Tuesday, November 27, 2012

spaghetti carbonara


In the New York Times Food Section of November 21, famed writer and foody Calvin Trillin reported that he has no use for turkey for Thanksgiving. His choice: spaghetti carbonara. We can understand the selection. We rate the dish as one of our top five all-time comfort food dishes, so why not go for comfort on Thanksgiving. (the photo above is from that edition of the NYT: photo by Daniel Krieger at the Locande Verde restaurant).
Calvin's recipe is a little different from most, but according to writer Ian Fisher, that is not surprising. He reports that an Italian food historian claims there are over 400 versions, "from the most classic Roman to variations that are delicious but drive traditionalsts mad." Calvin uses pancetta, fontina and prosciutto.
This superb article gives a lot of fascinating detail about carbonara, it's history (after 1944) and the arguments over ingredients. One of the major arguments is about cream: In Rome Never!! The proper Roman version, according to the article, has only five ingredients: pasta, guanciale, egg yolk, pecorino Romano and black pepper.
David Downie in Cooking the Roman Way allows for pancetta or bacon instead of the classic gianciale. He also uses a combination of pecorino and parmigiano, and he also agrees that the variations in carbonara are endless.
Our classic version (see www.classicpasta.com) does use a little garlic, goes with any of the three meat options, and does use a little white wine. Some hints from the Times article: make in small batches (one pound of pasta maximum at a time); do not let the meat get too crispy, follow directions on mixing the pasta with the egg mixture to avoid scrambing the eggs, by all means reserve some of the pasta water to add to the pasta if necessary, and do not skimp on the pepper.
Here is the "official" verson from the NYT. (we like our variation a little better - be sure to look it up).
2 large eggs and 2 large yolks
1 ounce packed Pecorino Romano plus additional for serving
1 ounce grated Parmesan
ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound (4 oz) of guanciale, pancetta, or bacon, sliced into pieces about 1/4 inch
thick by 1/3 inch square
12 ounces spaghetti
In a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, yolks and cheese, with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper

Get a big pot of water boiling.

In a saute pan heat the oil and saute the pork of choice until the fat comes out and just before it gets crisp. Set aside.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (test by tasting). Reserve a cup of the liquid and drain.
Reheat, for a moment, the pork, if necessary. Add the pasta to the pork and stir. In a heated bowl, put in the pasta/meat mixture. Stir in the cheese/egg mixture. Add reserved liquid as necessary to keep it somewhat creamy, and not dry. Serve immediately  (very important), with extra cheese and pepper.

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