Story last updated at 8/27/2014 - 7:54 pm
There are many recipes I long to make but seem a little intimidating. I've never made a crown roast or duck comfit or my own pasta. I have a few connections on learning the pasta but the others will be trial and error. And that's OK.
This week I wanted to make a classic recipe, spaghetti Carbonara. I see it in recipe books and on food websites all the time. It looks delicious. Can't be too hard, right? It's not, but I did learn a few things when making my first batch last night.
First, when a chef tells you to temper the eggs with the pasta water, temper the eggs. If you don't, it will curdle the eggs and then you have scrambled eggs, which isn't very appetizing with pasta.
Second, I looked up several recipes and tried different techniques. One was to mix the grated parmesan cheese with the beaten eggs. I feel this didn't work well, as the cheese got rather gritty. The second batch I made worked better when I added the cheese at the end and mixed it into the hot pasta after the egg mixture.
Third, bacon is an acceptable substitute. While pancetta is the preferred meat, bacon is great, too. Go for the thick cut and skip the olive oil. See number four below.
Fourth, skip the olive oil. If you use about six slices of thick-cut bacon, the renderings should be sufficient. If you go with the pancetta, definitely use the olive oil. This is also the preferred method for authentic Carbonara.
Fifth, don't add the onions and garlic too soon. This was a rookie mistake on my part. You should cook bacon slow on about medium heat so it doesn't get too crisp and has a meaty texture. If you add the onions and garlic too soon, they overcook and may burn, which makes the garlic bitter and you'll have to start over.
Sixth, if you are using an electric stove (which I was) make sure the pan with the bacon, onions and garlic is removed completely from the burner and is not getting any heat at all. When you add the hot pasta, to which the eggs have already been added, you want to make sure the oil isn't still super hot because that can curdle the eggs too. The end result is a tasty dish, but the texture isn't what it should be. You're going for a creamy, almost silky texture.
Having said all that, this recipe is worth the effort. It's delicious and filling and amazing.
This week, I present a recipe that is relatively easy to make, filling and decadent: Spaghetti Carbonara. Don't be afraid to try something new. It's absolutely okay to make mistakes. That's how we learn. It's also OK to have your favorite pizza delivery place on speed dial. Believe me; I've called them more than once.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
1 12 ounce package spaghetti
6 slices thick-cut bacon or 5 ounces pancetta
2 tablespoons olive oil (if using pancetta)
½ large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ - ¾ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Prepare pasta according to package. Be sure to salt the water well.
Cut bacon into small bite-sized pieces. Cook in large skillet on medium heat to render fat and to retain the meaty texture. When bacon is about 75% done, add onions and garlic and continue cooking until bacon is cooked thoroughly. Lower heat if garlic gets too brown too fast.
Break eggs into separate bowl and whisk until well blended and frothy.
Drain pasta into colander, but reserve ½ cup of the hot pasta water. Slowly add the water into the eggs and continue whisking. This is tempering and is bringing the eggs up to a warmer temperature so that they don't scramble when added to the hot pasta. Pour pasta into large bowl and add eggs, stir well until well incorporated. Add bacon, onions and garlic, mix well and toss with parmesan cheese. Top with chopped parsley.