Making A Real Spaghetti Carbonara

by Ed Lau on September 9, 2008

Spaghetti carbonara, pasta

Spaghetti Carbonara is one of those dishes that’s easy to learn but near impossible to master. It’s like golf. It doesn’t take long to learn since there is very few actual elements and yet you spend your entire life in an endless pursuit of perfection. Although I’m rather adept in the kitchen, I’ll be the first to admit I have epic failed at this particular dish several times. Some times were entirely my fault (leaving the pasta too hot, burning the pancetta) while others were just carelessness of others (butcher left plastic wrap on the pancetta and I didn’t notice…I guess that’s my fault too.)

You’ll notice I say “real” as many people know spaghetti carbonara as the bland, sometimes powdery garbage that you get from mixes or cans that is dumped on your spaghetti. It’s a shame as carbonara is an incredibly easy way to make pasta and I’ll bet you have all the ingredients to do so already in your kitchen. Great Italian food isn’t difficult…it’s quality ingredients prepared simply and well.

In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook your spaghetti. Personally, I prefer linguine as I can leave it a bit more al dente than usual. Take the pasta off the heat and drain.

In a pan, fry up some thick cut pancetta, sliced into small pieces. If you don’t have pancetta, you can use bacon. No oil is needed as the bacon has plenty of fat on it. You should probably cut into smaller pieces than I did…this pancetta was a bit difficult to work with.

For every portion of pasta, you’ll need about half a beaten egg for the sauce. That’s right, the sauce is made from raw egg. Your pasta should be a bit cooler now. The key is not to have your pasta too hot or you’ll end up with a weird half scrambled egg coating rather than a silky smooth sauce. If you mix it up right out of the pan, it won’t work. In fact, you don’t want too much egg in there at all. Don’t overdo it. A light coating is plenty as you’ll be adding more egg later.

Grate some parmigiano reggiano. Again, don’t overdo it with the cheese. This dish shouldn’t be overly heavy even though it is creamy. It’s also important to use quality cheese…not that dried crap you get out of the Kraft shaker. Get the real stuff…it’s a HUGE difference.

Your bacon should be crispy by now. Drain most of the grease but leave a bit in the pan. Pour the bacon and the fat into your mixing bowl with the pasta and egg/cheese. How much grease? You don’t want a lot…just some so you get the extra flavor in the sauce. Too much and you’ll end up with really oily pasta. You might even end up cooking the raw egg…so again, don’t overdo it.

Mix. Add pepper to taste. Top with a lightly poached egg and pop the yolk before serving. You don’t have to do the poached egg (which is another simple thing that is difficult to master) but I tried it once and haven’t gone back. I think it works.

Spaghetti carbonara, pasta

Remember, don’t mix your pasta too hot. Don’t mix too much raw egg. Don’t mix too much cheese. Don’t mix too much bacon grease. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time…it takes awhile to make one perfectly.

But once you do, you’ll have one real simple, quick pasta dish that you can serve to company and isn’t from a can or a powder!

in Food and Fine Dining

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

ray ma September 9, 2008 at 10:41 pm

dude, that is just awesome… i so have to try that…

btw, what are you doing nowadays, now that you’re not surfing at ld while you’re supposed to be “working”?


Ed Lau September 10, 2008 at 12:53 am

@ray ma:

I’ve made a career out of being awesome.


Jenny September 10, 2008 at 9:34 pm

The rare cooked egg make your spaghetty looks delicious. I love spaghetty.


ray September 10, 2008 at 10:06 pm

linguine, my dear jenny.

ed: true enough to your awesome comment i guess ;) we need to do a mini 53 get together soon just to poke fun at dr evil and stuff


Robert Mims April 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Love your Recipe, I’m considered a hick of sorts from Alabama but learned to cook this dish in Rome. I like to add freshly grated pecorino with the parmigiano reggiano. because tha’ts the way my Italian family taught me. I showed one of my American born Italian friends (who is an amazing cook) and he tried adding zuchini and mushrooms etc. Ended in an argument but I stood strong that you can’t perfect perfection with the simple dish that it is.


Robert Mims April 5, 2011 at 4:05 pm

P.S. Love the poached egg.


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