Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

The days are getting darker, shorter and colder, and you are about to see a whole lot of Italian comfort food coming out of this kitchen.  In this family we have Italian genes (among many others), and an affinity for all things Italian peasant when it comes to cooking.  I am also entering into an intensely busy time at work, which means quick and easy recipes are more important than ever.  In this spirit, after a very busy Monday, I whipped together this Spaghetti alla Carbonara for our dinner.   This recipe is hearty, satisfying, simple and inexpensive.  Healthy?  Not so much.  You could definitely substitute something leaner for the guanciale (you could even try this with a good turkey bacon), but you're seeing a guanciale theme here because a certain someone got carried away at the Italian specialty foods store, and we have a surplus of it at the moment.  This version of the recipe isn't winning any Weight Watchers awards anytime soon, but as a special treat of a stick-to-your-ribs Monday comfort-fest, it is unbeatable.

1/4 lb guanciale (pancetta or bacon would work as well)
1 lb spaghetti
2 large handfuls baby spinach
4 eggs
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper to taste

Start by putting a large pot of salted water on to boil and heating a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add a splash of extra virgin olive oil to the skillet while it heats.  Meanwhile, chop the guanciale, pancetta or bacon.  Add the meat to the heated pan to slowly brown.  Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them with a fork.
Organic eggs + kitchen assistant bouncing away in background.

When the pot of water comes to a roiling boil, add the spaghetti, which should take 8-10 minutes to cook to al dente.  During the last two minutes of cooking, throw the spinach in with the pasta.  Drain the pasta and spinach into a colander, reserving a half-cup of the cooking liquid (I find it is easiest to do this by dipping a Pyrex measuring cup into the pot before draining it).  Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place it on paper towels to drain.

Toss the pasta and spinach with the rendered fat from the meat.  Add the reserved cooking water and continue tossing. Add the beaten eggs to the warm pasta, tossing quickly to combine the egg with the pasta before it can overcook.  Ideally, the egg forms more of a silky sauce than a soft scramble, but honestly it is good either way.  Finish the dish with grated parmesan cheese and copious amounts of fresh ground pepper.

Oh, this was just so, so, so good.  Like a hug from an Italian grandma.  This is the kind of meal that makes you linger and chat as you go back for seconds (and thirds), which was exactly what we did.  And this also earned high marks from the husband as a leftovers-lunch.  This recipe would serve 4 hungry people, or a couple with a couple lunches to spare, which is just how we like it around here.


  1. I'm definitely going to try this one Jane. As of coarse I pretty much have the same taste buds/stomach as B. We love left over lunches too. Thanks for the great recipe.

  2. Just like Bethany made for the countess and her housekeeper!!! I turn around, it's Yom Kippur, I turn around, it's Mama J's bday!!!!!