The fool-proof Spaghetti carbonara
Misjudge, miscalled, and often mistreated, the Carbonara is the most controversial Italian recipe out there.
So simple at glance but yet so intricate, I consider this recipe more of a ritual rather than a dish. A ritual so sacred that if you swap one ingredient for an alternative (god forbid!) you better keep that as a secret or you’ll risk provoking outrage in all the Carbonara purists out there, and believe me, they’re everywhere, not only in Italy!
Well, tradition aside, I am not the one to judge the cooking habits of others, and definitely whatever works for you in your kitchen should be totally fine to everyone anyway, but I think is it my duty to give you the tools to recreate the perfect carbonara times and times over with no pressure at all!
First, the choice of ingredients, high-quality Guanciale (roman style cured pork jowl or cheeks) but I’ll settle for pancetta too, free-range eggs, freshly ground black pepper, grated cheese, and of course the pasta. I am more of a spaghetti guy therefore my natural choice is the Spaghettone del Leone Rustichella d’Abruzzo. Much thicker than regular spaghetti, they hold the ‘bite’ much longer and the slow drying process allows them to release some of their starchy essences into the sauce to create the perfect creamy Carbonara.
What makes this recipe foolproof is creating a smooth sabayon to use as the base for your sauce. That takes away completely the doubt of having uncooked eggs in your pasta dish and removes the fear of scrambling your eggs into a pasta frittata because overcooked. Isn’t that brilliant?!
Please have a look below, it is easier than you think and it works every time.
A final note to improve your Italian+ness, when saying CaRbonaRa, pronounce the R(s) as if you were a roaring lion!
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 14 minutes
Categories: Pasta / Main course
400 g of Spaghettone del Leone ‘Rustichella d’Abruzzo’
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
50 g grated pecorino cheese
90 g grated Grana Padano riserva cheese
400 g of guanciale (or pancetta)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Remove the rind from the guanciale, slice in ½ cm thick slices, and chop into thick strips.
Gently fry the guanciale in a pan on low heat. This will slowly render the fat and the guanciale will crisp up to golden perfection. When done in about 10/15 minutes, drain the guanciale from the fat and pat dry on kitchen paper. Dispose correctly 3 quarters of the fat left in the pan and keep the rest to dress the pasta.
To create the sabayon, whisk the yolks, the whole eggs, and the grated cheeses in a large bowl. Now place the bowl on a bain-marie and cook gently while whisking to reach a thick custard-like consistency. It should take about 2/3 minutes. Never allow the water to reach the boiling point or it will scramble the eggs. It is not essential, but if you have a kitchen thermometer it will help you during this step as the sabayon will be ready when reached a temperature of about 62 degrees Celsius.
Drop the Spaghettoni in a large pot of salted boiling water and cook until ‘al dente’ for about 14 minutes. Mix every now and then. Drain the pasta and make sure to save a mug of the cooking water.
Place the pasta into the pan with the remaining fat and mix well. Away from the heat add the sabayon to the pasta and after that add a splash of pasta water to losing it up and reach a creamy sauce consistency. Stir and toss the pasta in the sauce to make sure it is well coated.
Add the crispy guanciale and abundant freshly ground black pepper.
Plate in large pasta bowls and top with extra grated cheese!!
Recipe by Danilo Cortellini