By Simoney Girard
When I think of spaghetti carbonara, I usually imagine a gorgeously creamy béchamel-style sauce, with mushrooms and chunks of bacon clinging dreamily to the pasta.
So when my friend Fiona invited me to hers for a meal, and said she would be cooking carbonara, that is what I had in mind.
What I got was something completely different and wonderfully tasty, far removed from the saucy carbonaras we are used to in the UK.
She said it was a traditional way of cooking it in Napoli, her home town. And I think it is much better than the creamy style: it’s healthier for a start and you can taste each individual ingredient.
However, her recipe does not involve mushrooms or pine nuts – and I need them – so I’ve adapted it to suit my own tastes, as all the best recipes do.
You will need:
Some good spaghetti – cheap is cheerful, but it tends to boil too softly and break. A firm, whole wheat spaghetti adds a nutty flavour to the meal.
A very good guide to how much is to make a circle with your index finger and tip of the thumb; this is the average portion per person. If you are like me and you have a Greek boyfriend, use three portions.
4-6 medium sized, coarsely chopped slices of pancetta (if you are on a budget, just use back bacon instead)
A generous handful of button mushrooms, cleaned well and chopped
2 medium sized eggs
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, to taste
Olive oil, salt, pepper, etc
Several sprigs of fresh parsley
Pine nuts (to be extra)
Some parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated into a dish (If you’re on a budget, just use cheddar – shock, horror! Yep, it still tastes good).
Start boiling some water into a saucepan.
Get a nice big skillet or frying pan on the heat, pour in some lovely extra virgin olive oil and add the onion and cloves of garlic.
While these are browning nicely, add the chopped mushrooms and pine nuts and give them a stir. Add the pancetta.
If the water in the saucepan is starting to boil, put the spaghetti into it and gently push it down into the water using the lid of the saucepan until it’s soft enough to put the lid on the pan. Leave it to boil, then simmer for a few minutes.
While this is boiling, get a bowl, crack the eggs and beat these nicely as if you were going to make scrambled egg. Add some black pepper and salt.
Check the pasta. If the spaghetti is done (I still love the old ‘chuck a strand against a wall’ test) then drain the spaghetti, pour some olive oil into the saucepan, add the mixture from the frying pan and stir in the egg over a medium heat.
You will see the egg start to take on a ‘scrambled egg’ effect. Keep stirring every so often to make sure it doesn’t catch, but when the egg is all cooked and sticking to the spaghetti, the Carbonara is ready to serve.
Dish it out onto a plate, add the pecorino/parmesan/cheddar to taste, a sprig of parsley and sprinkle a few more pine nuts on for extra effect.
You can always team this with a light white wine – and I’m sure fellow EllaMag blogger Geordie Clarke can suggest something suitable!
You can follow Simoney on Twitter @MoorgateMermaid She blogs at Mermaid of Moorgate