It is no wonder that Italian cooking is often featured in the quick cooking books; the very nature of pasta often requires that the cook not linger. In its final moments spaghetti alla carbonara is perhaps one of the quickest pastas and it must be so to obtain its very character. Lingering over this dish is not a good idea, at least when one is at the stove. The table is entirely another issue.
3-4 oz lean bacon, chopped medium
2 medium onions, chopped medium
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 lb spaghetti
1 Tbsp salt
Salt and pepper to taste
(NOTE: the bacon and onions can be prepared in advance and reheated prior to tossing with the eggs, noodles, and cheese) Place the bacon in a large saute pan over medium heat and cook until it is crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan, as well as all but a tablespoon of the fat. Add the onions and 1/2 tsp salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are golden. This can take some time but the rich caramelized flavor of the onions makes up for the reduced amount of bacon in this recipe. It may be necessary to deglaze the pan during the caramelization process in order to prevent the onions and their fond (the brown layer on the bottom of the pan) from burning. Use about 1/4 cup water to deglaze when necessary. Return the bacon to the pan and reduce the heat to low to just keep the mixture warm. Bring a full pot of water to a rolling boil with 1 Tbsp salt. Add the pasta and cook until it is al dente (tender but not mushy), approximately 8-10 minutes. Now you need to work quickly to preserve the necessary heat. Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Immediately return the pasta to the hot cooking pot and top with the bacon mixture. Drizzle three tablespoons of the pasta water into the lightly beaten eggs while beating in order to temper the eggs. Stir the cheese into the eggs and pour this mixture over the noodles. Use kitchen tongs or a long handled spoon and fork to toss the mixture together thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
VEGAN NOTES: This is not a good recipe for vegans due to the elemental nature of the bacon and eggs.
GLUTEN NOTES: Use gluten-free pasta.
© Katherine C. Otterstrom, July 2012