I have been on the search for the best way to make Pasta alla Carbonara for years as there are many different opinions on this in Italy. In America they usually don’t have a clue as they don’t even use real eggs but cream instead.
So my last visit to Rome in September at an old standby restaurant where we know the owner, I confirmed the “secret of success”. We actually did not eat at his restaurant because he was full so we ate across the way at his sister’s restaurant. My husband had the Spaghetti alla Carbonara and it came with scrambled eggs throughout- the ultimate sin in my book for this sauce caused by the egg being overheated creating a scramble vs. a golden creamy decadent sauce! They key to the perfect sauce is more egg yolks than whole eggs and a warmed bowl- easily accomplished by setting it over the boiling water for pasta.
Remember the sauce always waits for the Pasta! that means the pasta is the last step! So important for great pasta dishes! Then the pasta and sauce come together stirring and combining so each noodle is coated with sauce but never swimming in it. The tricky thing about this dish is that you can’t finish it off in the skillet with the sauce as usual or you will end up scrambling the egg.
Pasta alla Carbonara Recipe from Ristorante di Pietro al Pantheon:
white wine and peperoncino optional
Serves 4 large or 7 small portions
Pancetta (Italian bacon) -1/2 cup cubed – a high quality bacon like Benton’s can be substituted and is delicious too!
Extra virgin olive oil – evoo- just enough to coat the pan
1 peperoncino (italian spicy red pepper) dried or fresh cut into small
peices – or about 10 red pepper flakes
Pecorino Romano cheese – can use Parmigiano, Grana or mixed–½ cup. I like half and half
Spaghetti (or other long pasta) – one pound package bronze cut- figure 1/4 pound per person
6 Egg yolks at room temperature
2 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
White Wine ¾
Freshly ground black pepper –
Cook the Pancetta in evoo with the hot pepper slowly until crisp. Keep warm.
Always put the water on to boil first but wait to dump the pasta in last! (butto la pasta?)
Place the serving bowl over the boiling water to warm it up- this pasta cools too quickly otherwise
Sauté the bacon or pancetta in the evoo slowly until the fat is rendered. This is where you can spice it up with an Italian pepper (pepperoncino) chopped up seeds and all. If using bacon, you can discard the oil after its cooked- and add ¼ cup evoo to pan. If it’s Benton’s bacon keep the oil for flavor!
Add wine and let evaporate
Beat the eggs together with black pepper.
When the water boils add coarse salt then dump the pasta all at once.
While pasta cooks beat the eggs in your warmed bowl with fresh cracked pepper
When the pasta is extra al dente drain, leaving some water clinging to the pasta and reserving at least a cup of the pasta water.
add pasta to the warm Pancetta and mix well over the heat to keep the pasta hot, This is why it’s extra al dente as it will continue to cook.
Then dump all into the serving bowl with the eggs so as to cook the egg and create the sauce – add hot pasta water and grated cheese alternating while stirring until a cream sauce is realized. (a trick I learned from my Roman friend Alessandra – it’s what the top restaurants do)
Pass the cheese and black pepper around the table for those who would like it
Note: adding more cheese makes the sauce dryer and less creamy.