Perfect Spaghetti Carbonara
Few dishes make me happier than spaghetti carbonara - rich with eggs, savoury with bacon, and festooned with salty cheese.
The devil, when cooking carbonara, is in the detail - namely how to add raw eggs to a hot pan of pasta without ending up with egg-fried spaghetti. I'd advise the briefest of encounters between the eggs and heat, so they thicken to a creamy consistency, without solidifying.
The secret is to work quickly, tossing the cooked pasta in the oily pancetta until every strand is greased, then remove from the heat, toss briefly with the eggs and cheese - with a little cooking water just to loosen - and serve immediately. There's an art to it, but, like art in general, once you get it it's a thing of rare beauty.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 75g pancetta, cubed
- 250g dried spaghetti
- 2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
- 25g pecorino romano, finely grated
- 25g Parmesan, finely grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Nutmeg, optional
Put two bowls into a low oven to keep warm, or boil a kettle and half fill them with hot water. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, then add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring until well-coloured but not burnt. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the pancetta to the garlicky oil and cook until translucent and golden, but not brown.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling, salted water until al dente. Beat together the eggs and the extra yolk, then stir in the pecorino and most of the Parmesan, reserving a little as a garnish. Grind in plenty of black pepper and set the mixture next to the hob.
Scoop out a small cupful of the pasta cooking water and set aside next to the hob, then drain the pasta thoroughly. Tip it into the frying pan and toss vigorously so it’s well coated with the pancetta fat.
Remove the pan from the heat and tip in the egg mixture tossing the pasta furiously, then, once it’s begun to thicken, add a dash of cooking water to loosen the sauce.
Toss again, and divide it between the warm bowls, finishing off with a light grating of nutmeg, if using, more black pepper and a little more Parmesan. Eat immediately.