Monday, June 30, 2014

They Say It's My Birthday

Or it was. (I am finally 25 this year, wink-wink.) My birthday tradition is to indulge myself by making Spaghetti Carbonara, which I get to eat once a year.  When you read the recipe, you’ll see why…that bacon fat is NOT drained off! But don’t let that scare you; it melds with the raw eggs (don’t be scared of that either) and cheeses (stay with me!) into a rich sauce of silky perfection.

Anyway, this recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, and it will seem fussy, but like most of their recipes, if you follow the directions precisely, you will be rewarded.  And how! Whatever you might think spaghetti carbonara is from American Italian restaurants, I promise you this is 1000x better and not that hard to make. Definitely worth those nine zillion calories!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ pound bacon (6-8 slices), slices halved length-wise, then cut crosswise into ¼ inch pieces [A little larger is okay]
½ cup dry white wine
3 large eggs
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino Romana (about ¾ oz)
3 small garlic cloves, pressed through garlic press or minced to paste
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly ground pepper

1.  Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heatproof serving bowl on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees.  Bring 4 quarts of water to rolling boil in large Dutch oven or stockpot.

2.  While water is heating, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and crisp, about 8 minutes.  Add wine and simmer until alcohol aroma has cooked off and wine is slightly reduced, 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.  Beat eggs, cheeses, and garlic together with fork in small bowl; set aside. [It’s actually helpful if you do this ahead of time and let the eggs rest at room temperature for a short while.]

3.  When water comes to boil, add pasta and 1 tablespoon table salt; stir to separate pasta.  Cook until al dente; reserve 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta for about 5 seconds, leaving pasta slightly wet. Transfer drained pasta to warm serving bowl; if pasta is dry, add some reserved cooking water and toss to moisten.  [I rarely need to do this.]  Immediately pour egg mixture over hot pasta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes or ¾ teaspoon table salt; toss well to combine.  Pour bacon mixture over pasta, season generously with black pepper and toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

4-6 servings. 

Note:  This is not the kind of recipe you can halve or double, so make this amount exactly. It’s best this first day, but leftovers are still good for lunch: let them sit at room temperature or heat VERY briefly in the microwave. You don’t want to heat even close to “hot.”


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.