Notes for Carbonara

I hadn’t been in Geneva for more than a couple of days, some years ago now, when I became involved in an altercation with a maitre dee. He came out to the terrace where we were sitting and admonished me for the amount of pepper I was grinding onto the pasta I’d ordered. When he discovered I’d left quite a bit of it uneaten, he triumphantly thought he had won the battle of the pepper mill, whereas in fact, I had simply discovered that the dish was so awful that no amount of pepper could redeem it.

Who would have thought it possible? Certainly not me, a pepper addict if ever there was one. Carbonara is a pepper magnet. Pepper is a me magnet. Therefore….


olive oil
parmesan, grated
pepper, freshly ground
pancetta or bacon or something similar to your taste, diced

While the spaghetti is cooking:

Mix one egg per person and an extra yolk per two people. I’m making it for two, so two eggs plus a yolk. Add parmesan, perhaps a cup, leaving some for the table. Add lots of freshly ground pepper.

In a large pan, I use a wok, heat olive oil and fry the meat until a little crisp and set aside.

Keep a cup of the cooking water before you drain the spaghetti.

Put the pan back on the heat, add the spaghetti. Mix and then add the egg/cheese mixture, turn quickly if not frantically, take it off the heat, you don’t want scrambled eggs. Add some of the cooking water you saved, still stirring in a completely panicked way. It all seems to come together into a nicely silken coating needing nothing more than loads and loads of extra pepper as you eat. This is not to say that the panic was unnecessary, it is probably an essential ingredient. This dish doesn’t want you to think you are in control.

For a properly written discussion of this dish, including the angst, go to Rachel Eats.


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