A Classic Revisited: Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I’ve been wanting to make an authentic spaghetti alla carbonara ever since I had a fantastic one at Accademia di Vino in Manhattan a few weeks ago. I was pleased to see their version use guanciale – the pork jowl bacon I recently blogged about. That plate of pasta was a revelation! Guanciale is bacon for grown-ups my friends. Guanciale is the Himalayas of porkiness. Guanciale is.. err.. pure love!!!… I’m trying very hard not to get carried away right now and pose naked next to my slab of bacon to show you how devoted i am to this stuff… Someone please slap me… and FAST!! Look at this, isn’t it beautiful?

Making a Carbonara with guanciale is not exactly ‘nouvelle cuisine’. In fact, the dish was originally made with guanciale but since this slab of porky goodness is a bit hard to find these days, it has been replaced by bacon or pancetta. Thanks to the surge of pork love in this country, it has recently started to resurface in restaurant menus everywhere. There’s nothing wrong about making a carbonara with bacon or pancetta of course, if you have been following this blog for a while you know that I believe pork fat makes you pretty and I refuse to discriminate against any part of the pig. If you haven’t been following this blog, well… where the heck have you been!!??

As i said, i got myself a piece of Guanciale. I used Mario Batali’s trick of separating the eggs and using the egg whites for the sauce and the yolks for garnish, it worked beautifully. The parmegiano-reggiano, the freshly ground black pepper, the powerful porky flavor and the added creaminess from the yolk as you swirl it around the spaghetti. Perfection! I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as i did.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

(serves 4 )

ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound guanciale (or pancetta or good bacon)
  • Salt
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Black pepper, freshly ground

——————————

  • In a large sauté pan, render and cook the guanciale until it is crispy and golden, about 8 minutes. Keep the fat from pan and set aside.

  • Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook the spaghetti, until al dente. Drain the spaghetti, reserving the pasta cooking water.
  • Reheat the guanciale in the pan with the fat and add approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss in the cooked spaghetti and heat, shaking the pan, until warmed through, about 1 minute. Add the grated cheese, egg whites and black pepper and toss until fully incorporated.
  • Divide the pasta among 4 warmed serving bowls. Make a nest in the center for the egg yolk. Drop an egg yolk into each serving, season with more freshly ground black pepper and grate additional cheese over the top. Serve immediately.

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  • waliz

    how about making some meatball of the tennis ball’s size? i am sure bjorg (whatever his name) would love it!

  • Manggy

    OMFG.

    I didn’t know the separating eggs technique but I’m sold. That is a thing of beauty. I think I’ve been turned off by too many “carbonaras” that actually just call for a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. No kidding. It has NOTHING to do with carbonara!

    Just… OMFG. Good luck on the next few days!

  • [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    I have to find guanciale. This looks so darn good that I’m getting hungry again. And today I’ve been eating all day.

  • Sweet Charity

    Thank you for posting about a REAL carbonara. Read about something masquerading as carbonara last week… it had cream. Ya. Unimpresssed.
    My most recent adventures with making carbonara include duck fat, a little brown butter, and a teensy bit of lemon juice.

  • FranMag

    Maybe something on this site will help? http://www.foodfromsweden.com The roast elk sounds interesting. :-)

  • Clumbsy Cookie

    SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! Are you done attacking the guancialle yet?

    I had carbonara last week, love it! Yours looks like a fried egg on steroids in a gof fun kind of way. Have fun working for the famous player, be careful with those tennis balls hiting you in strange places!

  • Colloquial Cook

    Merci de remettre les points sur les i avec cette recette de carbonara. Heureusement que tu es là, haha.
    On veut bien entendu savoir ce que tu cuisineras à Borgborg (?!).

  • Corner Turn

    The recipe sounds easy to make. I am curios how your version is like.

    I’ll try this recipe this weekend. Thanks!

  • Elle

    Zen, come closer—closer—good! Now I can slap you out of your Guanciale stupor!

    But wait, you’ve been working hard, you deserve it! I take the slap back! Sorry. ;)

    This looks incredible! And since we just made our own bacon last week, I think I have a good idea what to do with some of it…

  • Adam

    Dude, that is like bacon with flavor steroids injected into it. I bet it rocks the socks off of people :)

    Have a great weekend and don’t stress about cooking for a legend. It can’t be your first time catering to a ‘big deal’. You’re a professional :)

  • Helen

    Gorgeous. I always pride myself on my carbonara and of course, never cook the eggs and cream but the idea of nestleing the egg yolk on top to let it ooze through on the plate is absolute genius.

  • My Sweet & Saucy

    I guess I’ve never had real carbonara like this…looks so dreamy!

  • Chicopea

    oooh that yolk! **slurp!** First a supermodel sighting and now the pork fat – you’re on a roll m’dear!

  • peter

    I just hung up four jowls to dry- three traditional, and one with 5-spice, cardamom, ginger, and togarashi. I couldn’t resist trying some of that one last night… mmmmmm

  • Gloria (Canela)

    Your carbonara look absolutely georgeous!!! xxx(May I help you?) not for Bjorm Borg, is for Hamptons I love the place LOL Gloria

  • cook eat FRET

    1/2 lb pasta for 4 people… this was definitely a primi. as carbonara should be! i have guanciale in my freezer. i need to make this but i’m waiting for it to cool down…

    i grew up in forest hills where the us open used to be and remember seeing BB when i was a kid. he’s 5 yrs older than me and i was in love with him because he was freakin’ gorgeous and totally cool.

  • glamah16

    Yummm pork. You have transformed this dish. One day I want a book with all your celebrity and monied gigs.

  • Tenina

    OH go on…pose away. Beefcake goes so well with pork fat! Would love to see that! Your post is as ever; funny and informative (if not a tad name-droppish..but I would so do it also!) Go wild!(Oh you already did!)

  • Kevin

    Carbonara is one of my favorites and yours looks great! I like the presentation with the egg yolk on top.

  • Cindy. Lo.

    I’m totally with you on the pork fat part,
    Pork fat is da bomb!!!!
    It makes everything…well…almost everything more delicious!

  • jillian

    I love the idea of the egg yolk on top! I am a carbonara fan and this methods looks good.

  • Ginny

    Wow!!!! Looks great…I think I’ll give it a shot…just have warn my arteries about the cholesterol…yummy!!!

  • Maggie

    That bacon (guanciale) looks fabulous! I have to find some.

  • Heather

    Ooh, I totally want to stick my d*** in that yolk. Sorry! I couldn’t help it. (#^o^#)

  • La Belette Rouge

    This was the dish my mother used to make for company in the late 70′s. Ah yes, I remember it well. But, your version sounds amazing.

    And,lucky you and lucky Borg. Tennis is the only sport I am a fanatic about. Borg was amazing. Wow!!! Do you need a sous chef with no skills with a knife? If so, I am your gal!;-)

  • canarygirl

    Goodness, that Carbonara is making me a little frisky.

  • Dee

    Pork jowl bacon and a raw egg? So what exactly have I been eating all these years? Sob. Damn those wasted calories!

  • Tom Aarons

    You are so right about this. That piece of pork is beautiful. Quite apart from how good it must taste, it looks great!

    As for Bjorn Borg – everyone knows that he he spent his whole career eat the competition for breakfast! Just feed him lesser tennis players… :)

  • Norm Schoen

    That Carbonara looks awesome!

  • Nina Timm

    Oh my gosh, I do not know what made my jaw drop more…the spaghetti or Bjorn Borg…he was my hero for many years…….

  • Matin

    The pasta looks fantastic and pretty cool blog too:-)
    XX M

  • Olga

    you just totally inspired my dinner! Thank you!
    Of course I had no spaghetti or cheese, so here’s my version :)

    http://mangotomato.blogspot.com/2008/08/orzo-with-bacon-and-poached-egg.html

    Thank you!

  • StickyGooeyCreamyChewy

    That plate of pasta is a work of art! Edible art! I recently found a local market that has a source for homemade guanciale. I made an Amatriciana sauce with some and WOW! I’m looking forward to trying this next.

    Oh, and so cool about Bjorn Borg! I had such a crush on him when I was a kid.

  • mtan

    I saw the photo of your carbonara on Tastespotting, anything with a perfect yolk like that has to be glorious. Plus the crispy guanciale, and the shavings of parmesan, perfect meal.

    The tons of fake carbonara in mainstream restaurants is so depressing. A little pizzeria near my house serves theirs like yours, but they have to use bacon, so if I pass them some guanciale, maybe it’ll up the ante a bit. or a lot!

    Good luck with Borg!

  • Carol

    Zen! As usual, you are my “rock star.” Your life is so much more interesting than mine. Though mine gets interesting at times as you know, lol. Can’t hardly wait until you are back in town and have time for your bloggers/fans!

  • Kristen

    Oh my – I am totally in love with the looks of this dish! Yum!

  • Mike of Mike’s Table

    That is a hell of a carbonara! This is a dish that has been so bastardized by the masses, but not only did you make it look so damn delicious, but its beautifully presented as well. Also, good luck with round 2 in the hamptons!

  • Cakebrain

    Mmm. I love carbonara…and I think the yolk atop the spaghetti is gorgeous! I can imagine the silky smooth yolk oozing down the mound of spaghetti after piercing it with my fork!

  • The Caked Crusader

    carbonara is my favourite pasta dish. If you have a bowl going spare please send it my way

  • We Are Never Full

    not only did you do it right b/c you added guanicale BUT you also didn’t use (GASP!!) cream. it burns my ass when I see cream added to carbonara recipes! looks creamy and porky!!

  • Susan from Food Blogga

    Well, you have succeeded with flying colors! This looks amazing!

  • Brilynn

    That really is a thing of beauty! I’m saddened to say I’ve never had guanciale…

  • _ts of [eatingclub] vancouver

    Hello! We’ve tagged you for a random facts meme. Hope you do it!

    http://www.eatingclubvancouver.com/2008/09/random-facts-meme-from-kian.html

    Cheers

  • daphne

    I know this will taste terrific but i cant help but be turned off by the fat! :(

  • foodhuntress79

    To tell you honestly, I made a carbonara for a Saturday dinner two weeks before you posted this. With parma ham. I haven’t tried the whole eggyolk method though. I agree with Manggy- there are too many carbonaras around here- and that can of mushroom is so true. Hahaha. The coal seller must be very lucky, isn’t he?

  • aria

    omigod that looks like pure heaven with the yolk in th middle! heeeeee i cannot WAIT to make this the next time we have people over. beautiful!

  • angie

    Just stumbled into your blog…brilliant! And, really nice carbonara buuut…the cheese used in traditional carbonara is pecorino, not parmigiano :)

  • amiscell

    Actually, for a real carbonara, there should be no whites. Discard the whites, beat the yolks “a zabaglione” (as we say in Italy) basically until thick and foamy, and incorporate that into the pasta when it’s hot but not too hot to cook it completely.

  • Rebecca T. of HonestMeat

    Hi- I just used this recipe for tonight’s dinner with our homemade guanciale (from our own pigs!) and our own eggs too. At first we thought we should add some veggies to this to make it a little “healthier” but decided against doctoring the recipe and made a side salad instead. I am so glad I stuck with the recipe to the “t”. It was amazing!

  • britni

    hi, i love you. seriously. love. maybe i have my priorities mixed up, but a good carbonara will do it for me.