Variety is the spice of life they say and to none could this be more appropriately applied than Spaghetti. I’ve already spoken of my love for this king of Italian foods and as I have the need to consume it once a week I have more than a dozen recipes up my sleeve in order to keep my husband interested in eating it. I found this carbonara recipe in an old Italian American cookbook from the 70’s, which I subsequently left in a drawer when I moved out of my student digs (gutted!). I had by that stage made it often enough that I didn’t actually need the recipe any longer. A few other dishes survived too – wonders such as baked ziti and leona’s party lasagne –  but it still saddens me when I think of all those lost recipes I never had the chance to make.

Okay, so Italian American recipes aren’t always exactly authentic but this carbonara tastes as good as any I have tasted in Italy – I swear! I was mildy horrified when I first made it because I had convinced myself I was going to get salmonella from the uncooked egg but be rest assured these fears were totally unfounded. I am living proof. My Mother had the same reaction when I served it to her but she is also a total convert now – this is the same woman who claimed she hated green peppers until she succumbed to my beef stroganoff. Also, I recently watched a video on youtube that claims to show how a genuine carbonara should be made and low and behold it was pretty much exactly the same as this one minus the mushrooms. So, by all means leave those suckers out if you’re not a mushroom fan or they’re simply not to hand, the pancetta alone will be enough.

I think carbonara must be one of the most massacred dishes on the planet. I’ve had it served with cream. Ugh! Chicken. What? Even peas. Seriously? This one is not a variation on a classic. In my opinion, it is the real deal. I’m actually quite passionate about it (not that I’m not passionate about all my dishes) and I think when you taste it you’ll appreciate why that slop they serve you in so called gastropubs is all wrong.

By the way, should anyone know what cookbook I’m referring to could you please point me in the right direction? I will be forever grateful.

Ingredients:

1 onion

200g pancetta

100g mushrooms

4 cloves garlic

2 eggs

4 tablespoons parmesan

200g spaghetti

salt and pepper

Dice onion and mince garlic.  Heat oil and butter in a pan, add onion and garlic, season and fry for a few minutes before tossing in pancetta. The pancetta will be salty so there won’t really be any need to add salt after this stage unless you want to. I like my carbonara to be really peppery so you have my full permission to use that grinder frequently.

While the onion and pancetta are frying bring a large pan of water to the boil for the spaghetti(remember to salt the water).You want the spaghetti al dente – don’t cringe, I know that term is so overused but unfortunately it’s true. Therefore cook it for a maximum of 10mins: I’ve yet to meet a spaghetti strand that needs more than this.

Slice the mushrooms and when you put the spaghetti on to cook add them to the pan with the onion and pancetta. By the time the pasta is ready so will the mixture.

Crack two eggs into a large bowl and whisk. I add a little salt and a lot of pepper before stirring in 3 of the 4 tablespoons of parmesan. Mix thoroughly.

Okay, so now you’re going to have to act quickly. You really can’t delay and you’ll see it’s a little bit like juggling – once you get the hang of it you’re away! You want to add the pancetta mixture to the bowl with the egg and stir vigorously. Quickly drain the spaghetti, add to bowl and stir, stir, stir. The heat of the pasta will cook the egg but you must ensure every strand is covered. It should glisten with this yummy creamy eggy sauce. You could add more pepper if you like – you know I will! Serve and sprinkle with the remainder of the parmesan.

Serves 2/3

If you want to make it for 4 just add one more egg, as four eggs will make it way too runny – I’ve made this mistake before so you don’t have to:)

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