Updated: Mar 23, 2020
This classic dish is all about high-quality ingredients and carefully executed technique. . . because It's Lauren, of Course!
Pasta carbonara is creamy, yet there should not be a drop of cream used to make it. Magic happens when eggs, cheese, and starchy pasta water become one to create a sauce in a matter of seconds. This dish is all about technique, not torture. It's both very simple and a little complicated because it is procedural. If you follow the procedure, you will succeed. And how could it ever go wrong when bacon is involved? If you want to up your game, try my Carbonara Nests with Quail Eggs & Lardons!
Essential equipment: large saucepan or stockpot; 2 large mixing bowls; whisk; medium sauté pan; ladle; colander or strainer; dry and wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; box grater; wooden spoon
1 pound fresh pasta, such as fettucine or spaghetti
2 large eggs and 2 egg yolks, room temperature
½ cup grated Pecorino Romano
¼ cup grated Parmesan
4 ounces slab bacon, guanciale, or pancetta, cut into lardons 1/3 cup freshly shelled peas, cooked freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of salt to taste
1. Place a large pot of water plus a scant tablespoon salt over high heat to bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, yolks, and cheese. Season with generous amounts of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
3. Add the bacon to a cold pan turn and place over medium heat. Sauté until browned and crisped, but still tender. Remove from heat, drain bacon on paper towels, and set aside both the pan with rendered fat and the drained bacon.
4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Have an empty, large mixing bowl ready for the pasta once drained.
“ILOC tip: if you are concerned about keeping the pasta as warm as possible for service, fill the large mixing bowl with hot water that you set aside for the drained pasta. Once you drain the pasta, you can dump the hot water, dry the bowl and then add the drained pasta to this prepared, warm bowl. It's all about technique, not torture...because It's Lauren, of Course! So, if this feels a little bit like torture, skip it!”
5. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water in a measuring cup, then drain pasta and add to the large, empty mixing bowl. Drizzle the pasta with some rendered fat from the bacon pan and toss well to coat.
6. Immediately stir ½ cup pasta water in the cheese mixture to temper it, and then add that mixture to the pasta, tossing well to coat. Add more reserved pasta water, ½ cup at a time, if needed, to reach the desired creaminess.
“Even though you have reserved two cups of pasta water, do not feel compelled to use all of it. You want to use the first half cup to temper the eggs and cheese (to bring them to temperature) so that they do not scramble when they touch the hot pasta. You might decide that you do not want or need any additional water, or you might find that you need to use most of it. Remember: you have reserved 2 cups so that you have more than enough, not just enough. You know the drill: it's about technique, not torture!”
7. Add the bacon and peas, and toss to incorporate. Serve immediately, adding additional grated cheese and freshly ground pepper.
Makes 4 servings.
“Lardons traditionally refer to salt-cured, but not smoked, bacon in the French canon of cuisine. But today a lardon is more commonly referencing the specific cut of bacon, namely a small strip or cube (see photo). Lardons are served in salads, quiches, stews, tarts, and quiches. Usually the rendered fat and the crisped bacon itself are part of the dish, as in this pasta recipe.”
Freshly made pasta from Borgatti's on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. New York's finest and freshest pasta. When a dish is so simple like carbonara, it begs for the finest ingredients.