Monday, March 28, 2011

Pasta Carbonara

I'm a simple man. I like good beer, a nicely roasted chicken, and a good book. I like my food to (mostly) reflect that philosophy. Certainly building layers of flavor over time has its merits, but on a weeknight after a 10 hour work day, walking the dog, and picking up the house, do you really want to set in and make a 3 hour dinner (or tour)? No thanks.

To me, Italian cooking reflects this exact sentiment. There are two types of Italian cooking, the "grandmother over the stove all day" type which gives us Sunday gravy, tomato sauce, and lasagna; compare this to the second type, the "just got in from the fields or boats" which involves quick pasta tosses, grilled meat, and simple but delicious flavors. I like, no, love both kinds. But on a weeknight, I'm the fisherman. I'm exhausted and all I want is a simple dish of pasta, garlic, and maybe some bacon.

Enter carbonara. I can make this in the time it takes to boil the pasta. Fry some bacon, add a LOT of garlic, some red pepper flake, and some white wine, follow it with a simple mixture of egg, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and toss it all with the pasta to make a spicy, tangy sauce that lingers both in your mouth and permeates throughout the house. This is cooking at it's purest, simple ingredients allowed to shine on their own, their only purpose to make you smile.

Pasta Carbonara

1 pound dried spaghetti
1/4 pound bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake (more if you want spicy)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
fresh tomatoes to garnish (optional)

Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions, undercooking by 1-2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.

While pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and bacon. Cook bacon until slightly crispy, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While bacon is cooking combine egg, egg yolk, parsley, cheese, a good amount of pepper, and some salt in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add pasta water (~1/2 cup) slowly while stirring to temper eggs.

Add garlic and red pepper flake to skillet and cook, stirring often, until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add white wine to deglaze pan and stir up any bits stuck to bottom. Cook until liquid reduces by half, about 1-2 minutes. Add cooked, drained pasta to pan and toss to combine well. Turn off heat. Add egg and cheese mixture to pasta, stirring and tossing quickly to make sauce. If pasta is thick, add remaining pasta water to loosen. Serve immediately.