By now you may have heard that Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey and New York City with an impact that can only be described as a force of nature. While I’m fine and wasn’t affected much, many thousands of people were not so fortunate.
Please, if you can, send some good vibes their way. Or say a prayer, if you’re so inclined.
In the meantime, this was for dinner Friday night — spaghetti carbonara. This is pretty much a textbook carbonara, even with the addition of garlic and wine in the recipe below. The lack of cream makes for a lighter and more delicate taste, I find.
It appears that I have been making carbonara wrong after all of these years. Only recently did I discover that there is no cream in a true carbonara. The sauce should consist only of eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano and pecorino cheese, black pepper, pancetta/guanciale/bacon drippings and a little pasta cooking water. The stodgy, heavy, calorie-laden version of carbonara that you see most commonly in the United States is a testament to my adopted country’s love of excess. It’s delicious to be sure, but it’s not real pasta carbonara.
I don’t mean to become a “pasta Nazi” all of a sudden, but I do believe that folks should learn how to do something correctly. Once I know the basics, then I can wing it. This is as much a reminder to myself as a piece of advice for everyone else. It’s something worth remembering, in my opinion.
2-3 thick cut slices pancetta, guanciale or good-quality bacon, coarsely diced
2-3 tablespoons cold water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and slightly bruised
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 large eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 tablespoon freshly grated pecorino cheese
freshly milled black pepper
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley (optional)
Put the pancetta, guanciale or bacon and water in a skillet over medium heat. When the water has evaporated and the pancetta starts to color, drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Add the oil and garlic to the skillet. Sauté over medium-low heat until the pancetta has browned and the garlic becomes golden, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding the white wine. Stir once or twice; the alcohol should burn off fairly quickly after 1 minute. Discard the garlic and remove the skillet from heat.
Beat the eggs, cheese and a pinch of sea salt in a separate bowl. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and add the dried spaghetti. Cook according to package directions, or until the spaghetti is al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. While the pasta is still wet and piping hot, add it to the pancetta mixture, and toss thoroughly.
Quickly add the egg mixture to the skillet, tossing it thoroughly. You want to do this before the spaghetti cools, since the heat of the pasta will “cook” the eggs. Add enough cooking water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until an abundant, creamy sauce is formed. Sprinkle with black pepper (and Italian parsley and a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired), and serve at once.
Time: About 30 minutes, including prep.