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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Spaghetti Carbonara

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Most of the restaurants I’ve been to serve the creamy version of carbonara. So, until I knew better, I was under the impression that

carbonara = eggs, ham, cream and cheese

This was until I watched a cooking programme (possibly Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver) where either Gordon or Jamie said that actually, I was wrong. A proper carbonara is made with parmesan cheese (or pecorino), egg yolks, garlic and pancetta. The pasta used is usually spaghetti or linguine.

Now, the first thing I said was ‘How would that be creamy if there’s no cream?’. The fact of the matter is that if this is done the proper way, the egg yolk and cheese blend into this creamy, eggy mixture which provides the creaminess to the dish, and not even a little bit of cream is added to the dish.

If you’re thoroughly impressed with my newfound knowledge, and want to learn the tried and tested method of making this dish, here is the recipe.

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Who needs measurements, I say.

Ingredients (serves 2 reasonably hungry people, or 1 ravenous greedy person)
1 handful of pancetta, cubed (when bought from Tesco’s, they come in little boxes, so about 1 box)
2 handfuls of parmesan, grated very finely (if it’s not grated finely enough, it doesn’t melt into the sauce)
4 egg yolks (2 per person usually)
Half a clove of garlic (diced finely)
Parsley (chopped finely to be used as garnish)
Linguine or spaghetti (enough for 2 people), usually a small handful of uncooked spaghetti is enough for 1 person

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Garlic and Pancetta

Method
1. Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water (with a few sprinkles of oil in the water to prevent the pasta from sticking), when al dante, remove from pan and leave to drain. I sometimes run some cold water through the pasta to stop the cooking process. It’s important to have the pasta al dante, or even slightly under that because it cooks again later when mixed with the sauce. You could add a few drops of olive oil to the colander to stop the pasta from sticking together while you’re cooking the other ingredients.

2. In a moderately hot pan, add some olive oil, enough to fry the pancetta on medium heat until brown. If you’ve used too much oil here, you can always keep that aside to be used later as it would be nicely flavoured by the meat.

3. When the pancetta is brown and crisp, add in the garlic and stir that around, ensuring that the garlic doesn’t brown. Otherwise, you get a bitter garlic taste (not so nice).

4. Turn the heat down, as low as possible, and add the drained pasta to the pan. Stir the pasta thoroughly through the oil, making sure that all the pancetta and oil mixes well with the pasta.

5. Take the pan off the heat. Now, this is the tricky bit (too fast, and it won’t mix, too slow and you have cheesy omelette). Add in the egg yolk and stir thoroughly so that all the pasta is coated with the yolk. (Note that the egg isn’t cooked so this dish is not encouraged for people who should not be having raw eggs.)

Season the dish, by the way.

6. Sprinkle on the grated parmesan and stir through with the pasta and egg. As the pan is no longer on the hob, nothing should be cooked (i.e. egg and cheese). When the egg yolk blends in with the cheese, and the heat from the pasta melts the cheese, the resultant mix should be creamy and yellow in colour.

7. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and serve immediately, or eat at hob if you can’t wait.

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With these brilliantly measured and precise instructions, how can you not succeed in making restaurant-style pasta, I ask you.

4 comments:

KimHo said...

(Drool!)

Now that explains! I had for a long time under the impression this dish was made with a bechamel-like sauce with extra cheese (similar to mac-n-cheese). It looks great! :D

Ben said...

Hi there: My 2 cents if I may! You pictures are great but if I may suggest, you consider removing the color cast so that the colors come across more naturally. Know what I am talking about? BTW, love your site and had just subscribed to your RSS.
Ben

awesome said...

Can't wait to see your Special Write Ups on Chinese New Year London.
The specials at the nrestaurants, the promos, the British Lo Sang ha. What about China town? whats the atmosphere, the deco, the ppl celebrating etc etc?? whats the diff from Asia or versus other Chinatowns around the world?? Wow this will be interesting for chinese n non chinese too.

monchichi said...

Hi KimHo, it's quite nice without the cream and you could probably have more of it!
Hi Ben, that's really good tips, always appreciate good tips. Because most of my meals are dinners or when there's not much sunglight, the lighting is a difficult one!
Hi awesome, most definitely try to do that but doesn't seem to be much going on decorations-wise.

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