This recipe was born years ago as a version of a simple carbonara, but in my pursuit of making it even better, it has gathered ingredients and became something which the purists would no longer recognize as pasta alla carbonara – so I won’t call it that to avoid offending said purists.
Pasta (usually spaghetti, but I also like linguine) alla carbonara is an Italian recipe, though its origins are somewhat unclear. The story I’d heard was the one referencing it as a dish which was invented by charcoal-burning workers which needed to make do with things which one could keep for a while – hence eggs, pancetta (bacon) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan) cheese. Wikipedia and other online sources have their own opinions, and I am certainly not here to argue which one is right (I have no idea), and what details of recipe are more authentic than others. Instead, in the Italian manner of following the spirit rather than the letter of the
law, erm, I mean recipe, I have created something of my own.
This pasta is my over-the-top Italian-style luxury. And by luxury I do not mean you-can’t-afford-it luxury (though some of the ingredients aren’t the cheapest), but more in the sense of indulgence. To quote something I’ve read on the net – “isn’t everything better with cream?”
Well, maybe not everything (no cream in my tea, please!), but pasta usually is. By same principle, to the basis of carbonara, I have added everything else I love in pasta that would go well together: white wine, garlic, sauteed shallots, cream and white truffle oil. The result is truly magnificent, although I’d not eat it every day. Or week. For the sake of my trousers-behind relationship. So, this is not the lowest-in-anything (except possibly sugar) recipe, and I’m not making any health claims except for that of simple joy of eating it. Which is worth something in its own right.
The five luxuries referred to in the name specifically are: cream, pancetta, egg yolk, parmigiano-reggiano and white truffle oil. Now, don’t you just want to go and make it right now?
What you need to serve 2: (all ingredients at room temperature)
- Pasta – I use wholegrain spaghetti or linguine, because I like those. Shape and variety are truly up to you.
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon rapeseed, peanut or light olive oil
- 1-2 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
- 3-5 cloves of garlic
- ~150g cubed pancetta or good bacon (lardons)
- 75-100ml dry white wine
- 2-2.5dl heavy (single) cream – no heavier than 40% fat
- 4dl (fluffed up, not packed) finely shredded parmigiano-reggiano, pecorino, or other hard cheese
- 2 free-range* egg yolks (separated, left in their half-shells until serving time)
- White truffle oil, to drizzle
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- A little finely chopped parsley (optional)
*Note about eggs: Egg yolks in this recipe are used raw, that is to say, uncooked. In Sweden, eggs do not contain salmonella as a rule (it’s against the local livestock law), but in many other places that is not a requirement. I would recommend buying free-range highest-quality eggs you can find for this, as they have far lesser chance of contamination (not to mention they taste better), but if you are concerned about the possibility of salmonella presence in raw egg, please feel free to substitute pasteurised egg yolk or eat this at your own risk.
- Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook your pasta according to package instructions while preparing the sauce.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain and let stand in a colander covered until sauce is ready.
- Warm a couple of pasta bowls by placing in a warm turned-off oven.
- In a large non-stick frying pan, on medium heat, melt the butter and add the oil (latter to prevent burning) till butter is foaming but not browning.
- Add the chopped shallots and cook for a few minutes until translucent and barely beginning to color.
- Turn heat up to medium-high, move shallots aside in the pan and add bacon. Cook until browning gently, then mix in the shallots. Cook until shallots are golden and bacon is cooked through and browned.
- Add garlic and cook a few seconds until bright white, fragrant and just beginning to color.
- Pour in the wine and stir. Reduce heat to medium. Allow to reduce by 30-50%, then add the cream and heat until beginning to simmer.
- Add 2/3 of the cheese, sprinkling it over the sauce and stir in to melt.
- Once sauce is thickened, add the pasta and mix in thoroughly. Add chopped parsley if using. Place in warmed pasta bowls.
- Season pasta with freshly ground black pepper to taste, sprinkle with remaining cheese, and drizzle with truffle oil.
- Carefully make an indentation in the pasta mound with a fork and place the yolk in it, preferably without breaking its skin, and serve immediately.
I love a glass of white wine alongside to cut the richness of this, and a strong hot coffee afterwards. You do as you please – as always!