When life gives you guanciale, make fettuccine alla carbonara. Not the Olive Garden crap with cream and bacon, but the real stuff made with egg and home-cured pork. Since I had just retrieved a slab of piggy goodness from the Salumeria della Belm, I thought I’d attempt a true carbonara.
Working from the recipe in Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano cookbook, I started with three eggs, 3/4 pound of pasta, six ounces of diced guanciale, and 3/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
I brought six quarts of salted water to a boil. While I waited, I rendered the guanciale in some olive oil over medium heat until it was crispy. I moved the pan off the heat, leaving the fat.
I cooked the fettuccine until just al dente, reserved 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drained the pasta, and added it to the pan of guanciale. I tossed the pasta over medium heat for about a minute.
I beat the eggs, then added the reserved cooking water to temper them. This would prevent the eggs from curdling when added to the pasta.
I removed the pan from the heat and added most of the grated cheese and some black pepper.
Finally, I added the beaten eggs, stirring constantly to combine without having the eggs scramble.
I plated the pasta, leaving a depression in the center. I warmed up the three extra slow-poached eggs I had left from the Chicken and Egg dinner and nestled them into the bowls. A few more grinds of black pepper, the rest of the cheese, and it was time to eat.
I’ll confess now that I had never eaten carbonara before. When I had seen it served, it looked like glorified alfredo with bacon and hard-boiled eggs – an unappetizing, gluey mess. I’m glad I held out, because this was one of the best pasta dishes I have ever cooked. The sauce wasn’t too heavy, the pasta was perfectly cooked, and the guanciale was an amazing blend of sweet and salty, with just a hint of the thyme in the background.
The poached egg might have been a bit over the top, but I was improvising on Batali’s serving method, which calls for adding just the egg whites with the pasta and placing the yolk on top of the finished dish, to be mixed in just before eating. I’m coming around to the viewpoint that just as there can’t be too much bacon, there can’t be enough egg.
Guanciale: Salumeria della Belm
Fettucine, parmigiano-reggiano: Capone Foods
Eggs: Feather Ridge Farms