Hold the cream!
For reasons I am yet to fathom, carbonara is one of those pasta recipes I never order when I’m in Italy but always make at home when I need something fast, delicious and comforting. An old school pasta recipe that, along with spaghetti bolognese, has graced the kitchens of Australian families for many decades, carbonara is the ever popular creamy, bacon pasta that will never fall out of favour.
Despite the creaminess of the dish, there is one important thing to remember if you’re going to get authentic with the recipe: it should not include cream! Yes, you read that correctly. Cream in a carbonara recipe is a big no-no for those seeking to replicate the traditional Italian dish but the good news is there is really no need for it. The combination of egg and parmesan cheese, instantly cooked when poured over steaming pasta, becomes its own unctuous sauce, making cream a totally unnecessary addition.
And, while we’re talking about unnecessary additions, you can add peas and mushrooms to the list! Peas in particular seem such an odd thing to put in this deliciously smoky, cheesy dish and I’m not sure why this trend started in the first place. If it’s the need for some green vegetable to grace your dinner table, then serve a crispy green salad on the side!
Or, if you want a pasta recipe that includes peas, consider this fresh and delicious pasta primavera recipe. For something a little less traditional, that marries Italian flavours with green peas, give my Pea and Pesto Soup a go!
Looking for another easy pasta recipe with a bit of a kick? Try this spicy penne and chorizo recipe some time.
Classic carbonara recipe
Ingredients – Serves 2
- 200-250g tagliatelli, spaghetti or fetticcuine
- 2 fresh free range eggs
- 200g lardons or coarsely chopped bacon
- 30g approx. finely grated parmesan
- Parsley – very finely chopped (optional)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Put a big pot of water on to boil. This will be quicker if you use a kettle. It will take a couple but still cut down on your cooking time! Add a generous 5-fingered pinch of salt to the water and when it is boiling vigorously, add the pasta. Put the timer on for the instructed minutes (usually around 9 minutes – check packet). Don’t let the pasta slow to a simmer – it needs to be boiling throughout!
- Meanwhile, heat a pan and fry the lardons. You should not need to add any olive oil to this – there should be enough fat in the lardons for them to fry by themselves. Stir occasionally so it cooks through and browns on all sides. When it is cooked, check how much fat is in the pan. If it is swimming it, remove some using a spoon – you want a little but not too much or it will make your pasta greasy.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, parmesan and a seasoning of freshly ground pepper and just a little salt. Because the bacon and cheese are salty, you should resist adding too much now.
- Once the pasta is cooked (check by tasting: it should be done yet al dente), scoop out a cup of pasta water (for the sauce) and drain immediately over the sink into a colander.
- Pour pasta in with the bacon and stir through. It should be steaming from the heat of being cooked. Immediately drizzle over the egg/cheese mix over the pasta and quickly stir through. The heat of the pasta will cook the egg – there should be no need to put on the stove. If you think you need it, put the stove on very, very low – you do not want a scrambled egg effect in your pasta!
- Pour in a little of the pasta water and toss through. This will make the sauce more runny and glistening in appearance.
- Stir through parsley if using. Taste, add more salt and pepper if necessary and serve immediately in pre-warmed bowls.