Tuesday, August 4, 2009

comfort food

It has been a while since I got to my blog: face surgery, followed by six weeks of radiation. Taste buds coming back! After several weeks of soups and milkshakes, it was time for pasta: and also for comfort food. My choice: spaghetti carbonara!

I know this is a Roman dish, but I also always remember going to a small trattoria a "calle" or so from the Rialto Bridge in Venice, appropriately named Trattoria Carbonara -- I don't believe it exists any longer -- where I feasting on this satisfying dish was an every-trip-to-Venice routine

Carbonara is part of the great Roman pasta triumvirate of "cacio e pepe" and "alla gricia", all simply prepared, flavor-filled pasta dishes (frequently using a more egg-yolk-heavy pasta). For these great recipes, see: http://www.classicpasta.com/ -- and click on pasta and spaghetti.


  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • two tablespoons butter
  • four ounces guanciale (preferred), pancetta or bacon
  • three small cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • one-third cup dry white wine
  • one large egg
  • three egg yolks
  • two tablespoons Pecorino Romano
  • six tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
  • tablespoon or two chopped parsley
  • salt and lots of freshly ground pepper
  • one pound spaghetti

Cut the guanciale (pancetta or bacon) into roughly one-quarter inch long thin strips.

Heat the butter and oil in a saute pan over medium heat. This pan should be big enough to eventually hold and mix the spaghetti. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to sizzle. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly browned.

Add the wine and cook for about two minutes more, until the alcohol smell has disappeared. Set aside.

In a large bowl, into which you will eventually put the cooked spaghetti, put in the egg yolks and the whole egg. Stir with a fork until they are well mixed. Add the two cheeses and the parsley, salt and pepper. Stir.

Heat 4-5 quarts of cold water to a raging boil. Add two tablespoons of salt, drop in the pasta, stir regularly, and cook until al dente. (test by tasting!) Set aside a cup of pasta water and drain.

Add the cooked pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture. Toss it gently until well mixed and the strands are thoroughly coated. Quickly reheat the pancetta for a minute or so. Add the pasta and egg mixture to the heated pancetta pan. If too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water to keep moist. Cover and heat under high heat for a minute. Should be steaming.

Serve immediately, adding the chopped parsley, and with some more parmesan on the side.

Note: if halving this recipe, use one egg and one egg yolk.

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