Spaghetti alla Carbonara

There is nothing quite as delicious as a steaming bowl of pasta and this is my family’s favourite weekday meal after a busy day at work and school.  Spaghetti Carbonara is a real crowd pleaser and super easy to make – it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes from start to finish.  There’s no cream in this recipe – the sauce base is made purely from eggs, cheese and pasta cooking water…just as it should be.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 250g cubed pancetta (or ideally guanciale) – you can use smoked streaky bacon if you can’t find pancetta or guanciale
  • 2-3 whole garlic cloves, bashed with the flat of a knife until they  break open and the skins pop off easily
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g freshly grated parmesan or pecorino (or a combination of both), plus more for sprinkling on the finished dish
  • 500g dried spaghetti
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method 

  1. Set a large pot of generously salted water on to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your pancetta / guanciale / bacon by cubing it using a sharp knife.  I tend to use block pancetta and remove the rind as I like it to become quite crispy when fried.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, adding lots of freshly ground black pepper, and then add the grated cheese and give it a good stir. It should have quite a thick consistency and be beautifully flecked with black pepper.
  4. Once the water comes to the boil, add the spaghetti, give it a stir and cook as per the packet instructions.  Most dried spaghetti takes around 10 minutes.
  5. As soon as your spaghetti is in the pot, set a heavy based frying pan drizzled with olive oil over a medium heat and once hot, add the pancetta and bashed garlic. You must use a large pan as all the cooked spaghetti will be added to it once cooked.
  6. Fry, stirring occasionally until crispy and a lovely golden brown colour.  This should take about the same amount of time as it takes the spaghetti to cook.  Remove the bashed garlic if you wish. I leave it in as I love garlic.
  7. Now turn the heat right down on the frying pan containing the pancetta.
  8. Once the spaghetti is al dente, using a spaghetti claw (or a fork if you don’t have one), add most of it to the frying pan.  You want to ensure that some of the pasta cooking water gets into the frying pan so do not make any attempt to drain the spaghetti – just transfer it into the frying pan as quickly as possible.  I leave about one ‘clawful’ of spaghetti in the pot with the remaining cooking water.
  9. You’ll start to hear sizzling sounds from the frying pan due to the addition of the spaghetti and its cooking water.  This is a good thing so don’t worry!  Using two forks, toss the spaghetti so that the pancetta is nicely mixed through.
  10. Now – and this is very important – turn the heat off and REMOVE the frying pan from the heat source.  As you’ll now be adding the egg mix, you do not want to risk the pan becoming too hot and scrambling the eggs.  I tend to move my pan over to the work surface and set it down on a heat resistant pad.  You can use a trivet, chopping board or tea towel.
  11. Pour over the egg and cheese mix and then add about a 1/4 cup of the remaining pasta cooking water.
  12. Using the two forks, once again toss the spaghetti – this time to fully combine the egg and cheese mixture and the cooking water.  As you toss it, you’ll see that the residual heat from the spaghetti and pancetta will start to melt the cheese and a beautiful creamy sauce will begin to form. If you want your sauce to be looser, add a touch more of the pasta cooking water.
  13. Transfer the spaghetti carbonara to warmed serving bowls.  You’ll find that there will be a fair bit of sauce and pancetta in the bottom of the pan once most of the spaghetti has been dished out; this is the time to add the remaining forkful of spaghetti to the frying pan.  Once again, toss thoroughly and then add this to your serving bowls.
  14. Serve immediately with additional parmesan or pecorino (to be added to taste).

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