Hello! I’m Dave, and I’ve been drafted in as a guest poster to share my recipe for carbonara! It’s a real comfort food for both of us, and once you get the timings down it’s an incredibly fast, easy recipe. I don’t really have the experience or birthright to call this an ‘authentic’ carbonara, but it’s certainly a lot closer to the real deal than the usual British attempt. The reason? No cream! I guarantee you can create something a lot nicer, with a much richer flavour, without it.
This recipe isn’t an easy one to put into numbers, so don’t worry about being precise with the amounts and timings. It’s more important that you aim for the right colour or consistency at each stage than it is that you follow the numbers exactly. And, the more you make this dish, the better you will get at judging it by feel.
Ingredients (Serves 2), 15 MINUTE MEAL!
3 Large Egg Yolks
100g Pancetta Cubes
2 Garlic Cloves
1 teaspoon of freshly ground Black Pepper (at least)
1 Cup of starchy pasta water (from the spaghetti!)
This dish has so few ingredients that I would advise getting the best quality versions of each that you can. As I mentioned, the look and feel of the ingredients when combined are more important than getting the weight and type perfect! I have included some progress pictures to help with this bit.
As for substitutions: any hard cheese will work, but buy it as a block rather than pre-grated. You can sub the pancetta for smoked bacon, or any other type of cured pig-meat, but be aware that the thickness of your meat will change the time it takes to get crispy. I have never been able to judge spaghetti amounts well, so you could easily add slightly more or less depending on appetite. The one thing you don’t want to skimp on is the black pepper. If you don’t want to measure it (and the first time I ever did was when writing this recipe!) then grind until you think you’ve used too much - and then double it. I mean it. It brings flavour, not heat.
This recipe is written on the assumption that you want to prep as you go, for a complete dish in 10 minutes, start to finish. The first time you make this dish, though, do yourself the favour of prepping in advance: grate the cheese, separate the eggs, grind the pepper, and thinly slice the garlic. There is time for these things throughout the process, but you might find yourself a bit rushed on a first attempt. Everything happens at once, and the spaghetti is your timer.
Place your spaghetti in boiling, well-salted water. Start a timer for 10 minutes and banish all distractions from your kitchen; this is your time to shine and these are all the minutes you will need.
Grate your cheese into a mixing bowl. Add the yolks of 3 large eggs and combine with a fork into a thick cheese-egg paste of cement-like consistency (see photo below left). You can add half an egg white if it feels too hard to mix.
With 7 minutes on your timer: Grind a lot of black pepper into the mix (see photo below right). I have suggested 1 teaspoon, but this is on the low end. 50-60 grinds of your pepper mill, at least. Trust me.
With 5 minutes on your timer: Set your pancetta to fry on a medium-high heat. You want it browned but not crispy by the end.
With 1 minute on your timer: cut your garlic into thin slices or batons. Add these to the pancetta, which should be cooking nicely in its own fat.
Timer beeps: Extract from your spaghetti about a cup of starchy pasta water, then drain away the rest. Put spaghetti back in the pan you cooked it in, on a very low heat.
Scoop the pancetta + garlic + delicious fat into the spaghetti and mix thoroughly on a low heat for 1 minute. Add a few tablespoons of pasta-water. You are aiming for your spaghetti to have a glossy sheen. It should look wet, but there should be no water pooling in the bottom. Add more water if you need it, bit by bit.
Remove from the heat and let to sit for 30 seconds. Then, add in the peppery cheese-egg and stir vigorously, off the heat, until your paste becomes a creamy sauce that coats the spaghetti. Be patient here, the residual heat will thin the paste. Only add more water if you can’t stir out the clumps. As with the last step, you don’t want there to be any liquid at the bottom of the pan, only a thick sauce that coats the pasta.
Serve immediately in warmed bowls with extra black pepper and parmesan to garnish. Try not to look at the mess you have created. Consider soaking the pan and, if you’re like me, quickly decide against it.
This one is definitely the quickest recipe in the blog so far. If I've had a bad day I'll always ask for Dave to make this for us, as it's so simple and comforting. As ever if you give this one a try, please do let us know. I love hearing feedback and what ways you've changed the recipe to suit your own tastes. Don't forget to snap a picture and tag me on instagram or twitter. Happy Cooking!