The cuisine of most countries is often associated with a certain style/focus, like French cuisine is mostly linked to elaborate, complex dishes, German to heavily meat based dishes with hardly any vegetables besides potatoes or Italian to simple dishes with few ingredients. Most of these generalizations are based on stereotypes and don’t even take into account that most countries have many diverse regional cuisines. But even though you have to take these stereotypes with a grain of salt they still have some relevance often related to some of the most well known dishes of a cuisine. Many risottos and pasta dishes in Italy for example tend to focus on the quality of one or two main ingredients. One of the best known pasta dishes falling under this category is Spaghetti Carbonara – just pasta, pancetta/guanciale, eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano define this dish.
The origin of Spaghetti Carbonara is quite controversial. It seems that most people can agree that the dish originated at the end of the Second World War somewhere in the area of Lazio. Everything beyond this – does the name (carbonara means charcoal in Italy) come from a restaurant name carbonara or was this dish popular with charcoal workers – is still part of many discussions.
Since we recently started to dive into the world of charcuterie, and our first successful attempt was a nice homemade bacon, we decided to deviate a little bit from the classical use of pancetta/guanciale and were very happy with the results.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add bacon and ½ tsp. black pepper. Cook bacon for about 5 minutes until it starts to crisp.
Add onion and cook for 5 minutes until onions are soft. At the same time cook pasta until al dente. Reserve a ¼ cup of the cooking water and drain the spaghetti. Beat the eggs until smooth and set aside.
Remove pan from heat and add 1-2 tbsp water and scrape brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Heat pan to medium heat and add pasta to pan. Toss pasta to coat the spaghetti with the fat for about a minute. Make sure that the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If the pasta is too dry and starts sticking to the bottom add 1-2 tbsp of pasta water.
Remove skillet from heat and add eggs to the pasta and start immediately tossing pasta for about a minute until eggs thicken and sauce has the consistency of a thin custard. Season with black pepper.
Recipe adapted from “Fine Cooking”
1 tbsp olive oil
220 g (½ lb) bacon, sliced ¼ inch thick and cut into 1 ½ x ½ inch rectangles
½ small red onion, finely diced
2 large eggs, chilled
220 g (1/2 lb) dried spaghetti
35 g (1.5 oz) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano