Pasta carbonara is one of those simple dinners we should all know how to make. It’s the perfect go to for a busy weeknight and it’s also a dish fit for the weekend or even to serve to guests. It seems like one of those dinners with so few ingredients that how could you possibly mess it up, but oh how you can if you aren’t using with the right method. I’m no expert on carbonara which is why I turned to Cook’s Illustrated, they are the kitchen geniuses. I loved how they cooked their pasta in less water to begin with to really concentrate the starches which will help bind everything in the sauce and prevent separation when you add it to the egg mixture. I also loved that they simmered the bacon in water first, I always feel like my bacon burns or unevenly cooks for some reason when I cook it in a skillet but when I went their route and cooked it in water first and let it simmer off then continue to brown it worked like a charm. I had perfectly browned and crisp bacon. I also loved that they tested and came up with the perfect ratio of eggs and yolks (or one yolk in this case) to have the perfect custard flavor and the perfect consistency. Just be sure you immediately add the hot pasta water into the egg mixture to help cook it (if needed you could even re-warm it in the microwave but it needs to be very hot).
Their recipe listed Romano cheese but I always have Parmesan on hand so I went with that to keep the simple weeknight meal idea here, but I’m sure Romano would also be delicious. Better yet, use half of each. Just be sure it’s freshly grated. Enjoy!
Yield: About 6 servings
- 8 - 10 slices bacon , cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 8 1/2 cups water , divided
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 lb linguine or spaghetti
- 1 1/4 cups finely grated parmesan cheese , plus more for serving
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- Chopped fresh parsley , for garnish
Add bacon and 1/2 cup of the water to a large non-stick skillet and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Allow to simmer until water evaporates about 6 - 7 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until bacon is brown and crisp, about 6 - 8 minutes longer. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl then pour bacon into strainer while reserving about 1 tsp of the rendered fat in pan. Return pan to heat and saute garlic about 30 seconds, until fragrant and lightly golden. Pour into a medium mixing bowl then add 1 Tbsp rendered bacon fat (drippings in bowl set under strainer) to mixing bowl with garlic. Add eggs, egg yolk, parmesan and pepper to garlic mixture and whisk until well combined.
Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large dutch oven (no more than 8 cups because you want a very starchy water for the sauce). Add spaghetti and salt to boiling water and cook until al dente. While pasta is boiling, set a colander in a large bowl. Drain al dente pasta into colander in bowl, while reserving pasta water in bowl. Measure out 1 cup hot pasta water and discard remaining water. Place pasta in now empty large bowl. Slowly pour and whisk 1/2 cup pasta water into egg mixture, then slowly pour mixture over pasta while tossing to coat. Add bacon and toss to combine. Season with salt if desired. Let pasta rest, tossing frequently, 2 - 4 minutes until sauce has thickened slightly and coats pasta. Thin with remaining 1/2 cup hot pasta water as needed. Serve immediately topped with additional parmesan and parsley.
Recipe source: adapted from Cook's Illustrated