The salty rich pairing of eggs and bacon are most often thought of for breakfast but this sumptuous and creamy recipe (no cream added by the way) offers up a dish fit for dinner and is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters. It is easy and quick for those nights when time is of the essence and the pantry seems a bit bare. Traditionally, this is made with pancetta or “Italian bacon.” This meat is cured with salt and spices but unlike the American style, it is not usually smoked. For me, I really enjoy the smokiness of bacon so for this recipe I chose Neuskes. This is a Wisconsin company which makes me very happy because it is local but their products also make me very happy as they are consistently high quality and their process of smoking with applewood gives them a distinctive deep flavor. Because of this pronounced smokiness, however, I chose to use linguine (“Little Tongues”) for this recipe as opposed to the traditional spaghetti. Your choice, of course, but I think the liguine stands up better to the strong flavor of the bacon as it is thin/long flat ribbons that hold onto every bite of the sauce. If you can’t find Nueskes where you live, you can order it online or find a suitable local substitute.
Let me talk a bit about the process. First of all, some carbonara recipes use cream to achieve that silky texture of the sauce. I chose to skip the extra fat, not that I am opposed to cream, I assure you I am not, but for this preparation I used pasta water and a bit of extra Parmigiano-Reggiano to accomplish the task of the cream. You won’t miss it. Another important note is the incorporation of the eggs. To prevent the mixture from curdling, it is best to add them slowly, off heat, stirring quickly and constantly. You can add additional pasta water if necessary and/or additional cheese if desired. Make sure the pasta is hot when you add the egg mixture. It is the residual heat that fully cooks the egg.
That said, here it goes!
LINGUINE CARBONARA Serves 6-8
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
4 fresh farm eggs, room temp
½ c Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
½ c Pecorino Romano + ¼ c added later if needed
8 oz. thick-sliced bacon, diced (or more authentic, pancetta)
1 small onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1lb. linguine, cooked, reserve 1c of pasta water (spaghetti is more traditional for this dish but I like the toothiness of linguine especially if using a smoky bacon as opposed to the pancetta)
½ c fresh flat leafed parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and the ½ c of each of the Parmigiano and Romano cheeses, set aside.
2. Cook bacon or pancetta in a large sauté pan until rendered and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate. Reserve. Pour off all but ¼ c of the bacon fat.
3. Cook the onion and garlic in the bacon drippings over medium-low heat until beginning to soften.
4. Meanwhile cook linguine in a large pot of boiling water that is abundantly salted (water should taste like the sea). Follow package directions reducing the prescribed cooking time by a minute or two so pasta is al dente. Drain and reserve 1c of pasta water.
5. Add pasta to the onion garlic mixture along with ¼ c of the pasta water. Toss to coat and cook until the water nearly evaporates, 10-15 seconds.
6. Remove pan from the heat and add the egg/cheese mixture slowly while stirring quickly to avoid curdling. Continue vigorous stirring until sauce thickens. Add additional pasta water and extra cheese if necessary until sauce reaches your desired consistency. It should not be too loose or too thick so adjust accordingly.
7. Toss in ¼ c of the parsley and reserved bacon. Stir to incorporate.
8. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with remaining parsley and additional cheese if desired.
This dish is a crowd pleaser for sure. Pair it with a crisp salad and you have a meal. It is quick and easy and highly desired by children and adults alike. I am getting hungry just writing about this. Did I mention it makes a great brunch dish? It is always a favorite. Hope it soon becomes one of yours.