With Covid-19 and physical distancing, one of the first conversations we have almost every morning is “what are we having for dinner?” – and I know we’re not alone. Even in the best of times we like spending time in the kitchen entertaining and cooking over a good glass of wine – in fact I would say it is one of our favorite activities.
Sometimes we share the kitchen doings and sometimes we go it alone, but the dragon lady and I approach the events from opposite ends of the spectrum. We just have different auras about us. She, much more easy-going and a go with the flow type is capable of making anything from scratch and happy to use what is available in the house. Scouring the fridge and cupboard to make terrific out of this world soups, stews and casseroles, never making the exact same dish twice – a real talent. This approach also transcends into wine selections with preference given to selecting a vintage generating the most Airmiles – which I consider to be sinful. My brothers say I am a tad snooty …Nooooooo.
I on the other hand am cursed with a perfectionist attitude which requires me to follow recipes to a tee and creates anxiety when going through the process. And truth be told I’m just not in the same league as the dragon lady. But having said that, I absolutely will bask in the glory when I get something right. OK so I digress.
During this time of isolation, I decided to explore dishes I have never made before focusing on simple but tasty dishes that do not require perfect measurements – ah old habits die hard.
Spaghetti Carbonara fits the bill and is a wonderful plate deeply rooted in old school Italian culture, and if you mention using cream in the same breath as Carbonara, the kitchen gods will frown upon you.
Here’s all you will need for a dinner for four (two of our university kids are home isolating with us). Prep and cook time of 20 minutes.
- 450g package of your favorite spaghetti
- 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk for extra creamy sauce
- 7 thick sliced strips of bacon cut into small chunks – FYI Authentic Carbonara is made with Guanciale (cured pork cheek). You can substitute with Pancetta (salami made from pork belly meat – salt cured) or thick cut bacon as I did
- Pecorino and Parmigiana cheese, about 1 ¼ cup, half and half or more if you like. I like the Parmigiana as it adds an additional kick of salt
- Olive oil
- About 1 tsp of fresh ground pepper – more if desired (yes, I cannot believe I said that)
THAT’S IT, NOTHING ELSE
Boil the spaghetti about 8 minutes in salted water – kosher salt. While spaghetti is cooking, chop bacon and cook on medium heat in lightly oiled large pan. Bacon is done when crisp on outside but still has chew. Tip – put the bacon in the pan before it is hot as it will help render the bacon better.
While bacon and spaghetti are cooking whisk 3 eggs and 1 egg yolk in a bowl and add grated cheese and freshly ground pepper – use a lot of pepper. This dish is all about timing – ideally you want the bacon and spaghetti to be done at the same time. When bacon is done, turn off the heat. If there is an excess of grease you can use a spoon to take some out, but you want there to be grease. Let the pan cool for about 1 minute or so. Add the spaghetti and stir around the pan – the pan should sill be warm/hot but not sizzling as you do not want to scramble the eggs. Stir in the cheese and egg mixture. I also add about a half cup or so of the hot spaghetti water. Stir the pan for about 30 seconds – Fini.
Portion onto plates, top with grated parmigiana and fresh ground pepper to taste.
This is a wonderful dish, ready in 20 minutes. If we were sharing with guests – I would serve with a Barolo Cannubi – no Airmiles here!