Authentic Pasta Carbonara by Karen Martini from her amazing new cookbook, New Kitchen
The first spaghetti ‘carbonara’ I ever ate was on Lygon Street back in the … let’s just say it was the eighties. A massive bowl of pasta swimming in cream with plenty of bacon, sliced button mushrooms and the unmistakable aroma of jarred garlic. I wouldn’t say I minded it much back then, but, over the years, I realised I could definitely do better. Firstly, out with the mushrooms, in with fresh garlic and a lighter hand with the cream. A bit later, the bacon or pancetta had to be the best I could get, as did the pasta, and it had to be al dente. Later came a little dried chilli, and the cream faded to a trickle to subtly enrich the golden egg yolks. Today, it is far more authentic. No cream, just the most luscious organic yolks, the best oil and the best cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano – indulgent, I know). Simple and just so beautiful. I cooked this version for my mother one day. Her response? ‘This isn’t carbonara! Where are the mushrooms?’ Sometimes you just can’t win. To fully redeem that old memory, try this with my Garlic Bread.
500 g strozzapreti (or quality pasta of your choice)
6 extra-large egg yolks
120 ml extra-virgin olive oil salt flakes and freshly ground
10 thick slices of pancetta (or dry-cured bacon), cut into lardons
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced 150 g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
chilli flakes, to serve
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente.
Meanwhile, lightly beat the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons of the oil and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl.
Add the remaining oil to a large frying pan over medium heat and fry the pancetta until crisp, about 5 minutes – don’t worry about this being oily, it’s integral to building the sauce. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so until lightly golden and fragrant. Lift the cooked pasta directly from the pot into the pan, season with salt and pepper, toss to combine and take off the heat.
Tip the yolk mix into the pan and immediately toss through until evenly coated. Add a handful of Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss through quickly. Divide the pasta between serving bowls, sprinkle over some chilli flakes and serve with the remaining Parmigiano- Reggiano on the side.