When I was 16 years old, I asked my mom to teach me how to make carbonara, so she took down Marcella Hazan’s cookbook and walked me through it at the kitchen counter, explaining how the hot pasta cooked the eggs. Since then, I’ve made it so many times that it has started to feel like my “signature” dish. I imagine teaching my kids how to make it, then them teaching their kids…it’s one of those things that makes me instantly feel better.
Here’s how I make the classic Roman dish:
Start with the best quality eggs you can find, which makes such a difference. Use your favorite spaghetti (this is mine), a chunk of parmesan or pecorino, and some bacon, pancetta or guanciale if you’re lucky. I generally settle for bacon, since I tend to keep some stashed in my freezer for carbonara emergencies.
For 1 big serving:
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
2 thick slices bacon or pancetta
A handful of spaghetti (about the size of a quarter in diameter)
1/4 cup parmesan or pecorino
For 2 people:
1 egg + 2 egg yolks
4 thick slices bacon or pancetta
1/3 lb spaghetti
1/3 cup parmesan or pecorino
For a family:
1 egg + 3 egg yolks
5-6 thick slices bacon or pancetta
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino
1. Crack your eggs into a bowl, give them a whisk, and set aside. Generously salt a big pot of water and put it on to boil.
2. Slice your bacon into pieces (they don’t have to be perfectly uniform in size) and dump it into a skillet over medium high heat. No oil necessary, as the bacon will render enough fat.
3. Saute the bacon until it’s just shy of being done. It should be golden brown and starting to crisp, but not that deep color yet. Turn off the heat, check your pasta water, and pour yourself a glass of wine.
4. Grate your parmesan into the whisked eggs. Grind in some black pepper.
5. Cook your pasta until it’s al dente. A minute before it’s done, start to reheat the bacon over medium high heat. When your pasta’s ready, dump it directly into the skillet with a pair of tongs, dragging some pasta water along with it. Stir it around for a minute or two, then turn off the heat. Shake the pan a few times, giving it about thirty seconds to cool down, then pour the egg mixture into the center of the pasta (making sure the egg mixture doesn’t touch the pan), and quickly toss it all together. Immediately dump it into a bowl and continue to toss it a few times before serving right away, with the rest of your wine and a chunk of bread.