One of the first things that I learned to cook upon arriving in France was something not whatsoever French: carbonara. I also learned how to make the Italian dish from a Colombian girl, so you can imagine that it was not necessarily the most traditional interpretation. Nonetheless, carbonara is great for so many reasons: I almost always have everything I need to make it on hand, it’s delicious, and it doesn’t cost much to make.
Since becoming more interested in the culinary world, I decided to take another look at one of my favorite dishes, and what I discovered was that I was doing it all wrong. Of course, if something tastes good and you enjoy it, it can’t really be wrong, but when you learn how to make it right, carbonara goes to a whole different level of flavors and textures. I’m not saying that my interpretation of carbonara is the right one, or even classic or traditional. It’s what I like, and this recipe has still come a long way from the carbonara I made for years.
Ingredients (serves 2, with a bit of leftovers):
2 C of pasta (your choice)
2 egg yolks
1 C delicious cured pork of your choice (lardons, bacon, pancetta…), cut into small pieces if need be
1 small onion, diced or thinly sliced
1-2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/3 C pasta cooking water
1/4 C parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
2 T crème fraîche (optional)
This one really is easy. I throw it together when we’re out of everything else or just don’t know what to eat.
In a large pot, bring some water to a boil. Once it starts simmering, add a generous helping of salt to the water (generally about 10% of the volume of water). Add your pasta and cook according to package directions.
In a large skillet, begin heating your pork of choice. No need to add any fat to the pan as your pork should render enough on it’s own. Add the diced onions and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until they soften. Add the garlic and finish cooking your pork to your liking, taking care not to burn the onions or garlic. Reserve about 1 T of the fat from the pork and set aside.
Place your egg yolks in a large bowl. You can add the pork drippings to it, and once the pasta is done cooking, your pasta water. Stir slightly. Add a generous pinch of pepper, followed by the pork and the pasta. Toss to coat, and adjust seasoning. Now is when you’ll want to add your parmesan; add a little bit at a time, tossing pasta between additions so the cheese will melt. That’s it! Taste your pasta, season if needed, and add more pasta water if it’s too thick. This is when I like to throw in just a little bit of crème fraîche, but you don’t really need it. The sauce will be creamy perfection all on its own.