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How-To

A Pasta Classic from the Pantry

Fine Cooking Issue 43
Photo: Scott Phillips
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There’s something wonderful to be said for a dish that can be made entirely from ingredients that are always at hand. As long as there are eggs and Parmesan in the fridge, bacon or pancetta in the freezer, and pasta in the cupboard, a satisfying meal of pasta carbonara can soon be on the table.

Some recipes for this classic Roman dish call for cream. But I find that a sauce made from eggs is amply rich and infinitely more appealing without it.

The key to carbonara is to start with eggs that are at room temperature (to get them there quickly, put them in their shells in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes) and to toss them with the pasta while it’s still very hot. The heat cooks the eggs just enough to thicken them, allowing the sauce to coat the pasta sumptuously (the temperature should be hot enough to kill any salmonella on the slim chance that the eggs are contaminated, but judge for yourself if this dish is for you). A metal bowl is ideal for tossing since it will best conduct the heat.

I often hold back a little of the pasta cooking water so that I can deglaze the pan in which the bacon was rendered to capture all of the bacony goodness.

Peas and thyme are my favorite additions for both color and complexity, but cooked asparagus cut into bite-sized pieces is also welcome.

Pasta carbonara is a great quick and easy supper but in my house, we think it makes the perfect brunch—it’s certainly my favorite way to eat bacon and eggs.

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