One of my biggest culinary weaknesses is spaghetti carbonara. It’s also a dish I routinely botched in the past. Spaghetti carbonara is a dish traditionally prepared with bacon, cheese, and eggs that may be unfamiliar to others. The eggs make a velvety sauce, and the saltiness of the cheese and the bacon is just right.
Why, then, is there a problem?
Let’s begin with the obvious question of what happens to whisked eggs when they are dropped into a sizzling pan. Creating a bowl of perfectly al dente pasta with crispy bacon, parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper, and scrambled eggs is the worst possible mistake you can make when making spaghetti carbonara.
It is recommended in many carbonara recipes that you remove the pan from the heat source before adding the eggs so that they don’t scramble. However, I have discovered that the scrambling effect can still occur because of the leftover heat in the pan.
The eggs (and cream and cheese) should be placed in the serving bowl first, then the heated bacon, bacon oil, and part of the pasta water should be added to temper the eggs before the pasta is tossed in. To speed up the warming process, simply place a plate over the dish. A perfect carbonara sauce for pasta every time. The credit for this specific nugget of wisdom goes to Tyler Florence, a star on the Food Network.
This spaghetti carbonara’s richness comes from using both whole eggs and half-and-half. That change, in my opinion, gives the meal a silkiness and a lightness that aren’t present when using solely egg yolks in the cooking process. A little nutmeg enhances the flavor of my carbonara, but it’s not required.
Before we get started, just a little note: the egg in this recipe may be slightly undercooked.
- 450g of dried spaghetti
- 8 oz. of chopped bacon
- 4 large eggs
- 1 finely chopped medium onion
- 2/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano
- 1/3 cup of half and half
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Spaghetti should be cooked in a big pot of salted water, which should be brought to a boil. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Sauté the onion and bacon or pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until the onion is caramelized and the bacon is crisp. You should have boiling water by now. Cook the spaghetti and then add it. Don’t overcook the pasta; it’s best when it’s just firm to the bite.
- Eggs, milk, and cheese should be mixed together in a large serving basin. Add the onion and bacon scraps to the pan and the bacon grease. For best results, add the bacon to the bowl after it has cooled for a couple of minutes in the pan, especially if the pan is very hot.
- Once the pasta is cooked, remove approximately a third of a cup of the cooking water and add it to the bowl with bacon and eggs, whisking slowly to combine. The pasta should be drained and added to the bowl. Act swiftly and cover the serving basin entirely with a plate after tossing. Hold for at least 5 minutes.
- Take it out and spice it up with some black pepper and nutmeg (if using).