Hungry at Home: Pasta Carbonara

I have made and served some terrible carbonara in my lifetime – usually dry with more of a scrambled egg consistency than anything else. No one eats pasta for their health, so it all feels pretty pointless if it’s not also delicious. I finally decided enough was enough and spent a day Googling different techniques until I found a method so user-friendly that I got it right on the first attempt. If you’re like me and get stressed by any recipe that tells you to “stir vigorously so such-and-such horrible consequence doesn’t happen”, then I think you’ll find that this is a recipe you won’t hate making.

Oh, but first – before you go into autopilot and cook this without reading all the steps, please be advised that you must not drain the pasta! Hot, starchy water is your friend, just like I am.

Carbonara Prep
We were running low on bacon, but the show must go on!

Pasta Carbonara for Four

  • 8 strips bacon, cut into 0.5” pieces (nothing maple-glazed, please)
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan (optional: grate a little extra for serving)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Four servings of fettucini or spaghetti (per instructions on the package)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed with the flat of a knife
  1. Fill a large pot with water for boiling pasta (quantities per the instructions on the pasta package). Set to high to bring the water to a boil.
  2. Stir the cup of parmesan into the 3 beaten eggs until it’s a goopy paste. Stir in some fresh cracked black pepper as well. Set aside until step 9.
  3. While the water heats up, fry the bacon and garlic cloves with some cracked black pepper in a pan on medium-low (I use setting 4 out of 9 on my stove). Cook these until the bacon is not quite crispy (about 6 minutes) then remove from pan, leaving the fat behind. Toss the garlic cloves in the trash – their work here is done.
  4. At this point your frying pan should be full of nothing but shimmering bacon grease and you should be ready to throw the pasta in the boiling water. Cook according to the directions on the package.
  5. Right after you start boiling the pasta, add the onions into the bacon-greased pan, stirring to coat with the fat. Crack some more black pepper on there. I don’t add salt to the onions since there’s already lots of salt in the bacon (and in the parmesan we’ll add later).
  6. Once the onions start to become translucent, add the bacon back into the pan to finish crisping. Once it’s looking close to done, turn the element down to low or simmer to keep it warm until the pasta finishes cooking.
  7. When the pasta is finished, do not drain it! Instead, use tongs or a spaghetti ladle to pull the pasta directly from the water and drop it into the bacon and onions, tossing/stirring/awkwardly folding it to coat with the bacon and onion mixture. It should be glistening or at least looking pretty juicy.
  8. Turn off the element, then pull the pan of pasta, bacon and onions off the heat.
  9. Use your tongs or ladle to pull a good size clump of the pasta up into the air so that when you add ¼ to ⅓ of the cheese/egg mixture, it’s landing in the middle of the pile rather than on top. Drop the pasta back down onto it and toss/stir/awkwardly fold to coat, adding a tablespoon or two of hot water as you go if the pasta gets too dry.
  10. Repeat the last step until all of the cheese and egg has been mixed in. Keep the pasta moving until it’s evenly covered in that beautiful glossy sauce – don’t panic, but keep it moving. If you mess up and your eggs turn white, your dish will taste more like a moist, garlicky breakfast hash (which is still a delicious choice for dinner).
  11. Divide by the number of hungry people, sprinkle with remaining grated cheese (and dried parsley if you feel the need to at least pretend there’s something green on your plate), then serve!

Reheating Advice: It’s tricky with carbonara since you don’t want the egg to scramble after all your trouble the night before. Instead, heat very slowly on low in a pan. If you’re stuck at work with a crappy microwave, heat in a vented, covered bowl for 30 seconds at 50% power just to loosen up the noodles and bring the dish to room temperature. If you want it warmer, heat it for 20-second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval.

Carbonara

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