I know posting this recipe may seem banal, but there are so many myths about the preparation of this very simple, classic Roman dish. I first learned it years ago when I was living in Rome.
Called 'carbonara' because one of the essential ingredients is the heavy speckling with freshly grated coarse black pepper, that somewhat resembles tiny pieces of charcoal, this spaghetti dish is now acclaimed worldwide, and unfortunately often wrongly made.
For four people:
500 gr. spaghetti, of the thicker variety - thin won't do, and it has to be spaghetti, not tagliatelle or any other type of pasta, although you can get away with rigatoni if you find spaghetti difficult to handle at the table.
15 gr smoked streaky bacon - the fat content must be approximately equal to the meat content, evenly cut into tiny cubes - in Italy they use 'guanciale' or pancetta. Guanciale is like pancetta, but from a different cut of pork. Any rind should be removed.
Extra virgin olive oil - about 10 - 15 cl, or enough to shallow-fry the bacon.
2 whole eggs and 2 yolks, very fresh.
Roman pecorino cheese. This is like Parmesan, but made from ewe's milk. It has a stronger flavour than Parmesan and higher acidity, and balances very well with the eggs and the bacon. Failing that, Parmesan will do, but no other cheese.
Lots and lots of fresh coarsely ground black pepper.
The egg mixture must not be heated up after being mixed into the spaghetti - this is fundamental to the finish of the dish.
The heat of the fried bacon, olive oil and cooked spaghetti is sufficient to 'cook' the eggs to the right degree, which should be creamy, not scrambled.
Cream must never be added - it's not 'carbonara'! if it is!!
Do not drain the spaghetti totally dry - if you do, reserve a couple of spoonsful of the cooking water to add back to the spaghetti afterwards. This is what gives the nice creamy texture to the sauce - not cream!!
The bacon should be slowly crisped, to dissolve as much of the fat into the oil as possible.
The amount of black pepper: should look as though you've had an accident with the pepper mill.
Cook the spaghetti 'al dente' - any softer spoils the texture of the dish.
Fry the bacon gently in the olive oil until the fat has melted and the bacon cubes crisped.
Beat the eggs and yolks together, and add enough cheese to make it fairly stiff.
When the spaghetti is cooked and mostly drained, add the bacon and oil, then add the egg mix, off the heat, and the black pepper, mix well with the spaghetti so that the pasta is thoroughly coated with the sauce and is well 'speckled' with the black pepper, and serve immediately.
ciao a tutti