There is a chef in Rome who developed a brilliant technique for cooking Spaghetti alla Carbonara. His name is Luciano Monosilio and he is known as, “The King of Carbonara”. I studied his technique, translated and adapted his recipe so that we can enjoy perfect carbonara without any hassle. This is one of my new favorite cooking techniques for pasta, I believe it’s as close to fool-proof as a traditional Italian pasta can be. Here’s how to make it.
Serves 2 (double the ingredients to serve 4)
1/2 Pound Spaghetti, good quality with visible texture to the pasta (an indication of starch)
1/4 Cup Pecorino
1/2 Cup Parm, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Cracked Black pepper
4 egg yolks
1/2 Pound Pancetta/Guanciale, cut into thick cubes
3-4 Tablespoon of Rendered Pancetta/Guanciale Fat
Reserved Pasta Water
One Big Pinch of Salt (for pasta water)
A Pot to cook the pasta in
Large Glass or Metal Bowl that would fit on top of the pot you cook the pasta in
Pan to cook the pancetta/Guanciale in
Fill up a pot of water just enough so that when you place a large bowl on top of it, the water won’t overflow. Then get that on the stove and bring that to just below the boil. Water boils at 100 celsius/212 degrees Fahrenheit, but you actually only need the water to be about 90 degrees celsius/195-200 Fahrenheit to rehydrate pasta. This will also allow us to use the pasta water as a double boiler to gently and safely cook the eggs. So it’s important to NOT boil water in this recipe.
Next step is to cube the pancetta or Guanciale by cutting off the hard exterior off then measuring the size of the dices you want with your knife and finger and start to cut into the sized cubes you want. Not too big or it's hard to eat, not too small or it will reduce too much in size. Then add to a cold pan and cook on medium heat, slowly rendering out the fat without cooking too fast. Slower the better to get a perfectly browned piece of meat with the fat fully rendered out. You also need that fat at the end of the process. So once your pancetta of Guanciale is perfectly browned and rendered, grab a wooden spoon, push the meat to one side of the pan, then sit that side of the pan up on the spoon so the oil can pool to one side. Let that cool off the heat.
Now take the big bowl, separate the egg white from the egg yolks, and then add the egg yolks to the big bowl. Save the egg whites for breakfast the next day. To the eggs, add the grated cheese and black pepper and then whisk it together really well until its a little creamy.
Now bring that over to the not boiling pasta water and set it on top of the pot of water and gently cook that over the water whisking the whole time until you can visibly see the sauce start to thicken but not scramble or cook. For people who freak out over salmonella or pregnant women who want to be extra safe, you can use a kitchen thermometer to double check that eggs are around 160 degrees to ensure the eggs are safe to eat. Otherwise, most eggs are pasteurized already and the risk for anyone else who is worried about that is not a factor in this recipe. Otherwise, don’t cook the eggs past 160 of you could run the risk of ruining them.
Once thickened, remove and let cool.
Next, add the pasta and cook that to the package instructions for al dente.
Once the pasta is cooked, add that directly from the water to the bowl of egg. DON’T drain the water. Then add a few tablespoons of the pasta water and a few tablespoons of the pancetta or Guanciale fat and then with a wooden spoon or tongs, place it back over the pasta water and mix that all together really well to emulsify the sauce. Cook that for a minute or two, alternating between mixing on the heat and off the heat to ensure the perfect consistency. Add pasta water and pancetta fat if needed to control the amount of sauce and the consistency. Once the sauce starts to coat the pasta beautifully, add the cubed pancetta or Guanciale and then give one last good mix before plating. Remember, the pasta water is your best friend. Reserve a jar of it just in case you need to revive the sauce either if it gets cold or if you want to reheat it the next day. Having that pasta water is a really great idea.
Once plated, make sure each plate has a good amount of the cubed pancetta or Guanciale, finish with more cheese, I prefer the less salty parmesan for the garnish, then finally a little more black pepper. Thank you to Luciano Monosilio for creating such a brilliant technique for such a beloved dish.
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