I was reminded how much I love a classic spaghetti carbonara on my trip to Rome in November last year. I ate so many I lost count. That along with bucatini Amatriciana, another traditional Roman pasta dish, are my two favourites. On one occasion I gently asked the waiter if it was possible to swap out the bucatini for linguini or spaghetti which I preferred, and I was met with an aggressive level of resistance and told fatly that it was ‘just not traditional’. I reckon everyone needs to figure out how to make a perfect spaghetti carbonara because it’s so utterly unique and delicious. This is the closest you will get to bacon & egg in a pasta sauce and it’s so instantly gratifying.
There is controversy around whether to use cream or butter in the recipe and purists will argue that either has no place in the dish. Nigella Lawson & Simon Hopkinson use double cream amongst others and I quite like a splash in the mix too. I also really like it without, so I am going to give you two options. The reason why I added a little here was that I had an open container and didn’t feel like using the extra egg yolk and wasting the white.
There is also debate amongst recipe writers as to whether to use whole eggs or yolk, but I’ve gone with Felicity Cloake’s recommendation of whole eggs. I adore this dish with guanciale or pancetta, but lardons of smoked streaky bacon are also delicious and more popular outside of Italy. For the cheese component, Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano are used in combination, but I really love the sweet and salty flavour of Pecorino in this dish as it lends a lovely ‘goaty’ flavour which I think enriches the dish. As I’m sensitive to garlic I keep it well away from my carbonara, but you could infuse a clove in the olive oil at the beginning and then remove it before anything is added.
The dish is served with a very generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
I made this dish to pair perfectly with my favourite De Wetshof Estate Limestone Hill unwooded Chardonnay
Recipe – serves 2
Adapted from Completely Perfect by Felicity Cloak (Published by Penguin Books 2018)
- 250gms dried spaghetti or linguini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 90gs pancetta, chopped streaky bacon or guanciale
- 2 eggs and 1 yolk / or 3 Tbsp cream (or both)
- 25gms Pecorino Romano, finely grated
- 25gms Parmesan, finely grated
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Boil the spaghetti in salty water according to the pack instructions and until al dente. Reserve a scoop of the pasta water.
- Whisk the egg and yolk/cream in a small bowl and mix most of the cheese in with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later.
- If you remember to preheat 2 bowls in a low oven or by filling them with boiling water this keeps the pasta warmer for longer. Mostly I can never be bothered.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the pancetta or bacon and cook until just cooked but not brown.
- When the pasta is cooked and the water has been scooped out, toss this into the pan with the fatty bacon to coat the strands. Take it off the heat and either allow to cool very briefly or add the egg and cheese mixture and toss vigorously to coat the pasta and hope and pray that the eggs don’t harden, and the sauce remains silky. I have more success if I do the tossing in another large cooler bowl as the pan (especially if it’s a heavy-based and or cast iron) often retains a lot of heat which invariably cooks the eggs. Add a little pasta water to loosen the sauce and sprinkle over a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with the reserved grated cheese.
For more recipes I’ve made with the absolutely delicious Limestone Hill:
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