Saturday, February 7, 2009

So Rich: Pasta Carbonara

Remember the rule about starting with bacon always ends in delicious? Well this further supports the argument.

You're supposed to begin with pancetta, actually, but I had slab bacon left over from the Beef Daube recipe and so I used that. Also, Anna was eating with me, and she doesn't eat red meat aside from hot dogs and bacon (I'm no vegetarian, but if I were, I might have to make the same allowance; I back it fully). I assumed this meant that she ate pancetta as well, what with it basically being bacon without the extra step of smoking (I think), but apparently not. "What about bacon and hot dogs don't you understand?" I'd like to point out that while we were by the butcher counter of Whole Foods having this discussion, Anna downed a free sample of skirt steak. Just saying.

Anyway, back to the carbonara. This dish is something I've loved since I visited Italy in 2007 where I had it for the first time. Pictured below, this was an eggy, oniony, herb filled, bacon flaunting pasta dish that I could not believe actually existed. Bacon. Eggs. Pasta? Yes. Please. Eating it while watching the sun set over the Italian Riviera did not hurt things, but I digress.

I've made my own carbonara before, using this recipe from the Paupered Chef. It's a delicious one, and it's not very hard. Great because it uses only four ingredients and pays off in the flavor department. A little bit goes a long way, too, as it's one of the richest pasta dishes I've ever had. Seriously, this is a dish that adding cream to would probably lighten things.

Bittman's recipe is much much more simple, and I have to say, I thought it tasted better. You can make it in the time it takes for the pasta to cook--not for the water to boil, mind you, but the actual ten minutes or so it takes for the linguini to finish. Take a warmed bowl. Beat three eggs. Throw in half a cup of pecorino romano (preferably) or parmesan, some salt, pepper, mix that up. Throw in the browned pancetta (or bacon) and its juices, throw the pasta on top, and mix together. You can add a little cooking water to thin it out if you need to. Otherwise, that's it. Serve. The hot pasta cooks the egg just enough to thicken it a bit, and the egg and bacon juices just coat the pasta and it becomes something much greater than the sum of its parts. No, it wasn't the same as the batch that I had in Italy, but it was pretty damn good nonetheless. And it's not so bad for you, as long as you only make it once a decade or so.

I will say this, though: only make what you're going to eat on the spot. The recipe is easily halfed, quartered, what have you, but it reheats into a dried out shell of its former self. Of course there is still bacon, so yes, I will eat microwaved carbonara. But it's not the same.

1 comment:

  1. Ben- Glad to see you embracing this cooking thing. Just a tip I picked up in italy: to reheat carbonara you add a bit of what is sold as "panna da cucina" which you can get at a specialty store called Dipalo's on grand and mott. Its basically superthick heavy cream. Its awesome stuff. I will be following your blog for sure. Let me know if you ever need any help finding ingredients, I am a food buyer after all...

    Tim VH