Spaghetti Carbonara is dead easy: to make and to get wrong. The first thing to get right is the ingredients: your eggs should come from happy chickens, the cheese should be a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano (not ‘parmesan’ which can be anything) or a Pecorino Romano; and try and find a proper piece of pancetta. In fact, we used guanciale in our video, which is made from the pig’s jowl. It’s got a more porky flavour and is what the folk down in Lazio prefer to use. Find a brand of spaghetti which says ‘bronze die extruded’ and ‘dried at low temperatures’ on the packet. This means the pasta will feel grainy and rough, and the sauce will cling to it better as a consequence.
Having posted the video, a couple of people kindly wrote in and corrected my ‘error’ of including garlic. That’s how easy it is to get wrong! The question of what is authentic would be a good post, but for now, take note the garlic is not for purists. For 4 people, you’ll need:
- 1 egg and 2 egg yolks (free range)
- 100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
- black pepper or cayenne, depending on your preference
- 150g pancetta/guanciale, diced small
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 300g good quality spaghetti
Mix the eggs and the cheese in a large bowl. Add in some freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of cayenne.
Bring a large saucepan of water up to the boil. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring the water back to the boil. Add your pasta and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While it’s cooking, turn your attention to the meat element.
If you are using guanciale remember it is quite fatty, so try ‘dry frying’ the cubes. The fat has quite a low smoke point, so if this does happen, try pouring in a teeny amount olive oil which helps to reduce the smokiness. Saute the guanciale or pancetta over a medium heat until it starts to turn golden. Now add the garlic and fry for about a minute or so (or not, see above).
Remove a ladle of pasta water and put to one side just in case your ‘condimento’ is too thick and you need to thicken it a bit.
Drain the pasta. Add the guanciale and mix it up. Now add this mixture to the eggs and cheese and stir everything thoroughly. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and make a lovely rich, cheesy sauce.
If the pasta feels thick, slacken it with a little water. I find I don’t need to. Add more cheese if you feel like it.