Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Classic recipe corner: Perfect spaghetti carbonara

Every home cook should familiarise themselves with a carbonara recipe.  If you're anything like me, the ingredients are pretty much cupboard and fridge staples and it so quick and easy to do not to mention utterly delicious.

I'm (quite clearly) no Italian mama, and my understanding of Italian food is that recipes tend to vary from region to region in much the same way as they do in this country, so there is possibly no such thing as a completely authentic version - however, this one was taken from The Silver Spoon which I think is about as close to an Italian food bible as one is going to get.  You will note the complete lack of any bells and whistles - no mushrooms or onions and most definitely no cream.  To add cream to a carbonara is, in my humble opinion, just plain wrong - it makes it an entirely different thing.  I love the naked simplicity of this recipe - the rich saltiness of the bacon and cheese and the silky golden coating on the pasta with the faintest hum of garlic.  Utter bliss.

The only change that we make is to sub different types of bacon for the pancetta depending on what we have to hand.  Four rashers of back bacon will give you the same points count for more meat because of the lower fat content and is worth it if you want a good hit of bacon.  Because of the butter I don't really think the end result is compromised.

Admit it - it wouldn't be the WWFoodie without god awful food photography!


10g butter
50g pancetta
1 fat clove of garlic
175g spaghetti
1 medium egg
40g Parmesan cheese

Serves 2, 16 pro points per portion

One of the key things to remember with carbonara is to heat the plates up in advance.  Because you have to combine the pasta and sauce off the heat, it is already starting to cool down by the time you serve it.  Unless you want cold pasta, your plates need to be hot.  So put them in the oven at a low temperature now.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil while you get everything else prepped.

Finely grate the Parmesan cheese.  Whisk the egg and add two thirds of the cheese to it along with a hearty grinding of black pepper.  Peel the garlic clove and then, using the flat of a knife blade, lightly bruise it.  Chop the bacon if you haven't take the lazy route and bought it pre cubed.

Once the water is up to the boil, tip in the spaghetti.  Heat the butter in a frying pan large enough to hold all the pasta once it is cooked.

As the butter melts, add the pancetta and the garlic clove and cook until the bacon is crispy.  It should take about the same amount of time as the pasta takes to cook - that is 8-10 minutes depending on brand.

When the pasta is cooked, reserve a mug full of the cooking water and then drain.  Fish the garlic clove out of the frying pan and throw the pasta straight in.  Over the heat stir well so that the pasta is completely coated in a light layer of butter and bacon fat.

Now - and this is important - you have to remove the pan completely from the heat.  Pour in the egg and cheese mixture and a splash of the cooking water and combine well.  I find tongs the best tool for this to ensure that you are lifting the pasta and it all gets well coated.  Add more cooking water as required - you want the spaghetti to have a very light, silky coating.

Serve in the warmed plates topped with a scrunch more black pepper and the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Sigh in contentment.


  1. I need this immediately!

  2. I do love carbonara...(although I admit that I do occasionally add the verboten cream!!) L xx