Spatula, Spoon and Saturday

Eating and Cooking all the things in Melbourne

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara is another one of these things that you make when you are desperate (is it just me or I begin to sound like this on every post?) The ingredients are pretty much cupboard staple: pasta, egg, garlic, bacon, cream, parmasan and salt & pepper. That’s it. There’s nothing fancy to it at all – all cupboard staples (or should be anyway).

I have to say though my favourite carbonara is still going to be at Pelligrini’s on Burke St. in Melbourne. I’m not too sure what it is about Pelligrini’s that makes them totally awesome. They are one of those old school Italian joints – very Italian. I love sitting at the kitchen where Nonna cooks and sporadically yells at the waiters who will then yell back and very very Italian-style vocal fights will ensue. It’s a totally awesome place. One of times I went there with a few workmates, the very charming waiter came up and asked what we’d like for a drink. Poor Andrea, first timer, had made a mistake of asking for a Coke. ‘Coke!’ he sneered, ‘you meant to white powder stuff you snort? Honey we don’t sell that here.’ You have to love those fussy Italians. Pelligrini’s does take a little initiation, there’s no menu. They come by and plonk buttered bread in front of you. And the coffee, the coffee is definitely something else. The serving is so huge that by the time you finish, you realise you can never have desserts (which really are wonderful too – the creme caramel! Oh the creme caramel.)

But back to spaghetti carbonara for one. You start off by bringing a pot of water to boil. While that happens, chop up some smoked bacon or mild pancetta. I think about two-three strips are good amount for one person. Crush two cloves of garlic. Start a non-stick frying pan on low heat and throw in the chopped bacon. The bacon will generally have enough fat on it so I don’t usually add olive oil here. Can you imagine what this dish is? Bacon? Cream? Cheese? There really is no need for more oil. Slowly fry off the bacon – which will take about 5-6 minutes. Don’t forget to plunk in the spaghetti (or whatever pasta you’re using) in the boiling water.

Meanwhile, mix together an egg, 1/4 cup of cream, a handful of freshly grated parmesan*, good pinches of salt and freshly ground pepper to make the sauce.

So by now your bacon should be nicely browned and your spaghetti just al dente. Add your garlic to the bacon. Drain your pasta but leave some cooking water, about a tablespoon. Immediately toss the pasta into the bacon and turn the heat off. Slowly, pour the egg and cream mixture over the hot pasta and toss around. This is very important. If the heat is too high, you will end up with scrambled eggs. So I guess practice makes perfect. Leave the pasta to sit for about two minutes before serving, topped with some more parmesan and freshly cracked pepper.

How easy was that.

* A note about parmesan cheese. Buy a block of it and only grate it when you want to use it. No ifs. No buts. It doesn’t matter how lazy you are. Do not buy the poor imitation that is pre-grated parmesan.