This is a dish that requires fast hands and a calm demeanour (I know, how did I ever learn to cook it with those prerequisites?). It is simple and undemanding in every department except for time forgiveness. The entirety of the sauce rests on hot noodles cooking raw eggs, so dillying about is not encouraged (nor is standing around losing yourself in thoughts about nothing, which is how I always wind up screwing up when fast-paced thinking is mandated). The best way to not let time get the better of you is to prep every component in this dish ahead of time and have them all measured out and ready to just throw in as needed. This is called your mise-en-place (“everything in its place”) and is how organized people apparently cook and manage to bypass that phase of meal prep where you look all frazzled and wild-eyed with terror. From start to finish (not including prep time), this dish might take you all of 20 minutes, but the last few are where things get hairy and you need to be on your game. The payoff is quite grand if you succeed though.
Oh, oh, one more thing - although very decadent on its own, you could be even more hedonistic and toss a poached egg on top of this whole situation. That would be phenomenal and I’m sad I only thought of it now that I’ve eaten too many test batches of carbonara and ruined things for myself.
BA’s Best: Pasta Carbonara
Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with some adaptations here and there
**Please note: Bon Appetit specifically suggests using a larger rigatoni, which I tried and wasn’t actually crazy about. It added, in my opinion, a bit too much bulkiness to what is actually a really delicate, elegant dish. After making it a few times, I settled on campanelle noodles, which have a ruffled, free-flowing bell shape and no ridges. Just go look around the pasta aisle of any nice-ish shop or Italian grocery store and find something that would be hearty enough to withstand a rich sauce, but not so chewy or textured as to overpower it.
¼ lb good-quality pancetta, cut into ¼-inch cubes
7 large egg yolks
1 large egg
¾ lb good-quality pasta (see note above Ingredients)
½ cup finely grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese + more to serve
1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper (or you can grind/finely crush an assortment of different peppercorns)
Place the pancetta cubes in a large skillet and set over medium heat. Once the pancetta are sizzling and browning, give them a bit of a stir and cook until the fat renders but the cubes are not too dark or crispy. You still want a bit of a meaty chew to the pancetta. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Reserve the rendered fat.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente texture is reached (see cooking instructions for your specific pasta). The campanelle took me between 10-11 minutes to hit the perfect bite. Set a liquid measuring cup beside the pasta and right before you go to drain it, scoop a cupful of starchy water out of the pot. Don’t forget to do this! The starchy water adds thickness and body to the sauce that regular water will not!
While the pasta cooks, beat the eggs and pour them into the mixing bowl with the pancetta. Once the pasta is done cooking, get ready, because everything needs to move pretty quickly. Drain the pasta (keeping your reserved pasta water handy) and IMMEDIATELY toss it in the mixing bowl with the pancetta and beaten eggs. Toss quickly but gently, pouring in 2-3 tbsp of the reserved starchy water as you stir. Toss in a few spoonfuls of the pancetta grease as well. Now, working in 3 batches, stir in some of the pecorino/parmesan cheese, tossing to melt and incorporate the cheese between additions. Repeat two more times with remaining cheese. Add the black pepper. Keep tossing until the sauce thickens, adding more pasta water by the spoonful if needed to loosen things up. Make sure that all the tossing isn’t damaging the integrity of the noodles (it will help if they were cooked al dente and not until mushy). Season to taste with salt and more pepper, if needed. Divide among bowls and garnish with a generous grating of pecorino or parmesan. Languish in that first bite.