Mention you’re cooking Bolognese to an Italian and you’ll get a serious rolling of the eyeballs. Risotto? More of a sceptical narrowing of the eyes. But Carbonara? That’s a fighting word.
Per person you will need: 120g dried pasta, 60g pancetta finely diced, a whole egg, 10g of butter and 20g of Parmesan or your favourite Italian hard cheese. It’s allegedly a Roman dish, so perhaps Pecorino might be better. Use whatever long dried pasta you have to hand: spaghetti, fettucine, linguine etc.
Pancetta can be replaced with sweet-cured belly bacon, but see below about getting some help from nutmeg and garlic. Fancy supermarkets often sell Pancetta pre-cubed in little sealed plastic pouches that can be popped into the freezer, meaning this can be whipped up al pronto if needs must.
If you have a bit of practice, then you should be able to prep and cook the sauce in the same time it takes to do the pasta, but I’d err on the side of caution, and start with the pancetta.
- Gently fry the pancetta and the butter, stirring occasionally, until it starts to colour. Grind over some black pepper.
- Get the pasta going.
- In a bowl or jug, combine the egg and Parmesan.
- Once the pancetta is lightly browned, but not crunchy, turn off the heat.
- Once the pasta is done, use a teacup to fish out a few tablespoons of the starchy cooking water, and put to one side.
- Drain the pasta, and add to the saucepan with the pancetta, combining thoroughly. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to loosen it up, and then the cheese and egg mixture, stirring like mad. Serve immediately, with more Parmesan.
Stuff you could add…
This is where controversy begins. Don’t mention any of this to your Italian friends.
- a clove of garlic, split down the middle, fried with the pancetta, and then discarded, is nice
- a small grating of nutmeg won’t hurt – if you can’t get Pancetta, and you’re using bacon, then the nutmeg is useful
- I don’t think cream is necessary
- a spot of peperoncino, fried with the pancetta could be fun