"I thought carbonara had cream in it," Melvin said when I showed him the recipe as part of my proposal that we make do with what's in the pantry tonight instead of venturing out into the eyeball-hardening winds currently scouring Chicago. Nope, no cream, which is one of many things I've learned in years of following periodic flareups on forums like Chowhound.com about what makes for "authentic" carbonara/fettuccine Alfredo/Caesar salad/martinis/insert your own classic here.
I'd never tried to make real pasta carbonara before tonight, and now that I know how easy it is I'm thoroughly embarrassed that it took me so long. You probably have everything you need for it in the house right now: bacon, eggs, pasta, Parmesan, salt & pepper. Easy peasy.
(Note: No picture today. We really need to invest in a better camera around here, so that our tasty creations don't end up looking like the dog's dinner when we post pictures of them online [although I hear tell that on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog].)
Pasta alla Carbonara
adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Italian Country Table
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese
4 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound egg tagliatelle
1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp (be careful not to burn the brown glaze that forms on the bottom of the pan). Cover and set aside.
2. Lightly beat together the eggs, 2 teaspoons of the cheese, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl.
3. Cook the pasta in boiling water until it's cooked but still firm to the bite. Remove 1/4 cup of the pasta water and add it to the bacon pan. Drain the pasta thoroughly in a colander.
4. Reheat the bacon over medium heat, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the pasta to the pan and toss to blend. Mix in the eggs, stirring until they firm up and cling to the pasta. Season generously with black pepper.
5. Turn the pasta into a warmed serving bowl, and pass the rest of the grated cheese with it at the table.