In the world of cooking, crafting the ideal spaghetti carbonara holds its unique stature. The dish is simultaneously uncomplicated and refined, and its perfection often proves elusive. For those unacquainted, Spaghetti Carbonara involves bacon (or pancetta, guanciale, or even the breakfast-style bacon), cheese, and eggs. The eggs create a sumptuously creamy sauce, while the crunchy bacon and cheese contribute pleasing salty hints.
You might be wondering where the challenge lies?
Let’s dive into the key issue — the incorporation of eggs into the hot pan. The primary pitfall in crafting Spaghetti Carbonara comes when you inadvertently end up with a bowl of excellently cooked spaghetti tossed with crispy bacon, Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and a scrambled egg mix.
You wouldn’t be alone if you’ve faced this conundrum. During a visit to Rome, the birthplace of this mid-20th Century dish (credits to Wikipedia), I was served a spaghetti carbonara scattered with bits of scrambled egg yolk!
Fortunately, I’ve uncovered the remedy to this common carbonara predicament. While numerous recipes suggest turning off the pan heat before introducing the eggs to prevent scrambling, the pan’s residual heat can still cause unwanted scrambling.
The real solution involves placing the eggs, cream, and cheese in the serving dish, followed by adding the warm bacon, bacon fat, and a little pasta water to gently temper the eggs. Only then do you introduce the freshly cooked pasta. Cover the dish with a plate to ensure thorough heating and presto — an impeccable Spaghetti Carbonara every time. This invaluable tip is courtesy of the renowned Food Network personality, Tyler Florence.
While some traditionalists may frown upon adding cream, this is my personal touch, adding a dimension I find satisfying. Feel free to follow an authentic version if you prefer!
My take on Spaghetti Carbonara uses whole eggs instead of just the yolks and includes half and half for an added layer of creaminess. This tweak adds a silken quality and lightness that solely using egg yolks doesn’t achieve. Optionally, I introduce a touch of nutmeg to enhance the dish’s overall flavor.
Here’s what you’ll need for the Ideal Spaghetti Carbonara:
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 8 oz. of bacon (or guanciale, or pancetta, chopped)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 pound of dried spaghetti
- 4 large eggs
- 1/3 cup of half and half
- 2/3 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)
Follow these steps to master the Ideal Spaghetti Carbonara:
- Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. Simultaneously, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion and cook until the onion caramelizes and the bacon crisps. Once your water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook until it’s perfectly al dente.
- While your pasta cooks, whisk together the eggs, half and half, and cheese in a large serving bowl. Add in the cooked bacon, onion, and the cooking fat. Let the bacon cool for a minute or two before introducing it to the bowl if it’s too hot.
- Before draining the pasta, set aside around 1/3 cup of the cooking water and gradually whisk it into the egg and bacon mixture. Drain the spaghetti and add it to the bowl. Toss quickly and cover the bowl with a plate. Let it sit for 5 minutes. After removing the plate, toss in black pepper and optional nutmeg for that final, flavorful touch.
Armed with these insights and tips, you can confidently cook up an Ideal Spaghetti Carbonara — an experience that’s as enjoyable to prepare as it is to savor.