“A deli egg-bacon-and-cheese-on-a-roll that has been pasta-fied, fancified, fetishized and turned into an Italian tradition,” says this NY Times recipe. Ah, Carbonara! When I’m making this, I am filled with joy: the pleasure of simple and beautiful ingredients (Hello, mountain of grated cheese!); the anticipation of sublime, creamy, peppery deliciousness; and the satisfaction of giving myself and whoever’s around this small, decadent treat.
The recipe by Ian Fisher needs no modification, but because of my own eating plan, I use really good gluten-free pasta and 100% sheep’s milk cheeses. (Pecorino fits the bill, and I add another rich, flavorful favorite like aged Manchego or Ewephoria, the best-named cheese of all time.) Pecorino Romano is salty, so go easy on any additional salt. Several times, I’ve made this with Proscuitto di Parma, because that’s what we had on hand. Sliced into thin strips and sautéed slowly on low heat until it’s dark and just starting to crisp, it has a fabulous way of adhering to the pasta, so you get the perfect bacon-cheese-egginess with every bite.
The heat of the serving bowl and the pasta itself cooks the egg mixture just slightly, so the egg and cheese turn into a creamy sauce. This is best eaten immediately, of course, but I’ve reheated leftovers in a pan on very low heat with some of the reserved pasta-cooking water—so save that along with the pasta. This isn’t hard to make; just plan ahead for those final steps so the serving bowl and pasta are as hot as possible when you combine everything. And remember to take the eggs out of the fridge ahead of time, to have them at room temperature to start.
If you want to be really civilized, serve with a big wine and a light, cleansing salad.
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks, room temperature
large handful grated Pecorino Romano
large handful grated Parmesan
coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
3.5 ounces of guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, sliced into small pieces
12 ounces of pasta
- Heat a big pot of lightly salted water for the pasta. Fill a large serving bowl with hot water and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, grated cheeses, a generous grind of black pepper and (if you’re not overloaded with salty Pecorino), a tiny bit of salt.
- In a skillet large enough to accommodate the pasta, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the guanciale/pancetta/bacon and sauté until just beginning to crisp. (You might need to lower the heat a little to keep the pork cooking evenly without hardening.) Remove from heat and set aside.
- When the pasta water boils, cook the pasta until it’s just slightly firmer than al dente. Reserve a cup of the cooking water. Meanwhile, return the skillet to the heat, on low. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the pork. Stir to combine for a about a minute.
- Empty the hot water from the serving bowl. Dry the bowl quickly and add the hot pasta mixture and the egg mixture. Stir to warm the eggy sauce, adding a bit of the reserved pasta water if needed for creaminess.
- Serve immediately with a little more grated cheese and black pepper.