Thursday, July 11, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Pasta Alla Carbonara

For our 9th anniversary in early June, Brian and I took a long evening stroll and ended up at one of our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurants, Abbondanza Pizza.

They make some of the cities best pizza's, but I prefer the handmade pasta and one of my favorites is the carbonara.

Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish specific to Rome and is based around eggs, cheese and bacon.  Although it is usually associated with spaghetti, I prefer the heavier fettuccine.

Like most recipes, the origins of this dish are obscure.  The name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian world for charcoal burner), and some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers.  In parts of the U.S., the etymology gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti".

Pasta alla Carbonara was included in Elizabeth David's Italian Food an English language cookbook published in Great Britain in 1954; however, the dish is not present in Ada Boin's 1927 classic La Cucina Romana and is unrecorded before WW II.


Pasta Alla Carbonara 


1/4 pound pancetta or bacon
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
4 egg yolks and 2 egg whites
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional; purists shudder at the thought, but I like the creaminess)
Olive oil, salt and pepper
1 pound of spaghetti or fettuccine 


Set water to boil with 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Meanwhile, dice bacon and saute it in a pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil until it's well cooked.  Drain bacon on a paper towel.  As soon as the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions (reserve 1/2 cup pasta water).

Lightly beat egg yolks and the two whites.  As soon as the eggs are combined beat in the cheese and add a pinch of salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain and transfer back into the pot you cooked the pasta in. Add the bacon and pour the egg mixture over the top of the pasta, stirring briskly, then add the cream and some of the pasta water to thin/combine sauce.  The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs and warm the cream.  Serve immediately.