Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday Night Dinner...Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Once, after having read my blog post on cooking for one, someone asked me if I ever just ate cereal for dinner. Since I don't like cereal, I answered in the negative. But there are occasions...more than I should probably admit...when I eat popcorn for dinner (air-popped...with lots of butter, kosher salt and sometimes a little olive oil.). In the world of "I don't feel like cooking tonight" dinners, I think cereal and popcorn are probably equivalent.

Popcorn isn't the only thing in my "I don't want to cook tonight" arsenal.  I'm also fond of Quesadillas...a nice Grilled Cheese Sandwich...a big plate of Fettuccine Alfredo....  I have never noticed this before, but there is a definite pattern here. Starch, fat, and cheese. Who knew? I don't throw the phrase "comfort food" around too often, but all of these things definitely fall into that least for me.

As far as cooking goes, Sunday night is a funny night. Some weekends, puttering around in the kitchen for the duration of a Sunday afternoon is the most pleasurable and relaxing way imaginable to bring the weekend to a close. Then there are weekends when Sunday evening arrives way too quickly and cooking dinner just isn't very high on my list. This is pretty much how I felt as I faced making dinner tonight. It wasn't quite a popcorn night...but it was close. Instead, we had another of my favorite starch, fat...and cheese...meals. Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Made with items any cook will have in their pantry, it is simple, slightly decadent, and very satisfying.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

For each serving, you will need:
1 or 2 slices of bacon
1 egg
100 grams (3 1/2 oz.) spaghetti
a heaped tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan
a teaspoon or so of soft unsalted butter
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Salt generously.

Cut the bacon cross-wise into 1/4- to 1/2-inch strips. Render over moderate heat until crisp. Lift the bacon out of the pan. Reserve the bacon and fat separately.

While the bacon cooks, submerge the egg in a bowl of hot tap water (so it won't be cold when added to the hot pasta).

Drop the spaghetti into rapidly boiling water. Cook until al dente. Just before the pasta is cooked, lift the egg out of the warm water and crack into a small bowl. Add a generous amount of freshly ground black paper and beat the egg lightly with a fork.

Drain the pasta well (reserving some of the pasta water). Return the pasta to the hot pot and immediately pour in the egg, bacon, bacon fat and butter. Stir until the egg is thickened (lightly scrambled). If necessary, place the pot back over low heat as your stir. Stir in the Parmesan. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper. Adjust the consistency with some of the pasta water if necessary—the spaghetti should be coated in a thin, fluid sauce of lightly thickened should not seem sticky or tight. Serve immediately with more Parmesan grated over.

(Recipe adapted from Valentina's Italian Regional Cookery by Valentina Harris)

Printable Recipe

Ingredients for Spaghetti Carbonara for two


Mary said...

A wonderful simple supper! Did you know that Calvin Trillin has a whole piece about making Spaghetti Carbonara the national Thanksgiving dish?

When I first read the post I thought you were supposed to break the egg into the hot water. Duh.

I always enjoy your posts.

Paige said...

I'll have to look up Trillin's article...I have never read it.

Sorry if there was any ambiguity about the egg in the water! It's just to bring it to room temp.

Thanks for commenting--I really appreciate hearing from people.

Katrina said...

Carbonara was a staple growing up, thinking about it, I think my mom made it weekly. Must have been because it's so easy. (Kevin doesn't like that it's not "saucy" enough.) sigh

Paige said...

Katrina, I don't remember the first time I had it...but I'm pretty sure I never had it as a kid. Even as picky as I was growing up, I'm sure I would have liked it!