SP’s Spaghetti Carbonara
(Serves 4-6, Cooking time 30-40 minutes)
This dish is a favourite in my family. My dad taught me how to make the original spaghetti carbonara and then over the years of tweaking and fiddling with the recipe while learning to cook, this was born. Now finally after years of perfecting it (to my taste) it has been translated into text for your enjoyment.
PLEASE NOTE: That according to the reputable sources of Wikipedia, this dish is still technically a carbonara as “Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish from Rome based on eggs, cheese (Pecorina Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon or pancetta, and black pepper.” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonara
-250g to 500g streaky bacon (The more the merrier in my opinion)
-250g white button mushrooms (optional)
-150ml – 200ml cream (optional)
-2 large onions
-2 cloves of garlic
-plenty of dried oregano/organum
-salt, pepper and parmesan for seasoning
Method: (My advice would be to read through all the steps before starting)
Step 1: Chop your bacon into small bits (it doesn’t have to be uniform) and add to a cold pan with a little bit of oil. Turn the pan on to a medium heat and stir the bacon periodically as it warms up to prevent pieces from sticking together.
Step2: Once the bacon is browning up, chop the onions into finger-nail sized pieces (a terrible reference to make while talking about chopping stuff, I know, sorry) and add to the bacon. For extra flavour, or if there is not much liquid in the pan, you can add a tablespoon sized piece of butter to prevent it from sticking. This will help the onions turn transparent nicely.
Step 3: Once the onions start to become transparent, finely chop and add the garlic, and turn the pan to a low-medium heat. If the sauce is starting to stick to the pan, you can bring it down to a low heat and add more oil or butter if you feel necessary. The aim is to not have an oily sauce though, so use the minimum amount necessary.
Step 4: Add about 2 table spoons of Oregano if you’re using 500g of bacon, otherwise maybe stick with 1 ½ if you’re only using 250g. This is usually the point where other people in the house will wander into the kitchen with remarks like “Oooh, that smells nice.” Once this has happened you can feel free to season with salt and pepper to taste and get any others in the kitchen to have a taste too. (I often find that no salt is necessary as the bacon can make it salty enough.)
Step 5: Once the sauce is browning up nicely you can get the pasta on the go. Always salt the water, and try and use a bigger pot than you think you’ll need. Rather under-salt than over-salt the water so start off with a smaller amount, and when the pasta is about half way done you can always test it and add more if you feel it’s necessary. For 500g of pasta in a large pasta pot I usually use a flat palm full of salt.
Step 6: When you add the pasta to the water, you can chop and add your mushrooms to the sauce. My older brother gave me some good advice by convincing me to not chop all the mushrooms the same size and sometimes if there’s a small one, just add it whole, as it’s always a nice treat to find a bigger piece in your bowl.
Step 7: Once the pasta and mushrooms are in their respective pots and pans, get a clean small bowl and crack the 3 eggs into it. Whisk the eggs just to mix the yolks and the whites. This is later going to be poured over the drained pasta.
Step 8: Once the mushrooms have taken on some colour and moisture, add the cream to the sauce and let it simmer. The aim is not to cook the cream as this can curdle it, so we’re just trying to warm it through and reduce it a little bit. As previously mentioned, cream is not necessary in this dish, so if you want a “lighter” pasta dish, you can leave it out.
Step 9: When the pasta is ready (cooking times are usually on the packet/box) turn off the stove, drain it in a colander and add the pasta to the serving dish/bowl. Make sure that as much moisture has been drained as possible. It is essential that you complete steps 9 and 10 as soon after each other as possible to prevent the pasta losing too much heat.
Step 10: After giving the eggs another quick whisk, pour them slowly over the pasta, trying to pour it evenly over the whole dish. Aim to cover it all from top to bottom. Then mix up the pasta from the bottom to the top (this is why I like to whisk the eggs with a fork as you can then go straight into mixing your egg mixture and pasta). It is crucial that you continue to mix the pasta from the bottom up as if you let it sit, the heat from the pasta can cause the egg to cake in the bottom of the bowl and you’ll end up with a weird omelette which no one wants. The aim of this step is for the egg to cook from the heat of the pasta and stick to each single noodle individually, so as long as you keep mixing you should manage to achieve this, but “be careful not to mash it” as my dad would always remind me. (For the authentic experience, read his words in a medium thickness Slavic accent. Think “Bond-villain side-kick”.)
Step 11: If your guests/house-mates/family haven’t raided the sauce-pan by now, add whatever is left of the sauce to the pasta and stir it in. Now be wary, as this sauce is quite shy and likes to hide in the corners of dishes as well as in the serving spoon (depending on the shape), so make sure you get plenty in your bowl before the others help themselves. An alternative solution is to serve the sauce separately and have everyone dish up themselves, but this can ruin relationships, so be warned.
Step 12: Season with an extra sprinkling of black pepper and some parmesan cheese.
P.S. If you do get around to making this dish, I would love to hear your feedback either via the comments section here or on the respective video on my YouTube Channel (http://youtube.com/sliceofmatt)