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5 Ingredient Friday: Pasta alla Carbonara

Pasta alla carbonara is a rich, creamy Roman dish that is exceptional in its simplicity. Every step in the process has a purpose and every ingredient is used efficiently – even the pasta water! Traditional recipes like this one only require a handful of ingredients, and it comes together in exactly as much time as it takes to cook pasta. (Depending on your beliefs about the perfect texture of prepared pasta, that should be in the area of 8-12 minutes).

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The recipe I prepared for this installment of 5-ingredient Friday is almost traditional, except that I used pancetta instead of guanciale — aka pork cheek — largely because of accessibility. If you can get the real thing, by all means, use it instead! Bacon or pancetta are both acceptable substitutions that your local store is more likely to have in stock.

Mise en Place for Pasta alla Carbonara

Note: The eggs in this recipe are very lightly cooked and thickened by the residual heat from the hot pasta, hot pasta water, hot oil, and hot pancetta. Timing is somewhat important here, because you want everything to still be quite warm when it comes time to toss it all together.

Pasta alla Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb (8oz) of pancetta (or bacon, or guanciale), diced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (or pecorino), plus more for serving
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb pasta, of your choice
  • water

Directions

  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and cheese. Set aside.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil. (Continue onto other directions until the water is ready. Then, add the pasta and cook uncovered until it reaches your desired texture, about 8-10 minutes. Once the pasta is done, reserve about 1/2 to 1 cup of the hot pasta water, and drain the rest).
  • While the water is coming to a boil, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until it's browned and crispy, about 8 minutes. After it's cooked, toss the pancetta into a large bowl with a tablespoon or two of the pan oil and set aside.
  • Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the reserved, hot pasta water into the egg-cheese mixture.
  • Then, use tongs or a slotted spoon to get your hot pasta into the large bowl with pancetta, pan drippings, and a bit more of the hot pasta water, and toss it together. Add the egg-cheese sauce to this bowl and toss it quickly while everything is still hot.
  • Season to taste with fresh black pepper and additional parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately!
 5 Ingredient Friday: Pasta alla Carbonara Recipes

*For the sticklers counting ingredients: “Pantry essentials” such as salt, pepper, water, and olive oil are not being included in the overall ingredient count for the purpose of flexibility! Hope that doesn’t irritate too many of you folks out there.

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