Carbonara is a simple dish consisting of bacon, egg, oil, spaghetti, and cheese. A simple and common enough list of ingredients. But like any really good recipe, it all depends on how they're put together. In the case of carbonara, we must be very careful when mixing in the eggs. If the pan is too hot, the eggs will fry and we will have bits of fried egg instead of a nice thick sauce for the pasta. Carbonara is quite common in the United States. Like beef stroganoff, it's one of the many recipes brought to America from Europe after World War II. Since the dish is so common, there are many variations. My pasta carbonara recipe is but one of them. Have fun and make this recipe your own.
1. Assemble the ingredients for pasta carbonara. The recipe calls for a unsmoked bacon like pancetta or guanciale. Guanciale is from the jowl of a pig. But if that is proving hard to find, just use any good bacon. The rest of the ingredients are common enough and you should be able to find them.
2. Fry the bacon in two tablespoons of olive oil. Chop the bacon into cubes or small strips. Heat up a frying pan over medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the bacon until it begins to get crispy. Then smash a garlic clove, remove the skin, and mince the clove. Toss the garlic into the bacon and fry until it's light brown.
3. Add the boiled spaghetti to the pan. While you are frying the bacon, have the spaghetti boiling on the stove. Frying the bacon will only take a few minutes, so start the pasta water first. Boil the pasta until just before it is al dente (there will still be the tiniest bit of crunch left in it). Once the bacon and garlic are done, toss the spaghetti in the pan.
4. Stir in the egg mixture. Toss the spaghetti around in the pan to coat the noodles with the bacon fat. Using a whisk, mix together the cream and the eggs with the grated cheese. Remove the pan of spaghetti from the heat and add the egg and cream mixture slowly while stirring. If you do this right, the eggs will temper and become a thick sauce.
5. Toss the spaghetti to coat it with the carbonara sauce. The sauce should begin to form as it gets mixed in with the hot noodles. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little of the pasta water. If too thin, add more cheese. Or put the pan back on low heat and stir the dish vigorously to avoid egg coagulation. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper levels. Serve quickly with more cheese on top.
The use of cream aids in making the sauce. Although, it's not commonly used in the recipe—especially not in Italy. But it's good either way.
Don't use a flavored bacon like honey or maple. It will take away from the true flavor of the carbonara sauce.
If the bacon and garlic are done cooking before the pasta, you can always just remove the pan from the heat and wait for the pasta to finish cooking. No point in burning the bacon.
Whatever you do, don't rinse the pasta after you cook it. The pasta water is an important component of this dish.
Serve the carbonara with lots of cheese. If you have picky eaters, you will want to use the Parmigiano Reggiano instead of pecorino. Pecorino is made with sheep's milk and it can have a little bite to it.