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Spaghetti alla Carbonara, the Traditional Way

I’ve only recently become aware of just how delicious and astoundingly simple this dish really is. Made from fairly regular cupboard ingredients—and perfect when you’re feeling lazy—this is the simplest meal I know that still feels like cooking. A true ten-minute meal, most of which will be spent waiting.

Look at that!

There are a lot of different takes on Carbonara out there. Most of them are wrong. In fact, this of mine isn’t quite exactly right. Carbonara doesn’t contain cream, or spinach, or peas, or anything like that. There are only four simple ingredients involved.

The most traditional take uses guanciale instead of pancetta, and Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan, but getting hold of those during lockdown in the UK isn’t going to happen…

You Will Need

For two people:

Only four ingredients!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Fill one pan with salted water and turn bring it up to the boil. Place the pancetta (or guanciale if yer’ going fancy) into a cold frying pan and leave well alone.

The moment the water starts to boil, you need to do three things:

  1. Drop the pasta in the pan
  2. Turn the pancetta on high
  3. Set a timer for 8 minutes

While the pasta and pancetta are cooking, combine the egg yolks and parmesan in a bowl, season heavily with pepper, and mix together to form a thick paste. Use a little more pepper than you normally would—it’s a key flavour in this dish.

When your timer goes off, remove both pans from the heat. Using tongs—it’s imperative not to drain the pasta as we’ll need the pasta-water in a moment—transfer all of the spaghetti to the frying pan and mix well with the pancetta and its rendered fat.

Next, add the yolk mixture a spoonful at a time to the frying pan and combine. We’ve taken the pan off of the heat so as not to scramble the egg—the residual heat should be more than enough to cook it through without causing any damage.

If at any point the pasta–egg mixture seems too thick, add a spoonful of the pasta-water to loosen it all up. You’re aiming for a glossy coating on each strand of spaghetti.

Done. That was easy. Serve in a preheated bowl and garnish with an inordinate amount more pepper and Parmesan.

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