Saturday, July 11, 2015

Something from Nothing

There are some nights when I have no imagination or creativity left to make dinner.  Those are the nights I look in the fridge and pantry to find "nothing".  Fortunately, there is always bacon, cheese, and eggs, along with the odd 1/2 pound of pasta in the pantry.  Last night was one of those nights, after spending most of the day writing, I had zero left in my brain to think about dinner. 
So, Carbonara it is! Basically eggs, bacon, cheese, lots of ground black pepper and pasta, you will find this dish on menus throughout Italy.  There is a lot of bad carbonara out there, and the secrets to a good carbonara, are room temperature ingredients, and pasta water.

I didn't have any guanciale or pancetta, so bacon would have to do.  This was about 5 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.  Fry it till it's crispy, and take out all the bacon fat from the pan.
3 egg yolks, about 1/3 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and lots of ground pepper---whisk it up and keep the whisk in there, since you'll be adding some pasta water to this, to temper the eggs, and make sure they don't turn into scrambled eggs.  There is a quandary as to whether to use Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano---Parmgiano was the first thing I saw in the fridge, hence it's in the Carbonara!
While the bacon is frying, heat the pasta water.  For Dr. C. and I used 1/2 pound of linguine.  While the pasta water is boiling (about 3 minutes short of al dente) Take about 1/2 cup of the salted pasta water and add it to the eggs and Parmigiano, whisking until the eggs and smooth.  Turn on the heat under the bacon at this point, to about medium. 
Drain the pasta, and turn into the skillet with the bacon, add the egg mixture and turn the pasta incorporating egg mixture.  Turn off the heat under the skillet, and continue to turn the egg mixture until it clings to the pasta and has created a creamy sauce.  If you find it dry, add a bit of reserved pasta water, or some good quality olive oil, and continue to turn the pasta until it is to your desired consistency. 
Serve the pasta garnished with additional cheese.  

Carbonara means "charcoal burner"; the tradition is that this pasta was a hearty dish served to men who worked the coal mines--hence the copious amounts of ground black pepper that look like coal dust. Other theories are that after World War II, many Romans were making this dish with bacon and eggs supplied by the allied troops who occupied Rome after the German surrender. All I know is that carbonara can make something out of nothing. 

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