This slightly non-traditional version of spaghetti carbonara is easier than you might think… Plus there’s no scrambled eggs in sight and not a single drop of cream.
People can have fierce loyalties to regional dishes. I myself am a lover of Butter Pie – keep your meat and extraneous vegetables away! Whilst the average consumer likely knows there are differences in regional cuisines, I feel that little inspires as much awareness of regionality as Italian food.
It’s a country associated with passion for produce, with protected status covering a whole range of truly Italian delicacies. And whilst I love that and appreciate it… if you’re a Carbonara aficionado and don’t want to see your food-baby messed with, this post isn’t for you. Come back next week maybe?
One of my pet hates happens to be Italian restaurants making Carbonara with cream. It’s not necessary and it bothers me. When you see the recipe below, you’ll realise I’m not particularly precious about the basics but one thing I’m firm on is that it doesn’t need and shouldn’t contain cream.
There’s already plenty of Carbonara inspiration on the internet, from the classic, to marmite and even vegan. This dish quite rightly has a mass of fans, as what’s more comforting than a big bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta? Which brings me to why I’m posting this…
I spent such a long time trying to get this right. I tried different methods and quantities, losing count of the frustrating and disappointing plates of pasta along the way. From scrambling eggs to under cooking the sauce (and then scrambling), from it being too dry and then too sauce laden… until one day I figured out what works for me (and it wasn’t ‘tossing’ the spaghetti with a beautiful ‘lifting’ motion).
In the UK I always make this with a high welfare, fatty cut of smoked bacon. It’s what I prefer to cook with and eat but each to their own. Grana Padano is the cheese of choice here, rather than Parmigiano Reggiano, along with free range eggs. And because I’m apparently into a little bit of heresy with my Carbonara, I use Garlic Pepper to season the dish. If you don’t have this but want a touch of garlic in there, just add a little to the bacon towards the end of cooking.
Finally, cook the bacon in a large pan. This is the pan where you’ll bring the dish together, so make sure it fits all the bacon, pasta, cheese and eggs with plenty of room to spare! You don’t want your dinner escaping over the sides as you energetically stir it all together!
By taking the bacon pan off the heat source and adding both the cheese and spaghetti to it first, the pan has time to slightly cool down. With adding the eggs to the pasta (rather than the pan) and continually moving it, the egg should cook through without scrambling. This method always works for me and I hope it will for you too!
A delicious dish with an easy method for getting your Carbonara sauce just the way you like it.
- 200 g Dried Spaghetti
- 150 g Bacon Lardons, Smoked or Unsmoked
- 60 g Grana Padano or Parmesan Cheese, Finely Grated
- 1 medium Free Range Egg
- 1 medium Free Range Egg Yolk
- Garlic Pepper or Coarse Ground Black Pepper to Serve
Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions until just cooked and al dente.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, tip the bacon pieces into a large pan on a high heat. Cook the bacon until the edges are beginning to turn golden. This can take around 6 - 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the whole egg and egg yolk in a bowl, beating together lightly.
Once both the pasta and bacon are cooked, remove the bacon pan from the heat source. Working quickly, roughly drain the pasta and reserve a mug full of pasta water. This should take only a few seconds - the pasta shouldn't be thoroughly drained. (See Notes.)
Immediately tip the spaghetti into the bacon pan, then add the cheese.
Using a wooden spoon, quickly and thoroughly stir the pasta in one direction to mix all ingredients together.
Once the cheese has started melting (about 15 seconds after adding it), quickly pour the eggs on top of the pasta itself, avoiding the surface of the pan. Keep on energetically stirring the pasta to mix.
As the eggs cook, the sauce will thicken. Use the reserved pasta water to adjust the sauce and bring it to your preferred consistency. After each generous splash, stir thoroughly to ensure it's incorporated before adding more.
Serve immediately, sprinkled generously with either garlic pepper or coarsely ground black pepper.
Reserving Pasta Water: I find this the easiest way to reserve the mugful of pasta water needed to adjust the sauce: Remove the pasta pan from the heat and tip the contents into a colander positioned over the sink. As the water is draining through the spaghetti, move the pan to underneath the colander and catch the water as it drains. Do this quickly! Be fast enough and you'll have more than enough reserved water to adjust the sauce, plus it will retain greater heat than transferring it to a cold container.