Studying abroad in Florence introduced me to cuisine I would never have thought to try. Pappa al pomodoro. Negroni and Limoncello. Panettone. Neapoltian Pizza. Pasta as a first course followed by an entire meal. Eating and drinking in Italy was an entirely new experience for me – and included my introduction to the classic spaghetti carbonara.
When you first hear the ingredients, pasta, pancetta, eggs and parmesan cheese, it is easy to be skeptical about the delicious quality of the dish. (And the simplicity when making it.) But the rich flavors make for a scrumptious meal. I have only eaten it once since my time in Italy, because every time I see it on a menu cream or butter (or even both) have been added to it and I was explained that the dish did not include those ingredients. The only way to enjoy it the real Italian way, was to make it myself.
I cannot stress how simple the steps of this dish all – the trick is in the timing. The pasta and pancetta are cooked, combined, moved from the stove, and then the egg is added to it. The heat from the pasta and pancetta are meant to cook the egg. The first time I read the recipe I thought this was a horror for someone who was scared of food poisoning. But I was game.
While I knew the basics of the dish, I didn’t know the ratio or the ingredients and wanted instructions on the timing of how to cook the carbonara. So digging through the internet I decided on using The Pioneer Woman’s Spaghetti Carbonara. It was simple and followed the general cooking method I had been told about.
I was surprisingly intimidated. Recipes that have breathing and breaks (i.e. letting something sit) appear easier because I feel making a mistake or not having something ready won’t ruin the dish. But this dish revolved around the order in which you cooked everything and added in a certain order. Fortunately Patrick was in town and was ready with an extra set of hands if I needed them.
With the ingredients pulled together – finding pre-cut pancetta helped a lot – and a few deep breathes I was ready to take on this classic Italian dish.
Waiting for the water to come to a boil for the pasta meant a little bit of slow, but the second the pasta went in and the pancetta began to cook it was stir, watch, stir, watch, knowing any second I’d be ready for the next step. Ree Drummond’s recipe did not specify if one should start the pancetta when you start boiling the water, or wait until you add the pasta. After looking at a few different recipes which were not conclusive about this, I decided to add the pancetta to the heated pan when the pasta was added to the boiling water.
And, it was surprisingly easy! As long as you stay calm and have everything ready and near by, it will come together with each step right after the other. And I didn’t even need Patrick’s extra hands (he did a great job dicing the parsley though).
We enjoyed the meal hot off the stove, and with our long run the next morning, it was perfect to fuel us up. I strongly recommend trying this and look forward to cooking it again.