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Spaghetti carbonara is not my favorite of the Roman pastas to eat (I’ll take Amatriciana), but it is my favorite to make. An undeniable feat of alchemy, the ingredients for spaghetti carbonara go from watery, weird, soupy raw egg mess to a luscious, creamy, silky sauce in minutes (and then, seconds).
I have learned that many are afraid of carbonara— the scrambled egg of it all— but this recipe has enough pasta water to alleviate your concerns, and, if you’re patient enough to do things lower and slower than usual (me, talking to me), you’ll have something shockingly perfect, not one scrambled egg in sight.
What I’m saying is: Trust in the process because cooking is MAGIC. Never forget that.
Carbonara questions? See you in the comment section!
Click HERE for a printable PDF.
SPAGHETTI CARBONARA FOR ONE
I don’t plan on offering this disclaimer every time I write a recipe (although sometimes I think I should), but I am in no way saying this is the definitive way to make spaghetti carbonara. It might not even be “the right way?” But, this is the way I make it, the way it makes sense to me, the way it tastes best, and honestly, I think it’s great.
The amount of sauce produced here could absolutely go the distance for double the amount of pasta, useful to know if you find yourself in bed with someone needing some LNP (late night pasta).
1 tablespoon/13g olive oil
A slice of guanciale or pancetta (if you want to use bacon, sure, you can), about ¼” thick, cut into ¼” pieces (about 2 oz/55g)
A personal palmful of spaghetti (about 3 ounces, but who is weighing spaghetti)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 garlic clove, finely grated (optional, but it is my preference)
About ½ cup (1 oz/30g) finely grated parmesan and/or pecorino cheese, plus more for grating on top with reckless abandon
Freshly ground black pepper, lots of it
1. Heat olive oil and guanciale or pancetta in a medium skillet over medium heat until most of the fat has started rendering out and the meat starts to brown (this is not a traditional step, but I like when the meat gets browned and starts caramelizing on the bottom of the skillet), 4–6 minutes. Remove from heat and using a spoon, transfer the meat to a small bowl, leaving the fat behind.
2. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolk, garlic, and ½ cup cheese in a medium bowl. Season with a little salt and LOTS of black pepper. Like, really go for it. Okay, now add a little more.
3. Cook pasta in a medium pot of salted boiling water about halfway through (it should be malleable but still just before al dente).
4. Return the skillet with the fat to medium heat and using tongs, place the pasta in the skillet (this means I don’t have to drain the pasta and worry about “reserving” the pasta water, it just stays in the pot), and add in about ½ cup pasta water, swirling to scrape up all the sticky, porky bits. Cook here for a minute or so.
5. Whisk in ¾ cup pasta water to the egg/cheese mixture and then add pasta to that bowl, using your tongs to toss, toss, toss.
6. Return the pasta and all the sauce to the skillet over medium heat (it will look watery and soupy and tbh, not all that great, just wait!). Cook the pasta and continue to toss, moving the skillet and the pasta, letting the sauce come together and become totally emulsified and creamy. If you notice any bits of scrambled eggs, your heat is too high-- remove it from the heat and let it cool before continuing.
7. Just before it looks thick enough, remove it from the heat, and yeah, keep tossing. Toss it! Add more pasta water if it’s looking a bit dry (this pasta goes from saucy to sticky very quickly, pasta water will keep you saucy).
8. Transfer it to a bowl or eating vessel of your choice. Top with more black pepper, parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of the meaty crispy bits (save any meaty crispy bits for “meat snacks” later).