Spaghetti Carbonara – Food for the Soul

Spaghetti Carbonara is a funny old thing. People get into such a twist about whether you should add cream or mushrooms or even peas but I suppose you should make it the way that you enjoy it. Saying that, I do prefer the traditional recipe and I actually got this version of the recipe from Laurence Dallaglio, the English ruby player, who is Italian or definitely a bit Italian.

My father will be fuming that it’s not the recipe of a member of the Welsh rugby team, who are playing extremely well at the moment and I have extremely high hopes for the Grand Slam, but if the Welsh ruby team have a recipe for me, I’d be delighted to type it. Perhaps Welsh Rarebit or Cawl. Also if any fancy proposing, I’d be welcome to any offers…

I digress.

The name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. This gave rise to the term “coal miner’s spaghetti”, which is used to refer to spaghetti alla carbonara in parts of the United States. It has even been suggested that it was created by, or as a tribute to, the Carbonari (“charcoalmen”), a secret society prominent in the unification of Italy.

It was one of those suppers I tend to make on nights my housemate is going out and I want to curl up on the sofa with a bowl of something and a fork. It’s such a useful recipe as I always have eggs, pasta, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, some kind of bacon or pancetta and salt and pepper to hand and it’s so quick to make.

The original recipe uses guanciale which is very similar to pancetta but made from cured pig’s cheek, if you can find that and I imagine Waitrose may well stock it, that would be delicious but I use either smoked bacon or pancetta most often.

The real secret to carbonara is not to overcook the egg, the residual heat of the pasta should be sufficient to cook it and as soon as it gets too warm, it makes that eggy-omelettey texture. It should be creamy and silky instead. To stop the egg from overcooking, I like to whisk the egg in a bowl and add the hot pasta to the egg, stirring wildly for about a minute, rather than the egg to the hot pasta pan.

fusili as I was out of spaghetti

Spaghetti Carbonara

enough for a very hungry one

  • 100g spaghetti (I use dried spaghetti rather than the fresh pasta as it retains the heat better)
  • a crushed garlic clove
  • 3 eggs, removing the third white so you end with 2 egg whites and 3 egg yolks
  • salt and pepper
  • a handful of smoked bacon or pancetta
  • olive oil
  • parmesan
  1. Put a pan on to boil and add the spaghetti, cook for the length of the packet instructions, usually about 10 minutes.
  2. While this is cooking, saute the bacon in a frying pan until brown and crispy and remove from the heat.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs and whisk with salt and pepper.
  4. Crush a clove of garlic and stir through the warm bacon pan, allowing it to soften in the still warm oil.
  5. Grate a heap of parmesan and add a handful to the egg mix.
  6. When the pasta is cooked, drain and immediately add to the egg mix, stir wildly for about a minute, tip in the pancetta, the garlic, the rest of the parmesan and a splash of olive oil.
  7. Eat immediately with a napkin for the splashes around your face.
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