Monday, August 5, 2013

Carbonara without the Cream

Carbonara is such an easy pasta dish to make but most of the versions that you find in restaurants are made with cream.  Classic and traditional Italian, actually Roman carbonara is made with just eggs, bacon, cheese, pepper and pasta -- no cream at all.  I have always made carbonara with just these ingredients.  It's the eggs and the freshly grated cheese that add that creamy texture and bite.

Carbonara needs real pancetta or Italian bacon, good extra virgin olive oil, some freshly grated parmigiano romano, a few garlic cloves and fresh eggs.

 Real pancetta adds a smoky depth to carbonara which you won't get from ordinary bacon.  Slice your pancetta into strips -- just 3 pieces of pancetta will do for a 450 gram pack of  pasta.

In your good olive oil, saut√© the garlic cloves, then set aside. 

Remove the garlic cloves then fry your pancetta in the garlic infused oil.  Let the pancetta render its fat at low heat.  I don't overcook the pancetta since I prefer it tender and not crisped to extinction. 

While the pancetta fat is happily blending with the olive oil, take two fresh eggs that are at room temperature and separate the yolk from the white.  

Whisk half of the freshly grated parmigiano romano with the egg yolks and set aside.

Ordinarily, I use spaghetti for carbonara but I only had penne that day.  Mix your cooked pancetta (along with as much of the rendered fat as you dare) with the noodles then quickly blend in the egg and cheese mixture.  Do this in the serving bowl and not in the skillet.  You don't want to cook the eggs.

Add some of the reserved pasta liquid if you find the sauce a little thick.
Top with the reserved grated cheese and freshly ground cracked black pepper.
Fresh baked sourdough bread completes this simple but very satisfying meal.

With traditional Italian carbonara, how about a rustic Italian wine?
Lambrusco, a light sparkling wine from the Emilia-Romagna section of Italy is ideal with pasta and other light dishes.  I prefer lambrusco bianco myself but this vivacious and fruity rosso adds zest and zing to my pasta dish.
Buon appetito!

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