Carbonara is a simple dish to make, and a really nice weekday dinner, as it uses many pantry staples. Our version is pretty conventional, but we do use peas (because they taste good in there, darnit), so traditionalists should look away now. There aren’t many ingredients in carbonara, so use the best quality you can find.
1 lb spaghetti
8 oz thick sliced bacon (use pancetta or guanciale if you can find it-we can’t, so bacon it is).
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino (we use whatever hard Italian grating cheese we have on hand at the time)
1/2 cups frozen (or fresh) green peas
Put some water on to boil for the spaghetti. Dice your bacon, and start rendering it in a wide, deep skillet.
You’ll want a big enough skillet that all of your pasta will fit, so pick accordingly. While the bacon is cooking, crack your eggs into a large bowl with your freshly grated cheese (yes, it really does need to be freshly grated: remember what I said about quality? Green cans of cheese are not going to work here).
Scramble your eggs with the cheese, add a few grinds of pepper, and set aside.
Once your bacon looks like this:
Start your spaghetti in your well salted boiling pasta. Cook according to package instructions for al dente. While that is cooking, pull off all but 1-2 tbsp of your bacon grease, and add your peas (if you want to).
On a side note: if you added a full bag of frozen peas instead, you would have made a fantastic side dish based on the Italian peas and pancetta. Anyway, sauté your peas some, then once your pasta is done, turn your burned to low and add your spaghetti to your bacon. If you’re a sink-drainer when it comes to your pasta, save a couple of cups of pasta water. If you’re a scoop and dumper (guilty, at least for this sort of dish), you already have your water on hand.
Ok, now it gets a little tricky (but only a little). Add a ladle of pasta water to the skilled, then pour in your egg and cheese mixture.
Now stir. Keep the sauce moving. If it looks like it’s thickening, add more pasta water. It should start to turn a little lighter and it will get creamy. Keep stirring and adding water as needed until you have a creamy sauce that clings to the pasta.
It is hard to get a good picture of a egg-thickened sauce on pasta, but this is basically what it should look like. You just don’t want to have the pan hot and dry enough to scramble your eggs when you add the sauce. At this point, check your salt levels, and add more freshly ground pepper.
This has become the most frequent way we eat spaghetti around here. With about 30 minutes from starting the bacon to eating, it’s a simple and fast meal for those hectic weeknights.