Ever since the Mrs. and I honeymooned at Baur B&B, she has been devoted to making our own carbonara. It’s the kind of place where you feel like you’re best friends with everyone who walks through the door, so much so that another couple staying there offered to share their dinner with us and the proprietor one night for no reason other than fellowship and kindness. It’s the inherent greatness of sharing a meal with kind people.
Hang on a minute, sailor- you should be saying. You two got married a while ago, right? Why the hold up? Honestly, this dish is fraught with peril. The carbonara conundrum, so to speak, is that you have to be very, very sure of your eggs before you proceed or risk a very, very unpleasant evening. And so, trepidatious to say the least, we waited.
Finding ourselves reveling in the splendid tumult that is the Union Square Green Market last Saturday, we resolved to concoct a meal out of whatever looked good to us there, mainly because rain was coming and we didn’t feel like schlepping to Fairway. What we found was farm fresh eggs, guaranteed by the seller to be valid for raw or semi-raw consumption for five days hence. The lovely thing about the dish is that once you bite the bullet with the eggs, the rest is quite easy.
This dish needs a hardy, dry pasta to stand up to the bacon and eggs you’ll soon be slinging:
Fettuccine alla Carbornara
Serves 2 as a main course
- 2/3 lb of fettuccine or bucatini (dried, not fresh)
- 2 very fresh eggs
- 1/4 lb pancetta or guanciale, cubed
- 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano, grated (plus more for topping, though that’s optional)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the eggs, season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, as the latter will provide the “carbon” look so classic to this dish, and set aside. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until a minute shy of al dente, reserving a ladle or two of the salted, starchy water. Then get to browning some pancetta and garlic, then adding a bit of pasta water and then the cooked pasta. Remove from the heat and add in the eggs , stirring to cook them. (Mine scrambled just a little bit, which didn’t bother us so much but I hear it can be a faux pas. I assume that letting the pasta cool a bit would prevent this, but I feel safer with my eggs on the solid side of done.) Finish with a ludicrous amount of parm, stir to combine and drink deeply of the best pasta dish you’ve ever made.
With this meal, we started with grilled calamari and San Marzano bruschetta, but they can wait for another post. This may make some of you wince, but remember that restaurants sell this dish everyday, and we have no control over how they do it or what they do to it. [Ed.–They often cheat and use cream, which is a load of crap.] Sometimes it makes the diners sick but it stays around. And what’s the alternative? Burying the recipe for ever? Never. The moral for the weekend was respect and know-how can vanquish fear and open doors for the home cook that would otherwise remain closed. So fear not, fellow readers, and cook on!