Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Spaghetti alla Carbonara: Memories of Marcella






Luscious and creamy, Spaghetti alla Carbonara is a rich Italian pasta dish typically made with bacon, eggs, and cheese. The crispy bits of cured pork that elevate the eggy sauce are actually the building blocks for three of the great classic pastas made in and around Rome. The most basic of them, Pasta alla Gricia, contains no more than the meat and grated sharp cheese. With eggs added to the sauce, it becomes the familiar Spaghetti alla Carbonara, and if you add the sweetness of cooked onions and the acidity of tomatoes, you have Pasta all’Amatriciana. A comfort food favourite, there are many recipes for carbonara sauce, but I'm hopelessly devoted to Marcella Hazan’s from her 'Essentials of Italian Cooking'. 




The doyenne of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan (1924-2013)

Marcella Hazan's 'Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking'



Widely considered by chefs and food writers to be one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, Marcella frequently prefaced her recipes with descriptions of how the food is eaten in Italy, or with her own memories of the dishes, which makes each of her cookbooks a delicious journey capturing the essence, the scent, the subtle nuances and, above all, the beauty and simple elegance of Italian food authentically prepared in the true Italian manner. Although she passed away almost a year ago, her legacy lives on with each and every recipe, inspiring future generations to explore the rich wealth of Italian cuisine.




Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Serves 6
Recipe courtesy of Marcella Hazan

1/2 pound pancetta, guanciale or slab bacon, cut as 1/2-inch slices
4 garlic cloves
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 whole large eggs
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 1/4 pounds dry spaghetti


Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.

Cut the pancetta into narrow strips about 1/4-inch wide. Lightly mash the garlic with a knife handle, enough to split the cloves and loosen the skin, discarding the skin. Place the garlic and olive oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the garlic turns a deep gold, about 2 minutes, remove it and discard. Put the pancetta in the pan and cook until it just starts to become crisp around the edges. Add the wine and let it bubble away for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat.

While the pasta is cooking, break the eggs into the bowl in which you’ll be serving the pasta. Beat them lightly with a fork, then add the grated cheeses, a liberal grinding of fresh ground pepper and the parsley, mixing thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

When the water for the pasta is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons salt and the spaghetti, and cook until al dente.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the bowl and toss quickly, coating the strands well. Briefly reheat the pancetta over high heat, then pour the contents of the skillet into the bowl, tossing thoroughly, and serve immediately. Finish with a little extra cheese and a sprig of fresh parsley for garnish.