Spaghetti Carbonara


Spaghetti Carbonara is a classic. And, because it’s a classic, there are various things that spark a bit of debate when it comes to making the best version of the dish. I’ll say this: I won’t call this “The Ultimate Carbonara”. In fact, I don’t feel anybody has the right to call their version of  a truly classic dish the ultimate anything, unless they invented it themselves.

Below are some points that you might want to consider.

The pasta:

This might seem like a stupid place to start. If you’re pointing excitedly at the opening word of this post (ready to tell me what an idiot I am) hear me out. I’m not an idiot. You see, penne has made a bit of a recent surge as an alternative. So much so that London’s widely esteemed The River Cafe uses that shape. Now you won’t hear me saying this often, but I think they’ve got it wrong. For me penne is a cop out. For me you should be able to slurp up a long strand of pasta coated in your sauce alone. For me that is the simplicity and the beauty of this dish. So let’s stick to spaghetti.

The sauce:

I have touched on it above. The hero of this bowl of food is unquestionably the sauce. The pasta is just the best way to get it in your mouth. And what’s the point of having beautiful, tarred roads without a kick-arse car to drive? You’re left with three options here. 1)Eggs and cream, 2) eggs and butter, 3) Just eggs  . The first two are just way too much for me. Overpowering, overbearing, over-everything really. If you get the best eggs you can find, you’ll be fine. Trust me.

The eggs:

Wait, there’s more? I’m afraid so. Once you’ve settled on just eggs you need to decide on whole eggs, egg yolks or a combo. I fear this article is starting to get dangerously close to boring, so let’s just say my version is a combination of whole hen eggs and one quail egg yolk per person.

The pork:

Bacon will work. Pancetta, cubed, is infinitely better. This one is not up for debate. You need the rendered fat for the sauce.

The cheese:

Parmesan is preferred in some regions, Pecorino in others. In my particular region (my stomach) I prefer equal amounts of both.

The rest:

You may have broken out into some kind of cold sweat by now, waiting anxiously for the addition of garlic. Well, there is none. Deal with that. The sooner you accept it, the sooner we can move on. And we need to move on, because I am here to tell you there’s no pretty, snipped green herb in here either. Nowhere.

Okay, finally.

Here it is:

Spaghetti Carbonara (enough for 2)

What to use:

A slick of olive oil
About 80g Richard Bosman pancetta, cubed
250g dried spaghetti (the best you can get)
2 hen eggs and 1 egg yolk
25g pecorino, finely grated
25g parmesan, finely grated
Freshly cracked (not ground) black pepper – the amount is up to you but use more than you think for this dish.
2 quail egg yolks, to serve 

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat, then add the pancetta and cook until golden. You want it cooked to the point where it is beginning to crisp.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water.

3. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and the extra yolk and then stir in the the pecorino and most of the parmesan, reserving a little for garnish. Throw in plenty of black pepper.

4. Scoop out a small cupful of the pasta cooking water, and then drain the pasta well. Tip it into the frying pan and toss to coat with the rendered pancetta fat.

4. Take the pan off the heat and tip in the egg mixture, tossing the pasta very quickly. Once it begins to thicken, add a splash of cooking water to loosen the sauce. Toss again, spoon into deep bowls and add the remaining parmesan. As a final touch place one quail egg yolk in each dish.

There is no Carbonara dogma. The above is my method, but one that respects the authenticity of the dish. That’s a fancy way of covering my arse. If you know something I have missed, let me know. But I will say this: cook it as per the recipe above and you’ll love it.

Go forth and eat,




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One Response to Spaghetti Carbonara

  1. Stephen November 9, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    I know why there’s a global cop-out with Penne… it is to cater for the discerning business luncheon patron who would be well upset if some sauce were to stain the step-outs. Penne mitigates the inevitable whiplash effect you get when even slightly slurping a piece of irresistible tagliatelle,linguine,spaghetti etc.

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