Pasta alla carbonara

Pasta alla carbonara is an Italian pasta dish that was first made by Italian charcoal workers during the mid 20th century (carbonara derives from the Italian for ‘charcoal’). As you have probably noticed, the recipe for carbonara varies widely but it is generally acknowledged that pecorino or Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, fatty pork and black pepper are the basic ingredients for this delicious dish. I have a feeling that the reason you have not experienced the authentic carbonara taste is down to the variation of ingredients that seem to find their way into this dish – this may include cream, mushrooms, garlic, onions, peas, chicken and broccoli.
Finally, just a note on cooking pasta, always cook pasta in a large pot with lots of water and salt – Italians like to cook their pasta in water that is ‘as salty as the sea’ – as a general rule I use 1 litre of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to ever hundred grams of pasta, adding the salt once the water is boiling. Continuously stir the pasta as it cooks and always cook your pasta al dente (to the tooth).

Pasta alla carbonara.
(serves 4)
500g of good quality spaghetti (you can use penne pasta if you prefer) – I like de cecco
300g of pancetta, cut into cubes or bacon lardons
4 large organic or free-range egg yolks
Olive oil
120g of Parmesan cheese plus extra to serve
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a large pot of water on to boil, for this recipe I use 5 litres. Once the water is boiling add the salt and pasta (see pack instructions for timing) and stir continuously. Place a large frying pan over a low heat, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, add the pancetta or lardons and cook over a low heat until the pancetta is golden and crisp. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the egg yolks with the Parmesan cheese and some black pepper.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pot (keeping the pasta off the heat). Add the pancetta and oil and stir well. Quickly follow with the beaten egg and cheese and stir quickly until the pasta is coated – the heat from the spaghetti is enough to cook the egg yolks – keeping on the heat would scramble the eggs (at this stage, you may need to add a little cold water to loosen the sauce a little – I always do!). Serve immediately with extra Parmesan.

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