Whenever I am looking to make a quick meal, Spaghetti Alla Carbonara always comes to mind. In the amount of time it takes to boil the pasta, the sauce is ready. This is a dish that I first had when studying in France, and I was certain that it had some sort of liquid dairy product in it, either cream or whole milk. Once I realized that it is essentially pasta with bacon and eggs, it became obvious to me that this would be one of those recipes that I would have to perfect.
To prepare, there are four basic steps. One, sauté bacon in a frying pan (my preference is to use pancetta because it gives a taste of warm spices without having an overpowering smokiness). I also almost always include onion and garlic to add more flavor and on occasion I will even put some sliced mushrooms into the pan as well.
Two, cook pasta in lightly salted water. My preference for variety of pasta for this recipe is spaghetti. You can cook whatever pasta you like, but for me there is something about the long round noodles whose thickness allow enough surface area for the sauce to really adhere adequately.
Three, beat eggs (one for each serving of pasta) in a bowl and stir grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese and lots of black pepper into the beaten eggs. In restaurants, I have seen the chef separate the egg yolks from the whites and reserve them for a garnish at the table, but that just complicates the process for me at home.
Four, drain the pasta, combine the bacon and egg mixture to the pasta and stir. The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs. I always scoop out a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water before I drain the pasta and add it while I stir the pasta and sauce together because it thins the sauce a bit and gives it a velvety smoothness. I think the starchy water is what I always mistook for a bit of liquid dairy as the result is a creaminess that just isn’t there without it.
I grate more cheese and grind some additional black pepper over the top. This is where the separated egg yolk would be rested in a nest of the pasta for the diner to stir into the dish, but like I said, that is an unnecessary complication for me at home. I like the idea of garnishing the dish with a component of the dish itself, but the grated cheese and pepper do the trick for me.