It’s an old Italian dish and no one knows its exact origin. According to Metropolis, however, pasta carbonara first appeared in Rome during World War II. With the city in ruins, cooks were scrambling to make good use of available food stuff. Dried egg from the food ration of American GIs gave birth to what the world knows today as pasta carbonara.
Guanciale, a cured meat made from the cheeks (jowls) of the pig, is traditionally used for pasta carbonara. Pancetta, or cured unsmoked pork belly, is a common substitute. If unable to find either, go for unsweetened belly bacon.
It’s more efficient to use two pans to cook carbonara. While the pasta boils in one, the bacon browns in another while rendering fat.
While keeping an eye on both the pasta and bacon, Pecorino is grated into a bowl and eggs are beaten in another. Meanwhile, the bacon is removed from the pan and set aside. You only need a tablespoon or two or bacon fat, so, pour off the rest and reserve it for future use.
Drain the pasta and reserve some of the pasta water. Add the hot noodles — no you do not rinse them — to the hot bacon fat and toss well.
To make the “sauce”, stir together the beaten eggs and grated Pecorino. Add the noodles and toss thoroughly. The heat from the noodles will melt the Pecorino to form a thick and creamy sauce. If it’s too thick for you at this point, drizzle in some of the reserved pasta water and toss. Repeat until your sauce acquires the consistency that you prefer.
The bacon goes on top of the pasta. But you may also toss the bacon in before the dividing the carbonata into portions.
- Cook the pasta in about two liters of boiling water with the teaspoon of salt.
- While the pasta cooks, fry the pancetta in a non-stick pan, allowing fat to be rendered.
- While the pancetta browns and the pasta cooks, beat the eggs and grate the Pecorino.
- When the pancetta is nicely browned, scoop out then pour off the fat leaving only a tablespoonful or so.
- Drain the pasta (reserve a quarter cup of the pasta water) and immediately toss in the bacon fat. Turn off the heat.
- Pour the beaten eggs over the Pecorino and whisk.
- Season the egg-Pecorino sauce with pepper then add the pasta.
- Toss the pasta with the sauce. If too thick, add the reserved pasta water, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the sauce is creamy but not too sticky.
- Divide the pasta carbonara among three plates or bowls, sprinkle the bacon over the noodles and top with more grated Pecorino.