Friday, August 24, 2012

An Italian Classic

Heading home tonight I realised I had no plans as to what to make for dinner - a pretty rare occurence for me! Friday night after a long week, I wanted something with simple ingredients, tasty and satisfying - but also quick to throw together. I love pasta, but we don't tend to eat it very often at home, so I thought that for a treat I would make that Roman classic - Carbonara. It contains just a handful of ingredients, but is full of robust flavours and that gorgeous rich texture that is pretty irresistible.

Carbonara is usually made with either spaghetti or bucatini (thick spaghetti that is hollow in the centre) I chose bucatini, which is thicker and slightly chewier to eat than the more delicate spaghetti. There are a whole range of stories about this famous pasta dish - some say that it was named from the word carbonaro which means charcoal burner in Italian, and that it was a hearty dish made for coal miners. Another story goes that it is named for the specks of black pepper that make up part of the seasoning, that look like coal dust on the top. Regardless of where the name comes from, it is a fabulous dish that can be whipped up in just a few minutes.

This recipe is very simple and traditional. Just some cheese, fresh eggs and some diced speck or pancetta. Carbonara does not - I repeat -  not contain cream. Never, ever, ever! I have eaten some truly awful versions of this dish in my time. I'm having food flashbacks to horrible, wallpaper paste like concoctions containing pressed ham or mystery meat, usually served from a bain marie. Ewwwwwww! It beggars belief that anyone would try to "improve" on something that is already simple perfection just as it is. The Italians didn't feel the need to gussy up the dish by drenching it in cream and god knows what else - and as far as I'm concerned, neither should we.

Carbonara should be made just prior to serving - it is not a "do ahead" recipe, and it is not suitable for freezing either. Cook it fresh while everyone is at the table -  forks in hand, ready to dig in. Buon Appetito!

Bucatini Carbonara

You will need: 300g Spaghetti or Bucatini, 250g diced speck (or pancetta), 1 whole peeled clove garlic, 2 large fresh free range eggs, 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, splash of olive oil, black pepper, salt.

Method: Whisk together the eggs, a pinch of salt, pepper and about half of the parmesan. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente. Be careful not to overcook it, as it will cook a little more when you create the sauce. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Working quickly, heat the oil in the pasta pot and cook the speck/pancetta and the garlic for about 5 minutes, until the meat starts to colour. Remove the whole garlic clove.

Add the drained pasta to the pot and toss the speck/pancetta through. Remove the pot from the heat and add the egg mixture, combining it quickly. The heat of the pasta will cook the egg mixture in a very short time. Add the rest of the parmesan, season with plenty of black pepper and serve right away.

Serves 2-4 people


1 comment:

  1. Love a carbonara recipe that isn't swimming in creamy sauce!