Pasta alla Carbonara
There are 2 dubious origins of this dish. One says that this hearty, warming pasta was served to coal miners (evoking the name “Carbonara”) and the key ingredient of coarsely ground black pepper helped to disguise any flecks of coal soot in the meal! Yech! The other myth comes from World War II. When U.S. soldiers came to Italy they brought the custom of bacon and eggs, and somehow this mingled with the Italian tradition of pasta with parmesan and a new dish symbolizing the U.S.-Italian alliance was born. Which is true? Who knows! But it IS delicious, so who cares!
*Many recipes for this dish call for ½ cup of whipping cream rather than milk and no vinegar. This may be the most canonical version but I rely on the knowledge that most Italians I know distrust the use of cream in anything except gelato, and find “heavy” food unpleasant. My version is by no means diet food anyway. Enjoy!
PASTA ALLA CARBONARA
2 tbsp butter
3 slices of bacon (or pancetta) cut into ¼ inch pieces
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
½ package of your favorite type of pasta
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
Salt to taste
lots of freshly cracked pepper
Boil pasta in abundant, salty water according to package directions. In a medium saucepan, fry the bacon pieces over medium low heat until they are thoroughly crispy. High heat will make them dark brown on the outside, chewy on the inside. Take the pieces out with a slotted spoon and reserve the fat. Add the butter to the pan. Once it has melted, add the milk and vinegar and stir constantly until heated through and steaming, but not boiling. The milk will curdle but don’t worry, that’s what’s supposed to happen. Take the pan off the heat and add the beaten egg and parmesan, stir. This will make a light custard. Once the pasta is al dente, strain it completely (no extra pasta water added to this dish), add it to the sauce and mix thoroughly. Salt to taste, sprinkle with lots of roughly cracked pepper and the reserved bacon pieces. Serve immediately.