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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Spaghetti alla Carbonara:Recipe

Bacon and eggs are breakfast food, right? In the United States they are. Eggs especially. Served all kinds of ways--fried, scrambled, baked, boiled, you name it. But a couple of my favorite ways to eat "bacon and eggs" are French or Italian style and most definitely NOT for breakfast, namely Salade Lyonnaise and Spaghetti alla Carbonara. You can split hairs with me if you want, and claim that Salade Lyonnaise uses the French "lardons" a kind of salt pork and that Carbonara uses Italian style cured pork jowl "guanciale" or even pancetta, but either recipe is terrific with bacon. And eggs of course.

Salade Lyonnaise is a salad of curly endive, topped with a poached egg, chunks of bacon, and some croutons. The dressing is a warm combination of bacon fat, and vinegar used to deglaze the bacon fat and caramelization from the bottom of the pan. It's a great dish. Satisfying and yet light at the same time. The crispy crunch of the salad is matched with the oozing lusciousness of the egg yolk and of course the rich smokiness of the bacon. It's perfect for lunch or a light supper.

The alla carbonara in Spaghetti alla Carbonara means in the "manner of coal miners". There are more than a few stories as to why it is called carbonara, the three stories I've heard are because the freshly ground pepper topping the dish resembles flakes of coal, or because it was cooked on the streets of Rome over coal burning stoves or finally that the dish was popular among coal miners and so it was named after them. Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a great winter time dish. It's also one of those things you can whip up when you have almost nothing in the house. My favorite time to eat this is late at night for some reason. While I don't mind using bacon instead of guanciale or pancetta, I do draw the line at adding whipping cream. When made correctly this is a very creamy dish, and needs no cream.

Here's how I make it:

Spaghetti alla Carbonara


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
4 slices diced bacon
2 eggs
1/2 pound of spaghetti or bucatini or linguini
1/3 cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano (or combination)
fresh ground black pepper


Bring salted water to a boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender yet firm. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water to use in the sauce if needed to thin it out a bit.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon, and saute until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered. Toss a smashed clove of garlic into the fat and saute for less than 1 minute to flavor the oil, then remove it.

Beat the eggs and Parmesan together in a mixing bowl, stirring well to prevent lumps, set aside. Add the hot, drained spaghetti to the skillet and toss to coat the strands in the bacon fat. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pasta, toss the spaghetti quickly until the eggs thicken, but do not scramble (that is why you do this off the heat) Thin out the sauce with a bit of the reserved pasta water, until it reaches desired consistency. The sauce should be creamy, not "scrambled egg" crumbly if that makes sense. Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper, a sprinkle more of grated cheese and taste for salt. Serves 2 people.


Spaghetti alla Carbonara