Spaghetti Alla Carbonara: Three options

In 2001, The Baltimore Sun's food section had a spaghetti alla carbonara cookoff. The three recipes below faced off. Pick your comfort-food poison. Father Joe's Spaghetti alla Carbonara Serves 4 to 6 olive oil for frying 1/2 pound pancetta, sliced at the deli like bacon, then cut into small slivers 3 eggs (see note) 1/2 cup half-and-half 1/4 pound butter 1 pound spaghetti 2/3 cup grated Romano cheese freshly ground pepper Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and fry the pancetta until the fat becomes transparent. Drain the pancetta on a paper towel. Beat the eggs and half-and-half together in a bowl. Melt the butter in a microwave. Cook the spaghetti in salted water, according to package directions. As soon as it is ready, drain into a colander and return it to the same pot. Add the butter, pancetta and eggs mixture, stirring constantly with wooden spoons so the eggs cook on the hot noodles. Add the Romano and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, with chilled Fontana Candida Frascati wine. Note: Eggs should be fresh; no cracked shells. Donna's Spaghetti alla Carbonara Serves 4 to 6 olive oil for frying 1/4 pound thinly sliced Parma prosciutto 1 pound perciatelli (long, hollow pasta, thicker than spaghetti) salt for cooking perciatelli 4 eggs (see note) 2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated by your significant other freshly ground black pepper to taste 2 tablespoons chopped parsley In a skillet, heat a little olive oil and fry the prosciutti until it becomes slightly crispy. Remove it to a platter covered with a paper towel. Cook the perciatelli (about 10 minutes) in salted water. Make sure you have enough water in the pot. "Pasta likes to swim," Crivello says. In a warm crockery bowl large enough to handle the cooked pasta, beat the eggs, add the grated cheese and a liberal grinding of black pepper. Drain the pasta and pour it into the bowl. Add the prosciutto. With tongs toss the eggs, cheese and pasta, coating the strands well. Sprinkle in the parsley. Serve at once, with an Orvieto or a Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Note: Eggs should be fresh; no cracked shells. Elia's Spaghetti alla Carbonara Serves 4 1/2 pound bacon, cut into small chunks (see note) 1 pound spaghetti 4 eggs (see note) freshly grated black pepper to taste 1/2 cup Romano cheese, freshly grated 2 tablespoons chopped parsley In the largest skillet you can find, fry the bacon pieces until crispy. Turn off the fire. Spoon away some of the grease, but save most of it. Push the bacon to one side and tilt the skillet slightly so the bacon does not sit in the grease. Cook the spaghetti in the usual way. Beat the eggs in a bowl, season with freshly grated black pepper, and set aside. When the spaghetti is almost ready, tell all your guests to grab a plate and a fork. "People have to be disciplined," Elia says. "They have to be ready to eat this dish as soon as it's ready." Reheat the grease and bacon pieces for a minute or so, then reduce the heat. Drain the pasta in a colander and immediately pour the pasta into the hot skillet. Shut off the burner or remove the skillet from the heat. Add the eggs to the pasta and toss all ingredients madly. Add the cheese, another liberal dash of black pepper and the parsley. Serve at once, with a good Chianti Classico. Note: Ham can be substituted for the bacon, and sauteed in butter and olive oil. The vegetarian version of this - no bacon, but plenty of butter, cheese and eggs - is also delicious. Eggs should be fresh; no cracked shells.
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