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Spaghetti Carbonara

This past weekend, Hubs and I went to visit my parents, which was kind of nice.  This time around, it wasn’t stressful and my parents seemed happy.  We were there to drop off a laptop for my mom.  My mom’s finally retired after working well past the typical retirement age of 65.  Though these days, many older adults are working past retirement because they have to, my mom did just because she liked working.  Now, she has tons of time and wants to learn how to use computers.  So Saturday was spent setting up the laptop and teaching my mom how to navigate the world wide web and use the mouse.  It was kind of fun seeing her so happy, as she sent off her first email to my brother and her sisters, learned how to do a search on Google and surfed the web.  She used to always get mad at my brother and me for sitting at the computer for hours playing video games, so it was funny to see her glued to the screen. It was even funnier when she looked up at the clock, saw it was 6pm and exclaimed, “Where did the time go??  Did I just spend the last three hours on this computer?  How did that happen?!”  Hee hee.

Now on to the food.  I made this dish for Hubs and Jeff a couple weeks ago when Jeff was here, but didn’t get around to posting it until now.  The first words out of Jeff’s mouth when he saw the pasta had been, “Spaghetti carbonara?  That’s so easy to make.  My little sister makes that at home.”  Hmm…not sure how I feel about that, seeing as to how he doesn’t cook.  But he and Hubs both liked it and ate a lot, so I guess that’s what matters.

Please note that this recipe includes raw egg yolks, which are not recommended for young children, the elderly and for those with compromised immune systems.  If you have concerns about eating raw eggs, it would be best to choose a different recipe.  The raw egg yolks are cooked briefly over medium heat when the yolk mixture is incorporated with the pancetta cream sauce and also by the heat of the pasta.  I have to admit, I was slightly concerned about Hubs complaining or even worse, refusing to eat it because it contained raw egg yolks.  I ended up cooking the cream sauce a little longer over the stove (after the yolk mixture was incorporated), just to be sure.  The end result was a cream sauce that had what looked like little bits of lightly scrambled eggs, but the taste was not affected at all.  The pasta was delicious!  This makes for a very filling meal, due in part, I’m sure, to the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese that is used in this dish.

The original recipe called for grated Pecorino cheese, but I used Parmesan cheese, since that’s what I had available.  Parmesan cheese is a good substitute for Pecorino, as are Asaigo and Spanish Manchego cheeses.

Spaghetti Carbonara, adapted from The Oprah Magazine Cookbook

2 T. olive oil
6 oz. pancetta or thick bacon, cut into 1-inch long, thin strips
1 small onion, finely diced
1 lb. spaghetti
2 T. kosher salt
2 large egg yolks
2 T. chopped parsley
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1/3 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
20 basil leaves, washed and finely shredded or cut into thin strips

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add pancetta and cook 5 minutes.  Add onion and saute until both the onion and pancetta are lightly browned.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add kosher salt and cook pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, stir together egg yolks, parsley and 1/3 cup cheese.  Return pancetta and onion to skillet over medium heat.  Add cream and pepper and bring to a slow simmer.

Strain pasta, reserving 1-1/4 cups of pasta water.  Keep pasta warm in a small amount of pasta water, so that noodles to not begin sticking together.  Blend 1/4 cup of pasta water with yolk mixture, then stir into pancetta cream sauce.  Add another 1/2 to 3/4 cup of pasta water to mixture and simmer sauce until bubbling and slightly thickened, approximately 1 minute.

Return pasta to pot and toss with sauce.  Add the shredded basil leaves and toss well.  If necessary, add more pasta water to make sauce creamy.  Serve with additional grated cheese on the side.

Serves 6.

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