Honeymooning in Rome with Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

On dreary February days such as this, I tend to find myself reminiscing about all of the delicious things I've eaten, wishing that I could just snap my fingers and have a buffet laid out with plates overflowing with every tasty morsel.  Alas, as much as I wish I were Hermione Granger or Molly Weasley, I am not.  In fact, I'm not even close as I would most definitely be placed in Hufflepuff if I were to ever get the chance to don that old Sorting Hat... 

Well, a girl can dream.  For now, I will have to settle with whipping up my own plates of deliciousness.

Today, my thoughts are filled with memories of my honeymoon.  The hubs and I went on a wee tour of Iceland, France, and Italy back in November and ate every single thing that struck our fancy.  Iceland's bounty offered up the most fantastic hearty breads and seafood, France had more butter, wine, and pastries than I could have ever imagined, and Italy's obvious prowess with pasta has yet to be surpassed.  On our first night in Rome, Aaron and I found ourselves toddling about in search of food and stumbled across a little restaurant a few blocks away from Piazza Navona.  We saw other diners voratiously digging in to plates piled high with peppery, yolky pasta topped with smokey guanciale and dusted with nutty pecornio.  Needless to say, Aaron was sold.  

While my recipe for spaghetti carbonara differs slightly from tradition by using easier to find pancetta in place of the guanciale, the hubs seems to be a pretty big fan.  This recipe is as simple as anything and brings us back to that night, sipping campari and meandering the moonlit streets of Rome.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4

400g dry spaghetti
5 egg yolks
1 tsp salt
½ - 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
150 - 200g pancetta, sliced about 1cm thick and diced into 1cm cubes
Reserved pasta cooking water

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt, pepper, pecorino, and parsley and set aside.  The mixture should be quite thick but don't worry - we'll thin it out with a little pasta water later.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat and cook the spaghetti until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and cook the chopped pancetta until golden and crisp.  Remove the pancetta from the pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.  If your think you're a little shy of 2 tablespoons, pour some extra olive oil into the hot pan.

When the pasta is done cooking, scoop out about ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside while you drain the spaghetti.

Remove the frying pan from the heat, carefully add the pasta and cooked pancetta, and stir to coat with the hot oil.

While the spaghetti heats , slowly dribble about 3 - 4 tablespoons of the pasta water into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid curdling.

Pour the egg mixture into the pan with the spaghetti and mix for about 5 – 10 seconds only.  Quickly transfer everything back into the egg yolk bowl and continue to stir until each noodle is nicely coated.  This back-and-forth trick (eggs from bowl to pan to bowl) helps ensure that the sauce thickens and cooks without turning into scrambled eggs.

If your carbonara seems a bit thick, slowly add a little more of the pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. 

Serve topped with a little more pecorino, parsley, and black pepper for an quick, easy, and pretty darn tasty Rome-inspired dinner!