The story goes that carbonara is named for Italian coal miners. The coal is represented in this dish by heaps and heaps of fresh black pepper. I always enhance the peppery bite by adding fresh chilli and garlic to the bacon.
This is a very quick dish to make, as all the preparation takes less time than it takes for the pasta to cook. Great for a week night.
My recipe is not completely authentic, but it works and it is delicious. And even better… no cream.
I believe that authentic carbonara calls for pancetta, but in my opinion, any meat works. I used bacon here, but I sometimes use proscuitto, or even chicken or sausage. Prawns or salmon or squid would also work well.
Whatever meat you use, cook it up with garlic and chilli. You can add vegies at this stage – mushrooms, peas, cherry tomatoes or asparagus would all work. I always add frozen peas or sliced snow peas to the mix.
Don’t forget to grind lots of pepper into the pan!
Meanwhile, you need to cook the pasta.
Any type of pasta works, although it is best not to use fresh or homemade pasta, as it may not stand up to the vigorous stirring at the end of the cooking. It also needs to be cooked al dente, for the same reason.
While the bacon is cooking, mixed grated parmesan with a few eggs (usually I use 1 egg per person, plus “1 for the pot” – so 3 eggs for 2 people). It is essential to use freshly grated cheese, although you can get away with cheddar instead of parmesan.
Stir the cheese and egg until just mixed, and add more pepper and some parsley if you have it. I didn’t have any fresh, so I used some dried parsley.
The carbonara then comes together like magic!
The egg and cheese mix is stirred through the hot pasta for a few minutes, until the cheese softens and the egg cooks and it becomes a smooth, velvety sauce – with no cream!
Then the cooked bacon, garlic and chilli mix is stirred through the pasta.
The pasta is topped with extra parmesan cheese… and of course, lots more freshly ground black pepper.