Carbonara is the dinner I cook if I have nothing else in the house, but I don’t want to go down the road of fish fingers and beans (which is my default ‘I can’t even face actually TOUCHING the food’ dinner). I tend to always keep a pack of bacon in the fridge, because it keeps for ages and can be used in so many different ways. I’ve also normally got eggs, unless I’ve used them all, along with a block of parmesan (currently I’ve got a block the size of my head in the fridge, you can never have enough), so it’s a great fallback dish.
I know it’s not going to win any ‘healthiest dinner’ awards, but it’s really really quick to make (it only takes as long as it takes to boil the pasta, plus about 3 minutes more), and it tastes amazing. I think it’s elegant enough to serve for a dinner party, and it’s a great one to cook if you’ve got a friend coming over because it’s so quick there is plenty of time for chat and there’s no prep or anything involved!
I love the combination of salty, creamy and cheesy, and the nutmeg is the perfect sweet, spiced note on top of everything else. Nutmeg always reminds me of the rice puddings my mum used to make, it’s one of the most nostalgic foods I can think of! You can use the traditional cubes of pancetta, although I tend to find them quite tough sometimes because of the chunks of fat (I’m REALLY fussy about fat on meat, I usually cut most of it off if it’s not crispy), so I use rashers of pancetta or smoked bacon instead and I think I like the texture of this more with the silky pasta. I also always use linguini for this, I suppose then I shouldn’t be calling it Spaghetti Carbonara, but I really don’t think Linguine Carbonara has the same ring to it…
I don’t know where this recipe is from; I’ve probably taken elements from here there and everywhere. I don’t bother weighing anything out or any of that annoying business, this is relaxed cooking at its finest.
4/5 rashers pancetta/smoked bacon
200g spaghetti/linguine (a reasonable handful)
A knob of butter
1/2 glass white wine
2 large eggs
A handful of grated parmesan
A pinch of nutmeg, grated
A splash of double cream if you have it
If you time this right you can do everything in just the time it takes to cook the pasta. The first thing I do is put some water on to boil and start cooking the pasta. Once the pasta is in the pan, snip the bacon into a large frying pan (large enough to take the cooked pasta) with a drizzle of olive oil and fry until crisp.
While the bacon is frying and the pasta is boiling, beat together the eggs, parmesan, nutmeg, pepper (you don’t need salt because the bacon and the cheese are salty enough) and cream if you’re using it (you don’t have to but it makes it richer and creamier. I only use it if I have some in the fridge).
Once the bacon is ready, pour in the white wine and simmer until it’s reduced down and syrupy. Hopefully by this point the pasta will be ready. Drain it, turn the heat down on the bacon pan, and add the knob of butter to the bacon and winey juices. Add the pasta to the bacon pan and toss in the butter and juices until the pasta has absorbed it all.
Take the pan off the heat, and add the eggy mixture. Toss through until it’s formed a thick, silky sauce all around the pasta. If you don’t take the pan off the heat, the egg in the sauce will cook and it will go really weird. There will be enough heat in the pasta and the pan to cook the sauce enough.
Now, serve and enjoy! Ultimate comfort food.