Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pasta Carbonara

So what do you do when dinnertime is in a half an hour, you don't really want to cook, you have nothing thawed, nothing ready to go?  If you're like me, you order a pizza.  Ok, well, if you're like me you sigh and wish you could order a pizza, but unfortunately, no one delivers within a couple hours of Chernobyl.

So you open the fridge again and will a meal to appear.  And then you spot the bacon.

Ha! You're saved.  Pasta Carbonara.  As good as any you'd order in an Italian restaurant, and it'll be on the table by dinnertime, with time leftover to make a salad.  Perfecto!

Bacon is not super-easy to come by either, but when I find it, I buy several packages and I've always got at least one package in the freezer.  When you do not have take-out, delivery or tv dinners, you keep a pack of bacon in your freezer.  At least I do.  

And then you can always make this delicious, company-worthy dinner on a moment's notice.  Mangiamo!

The Step-By-Step

Get your stove-top working

So.  Before you get going, put a largish pot of water on the stove to boil, and also start heating up a frying pan.

Then while all that is heating up, you take 8 slices of bacon and chop them up into little pieces.  I like using kitchen scissors for this.

 Once your bacon is ready to go, throw it in the frying pan.  

Then take a picture that is 40% obscured by steam and bacon-grease smoke and whatever else.  

Now, while your bacon is cooking a bit, chop up some onion, and throw that in the pan with the bacon. 

Why not throw them in at the same time?  Because this way, when you put the onions in, you've cooked out some of the bacon fat, and you don't need to add any oil to cook the onion.  At least that's my theory.  I like it.

Once your pot of water is boiling, add the spaghetti noodles.   

I have a technique I use to measure spaghetti noodles which uses the famous "ok measure".  Haven't heard of it?  Alright, so I made it up. 

Make the "ok" sign with your hand.  See that little circle you just made with your thumb and pointer finger?  Fill that circle full of noodles and you have one "ok measure".  I use two "ok measures" in this recipe.

Apologies to those of you who live in a place where the "ok" sign means something rude.  No offense intended.  Just measuring noodles here.

 Put it all together

You've got noodles boiling, bacon and onion sauteing, the house is starting to smell good.....

Alright, good.  Grab 3 eggs and beat them up well in a small bowl.

When the pasta is cooked (no darker spot of uncooked noodle in the middle when you bite one, but not gloppy or mushy),  remove 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining the noodles.  Set that aside.

Yes, my water here looks more like skim milk, but the pasta I buy here is a bit.... starchy?  Yours may look more like, well, water.  That's fine.

Now, drain the noodles and do a quick rinse in cold water.

Now dump those noodles directly into the frying pan you've still got going.  Toss it together and get the bacon and onions all evenly distributed.

Now take that water you reserved from the pasta pot and pour it right onto the pasta in the pan.

See how the pasta is nice and wet-looking?  That's what you want, without it getting watery.  The pasta being wet prevents the egg in the next step from scrambling.

Remove the pan from the heat now, and let it sit a couple of minutes.

This is the tricky part.  Mixing in the eggs.  So you pour the beaten eggs into the pasta and just keep stirring and tossing and stirring.  If the noodles are wet and if you've let it sit for a couple minutes to cool down a tad, it'll look like this:

A lovely, rich coating on the noodles from the egg is the goal here.  If the worst happens and your eggs scramble, and you end up with little bits of egg in your noodles -- well, no biggie, it'll still taste great.

Now dump in 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese, a generous sprinkling of pepper, and salt if you want it (I usually don't add any because the bacon and the parmesan give it enough salt).

Stir that in, and you are ready to serve....

Mmmm.  Now who doesn't want a bite of that? 
No pizza necessary.

The Recipe


8 slices uncooked bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
2 "ok measures" of spaghetti noodles (see post above)
3 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
ground black pepper

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Once boiling, add spaghetti noodles and cook al dente.

Chop bacon, add to frying pan.  Chop onion, add to partially-cooked bacon in the same pan, cook and stir on medium heat until bacon is crisp and onion is tender.

Beat 3 eggs and set aside.  Once pasta is cooked, set aside 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain and rinse pasta.

Add pasta to the frying pan with bacon and onion.  Toss noodles together with bacon and onion.  Pour cooking water into the pan and toss thoroughly.

Remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes.

Carefully add the beaten eggs to the noodles, stirring constantly.

Stir in Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Serve immediately.