Wednesday, April 8, 2020


OK, it'd be one thing if I were making an extremely rich carbonara for a second course at a dinner party, and serving it with like a skin-contact grenache blanc that tastes of sweet tea with lemon.  But in any other circumstance, pasta carbonara is a weeknight meal, and I have some rules for carbonara on a weeknight.

  • I won't separate eggs, because I'll never use the whites, and it seems wasteful to throw out egg whites for any end other than making ice cream.
  • No pork, because pigs are smarter than dogs.

This takes off the table things like Serious Eats's pasta carbonara, which uses 2 eggs, 6 yolks, and a very specific cut of fatty pork.  To me, pasta carbonara is one of the most rustic dishes, and since I don't use egg whites to prepare meringues or starch shirts, I'm not going to just toss out edible food on a weeknight.

Another thing I've never quite gotten about pasta carbonara--I guess with a yolky recipe, you can magically toss the hot pasta directly with the eggs and scramble them instantly, but I've never been able to achieve this near-magical rate of heat transfer in real life.  I cook the pasta for a little bit together with the eggs.  I'm sure this would get a negative reazioni from actual Italian chefs, but, honestly, it works for me, and the result is great.  It's just the right balance of simplicity to be accessible any night of the week, and technique to make you feel like you're caring for yourself.  I am a millennial.


Weeknight carbonara
serves 2-3, easily doubles to serve 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz dried spaghetti
3 eggs
2 oz pecorino romano cheese, grated (parmesan also OK)
lots of black pepper, in a grinder

Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  While the water is heating, add a couple big pinches of salt, maybe a tablespoon total.

While the pasta water is coming to a boil, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot or pan over medium-low heat and add the garlic, along with lots of black pepper (I'll use about 20 grinds).  Cook for about 1-2 minutes, until the garlic is starting to soften but is not at all brown.  Add a small scoop of water from the pasta, about 1/4 cup, to stop the cooking, then turn off the heat.

Crack the 3 eggs into a bowl and beat well.  Add most of the pecorino cheese, leaving a little behind to top the finished dish.  Season with a good pinch of salt and another 20 grinds or so of black pepper.  Add the eggs to the pan with the garlic and oil, still without any heating.

When the water has come to a boil, add the pasta, stirring it around to get it all under the small amount of water. Cook according to package directions, stirring once or twice to break up the strands.  Grab another 1/4 cup pasta water from the pot as the pasta is cooking and sprinkle it into the pan with the egg/garlic mixture.

When the spaghetti is cooked, turn off the heat, grab it with a pasta tool, and transfer it over into the pan with the egg mixture.  Turn the heat on medium in the pan with the egg and pasta mixture and cook it, stirring continuously with a pasta tool.  It will start off soupy and make an unpleasant bubble-popping noise when you drag it around.  Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring vigorously until the egg mixture is no longer soupy.  At no point should the eggs start to curdle on the bottom of the pan.  When you pick up a spoonful of the pasta, almost nothing should drip down off the pasta back into the pan.  

Once you've gotten it to the egg mixture close to the texture you want, turn off the heat and let the pasta sit for ten seconds, then ladle into a shallow bowl.  If any lightly scrambled eggs remain in the pan, top them onto the pasta.  Top each bowl with additional romano cheese and black pepper.