Monday, October 4, 2010

Creamy Carbonara

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One of the simplest and quickest pasta dishes to make would have to be a Carbonara. It's a dish that has a creamy egg and cheese sauce tossed with spaghetti and a bit of bacon. The trick to this dish is getting the right consistency for the sauce. Many recipes I've tried resulted in a gloppy mess with little flavor, however this recipe for Creamy Carbonara was absolutely perfect. The sauce was silky smooth, flavorful and and a nice creamy consistency. How did I do it? It's all in the wrist...er, whisk!

To make pasta carbonara, many recipes I've come across goes something like this - boil the pasta and drain. Add whisked eggs and cheese to the hot pasta. Toss, season and garnish with crumbled bacon. As easy as it may be, it does take some practice to get the perfect sauce. This recipe involves a lot of whisking... which is key. Eggs, grated cheese and cream are whisked together to form the base of the carbonara sauce. For additional flavor, bacon is cooked up and minced garlic is sautéed in some bacon fat with a heavy dose of freshly ground black pepper. Some of this garlic-pepper infused bacon fat is then slowly whisked into the egg and cheese mixture. To deglaze the pan, white wine is used to pick up the fond (the browned bits in the bottom of the pan) and the wine is left to reduce by half. Once reduced, this liquid is also slowly whisked into the egg and cheese mixture. By this time, the egg and cheese mixture is loaded with flavor from the garlic-pepper bacon fat and wine reduction. Once the pasta is ready and drained, the egg and cheese mixture is poured over the hot pasta and tossed. Crispy, crumbled bacon is introduced to the pasta along with more cheese and freshly minced parsley for garnish. It's a heavenly dish and my love of carbonara has been renewed!

* If you can, be sure to use some high quality bacon for this dish. It makes the world of difference. I used Nueske's thick cut peppered bacon.


Creamy Carbonara
recipe from Cook's Illustrated Best Ever Recipes

3 large eggs
1 cup (about 2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons heavy cream or half & half
1/2 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces*
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound spaghetti
Optional garnish - minced fresh parsley and additional cheese

Prepare your spaghetti per package directions and cook to al dente, with a little bite.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cheese and cream; set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer the bacon to a towel lined plate to drain. Pour off all  but 2 tablespoons of rendered bacon fat from the pan. Using the same pan, place over medium high heat and add the garlic and pepper. Cook until fragrant then remove from heat and slowly whisk into the bowl with the eggs, cheese and cream.

To the now empty pan, place over medium heat and add the wine. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to remove the browned bits and reduce the liquid by half. Once reduced, slowly whisk the liquid into the bowl with the eggs, cheese and cream.

Check and drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Using tongs, add the pasta to the empty skillet. Immediately pour the eggs, cheese and cream mixture over the pasta and toss to combine with 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Add the crumbled bacon and thin the sauce with the remaining pasta water as necessary. Plate and garnish with more grated cheese and minced parsley.

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