. Meh.)

You failed me

Side story:  Kevin and I love watching Lidia's Italy on public television.  A few years ago, we decided to go to Felidia, her flagship restaurant in a townhouse on the Upper East Side.  So we're crossing the street to get to the restaurant entrance and who do we see but Lidia herself! It was so exciting.  Kevin and I started clippity-clipping faster to catch up with her, giggling like schoolkids, and we call out to her.  We tell her how much we love her and her show.  She looks at us, a little bemused, and says, "Oh thank you. Sooo, [you weirdo stalkers,] where are you visiting from?"  She deservedly assumed, based on our very uncool behavior, that we were starstruck tourists from God knows where and had come to the city to have a "fancy meal" at the restaurant of our favorite food celebrity.  In response to her question, we deflatedly admitted, "The Upper West Side."  Like, right across the park, lady. 

Anyway, after Lidia failed me, I figured fellow Italian food doyenne Marcella Hazan would be a good bet.  I don't have any of her cookbooks, but her carbonara recipe is online at several places.  I made a few small changes to the original ingredient list, which I note in italics.


  • 1/2 lb pancetta, cut in 1/2" slices (or good slab bacon) (Mina had a brain fart and bought a whopping .18 lb of pancetta. Oops. Anyway, I bought rolled pancetta sliced thick, and I cut them into 1/2" cubes. I could have done slices, but I think cubes are cuter)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (I used Chenin Blanc for no particularly good reason except the wine store guy suggested it after I rejected his original suggestion of Gavi. Chenin Blanc = Italian food, don't you think?)
  • 1 1/4 lb spaghetti (who buys their spaghetti in 1 1/4 lb boxes? Yeah I didn't think so. I just used a pound)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 oz Romano cheese, freshly grated (I translated this, based on a very scientific system, which also happens to be very top-secret so I can't tell you about it, to 1/4 cup. And what is Romano cheese? I assumed it was the same as Pecorino Romano, so that's what I got)
  • 2 oz Parmigiano cheese, freshly grated (Again, using aforementioned very special secret system, this translated to about 3/4 cup grated cheese)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 TBS chopped parsley
Lightly crush and peel the garlic (or peel and crush, whatever floats your boat).  Place in pan (I used a wide 4 quart saucepan) with oil and heat to medium high. Watch the garlic. When it turns golden brown, remove and discard.

Not golden brown enough. They look like albino turds.

Place chopped pancetta into the pan and saute.

Stir occasionally and cook until edges are crisp, about 5 minutes.  Pour in wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs, and then mix in cheeses, pepper and parsley.  In the picture below I dumped them in all together cuz I thought it would be more aesthetically pleasing, but do the eggs first so you can whisk them up well before adding the other stuff. Or don't. I threw it all together and didn't die, so I doubt you will.  Unless you sin.

Behold the golden orbs

You will end up with a mixture looking like this.
Whoa I have no idea what I just did to the formatting. I didn't even know you could do that. Totally accidental. Wish I could do it again, on purpose this time.

Anyway, boil the spaghetti according to the box's directions (I usually skim 30-45 seconds off the cooking time). Drain.  Place into bowl that has egg mixture and mix dem suckers around.

I didn't feel like this dish was particularly nutritious on its own (unless you believe that humans can thrive on fat and sodium alone), so I made some broccoli rabe to go along with it.

I took one large bunch of broccoli rabe (a bit over a pound), and I...peeled them. You don't have to do this.  Just like with the celery, I once saw Lidia peeling broccoli rabe and so now I do it, particularly when we're having guests over.  I wouldn't consider Kevin a "guest", but he was due home hours later so I figured I had the time to kill.  

The reason why it's nice is that the skin on the stalks can be kind of tough and I have had the mortifying pleasure of watching my guests struggle to chomp and gnash a stalk into two more manageable pieces, only to surrender and shoved the entire broccoli rabe piece down the gullet.  If you're reading I'm sorry. But don't worry, I wasn't watching. Nobody saw.

The peeling doesn't have to be exact--just a few swipes with a peeler to remove some of the skin.

Heat up a few TBS of olive oil with 2 cloves of smashed garlic on medium high heat, in a pot/pan large enough for the rabe and that has a cover. When the garlic is light golden brown (don't wait until truly golden brown, it'll burn), put in the broccoli rabe and toss to coat with oil.  

You  may have to do this in batches so that the rabe is a bit manageable.  Toss the rabe until it all gets kinda wilty.  Salt and pepper to taste. Pour in a few TBS of water or stock. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve alongside pasta.



  1. Dude, Mina, you are so talented!! Every new recipe you post, I'm always impressed!

  2. Looks so good! I've rarely made any pasta without red sauce because... I suck. I will have to try this!!!

  3. i could eat this kind of food every single day

  4. omg. I swear I JUST MADE spag carbonara last night. except I didnt do the garlic, wine or parsley. just pork, fat, eggs and cheese. I will have to try your version. MAYBE TONIGHT! -- DIE CORONARY ARTERIES, DIE!!

  5. Can I like the screen? Okay, I'm just going to ok? Don't judge (out loud). This looks so awesome. Oh and yeah..Lidia? Love. If it weren't for the whole I'm-not-Italian thing, I'd totally ask her to be my grandma.