A year ago in Rome, I had the best pasta carbonara - the sauce was very eggy and the pasta was coated with its velvety smooth richness. The plate of golden heaven had a balance of salt and smoke from the perfect ratio of guanciale and pancetta. The sauce was silky smooth - not a lump or a curdle in sight. Kissed with a hint of percorino this dish will forever stand in my mind as a the benchmark for carbonaras in the future.
This weekend I had my first attempt at creating pasta carbonara. I used this speciality pasta I picked up a Coop store in Florence, Italy. It is like a miniature lasagne sheet - but the width and thickness of linguini. (I apologize, I don't know Italian so I'm unable to tell you exactly what type of pasta this is. Can anyone help out?) I thought the pasta was interesting and the ridges would be provide a good contrast to the smoothness of any sauce - and catch sauce as well.
Ooh, I love grocery stores in Italy - far more interesting than the ones in States. (I'm sorry, but it is true!)
I picked up the majority of the ingredients for my pasta in Florence - from left to right you'll see the pork products I got at the central market. I asked for guanciale and she gave me two types - the one that's mostly fat is the one from the jowl portion and the circular one is the one from the center cheek. The half fat/half lean piece on the right is a verison of pancetta. I used half and half and percorino from Whole Foods Market. Dang, I shoulda gotta some percorino in Italy as well...bah.
The bowl of yolks on the left is from the local farmer's market. Note the lovely "red" of the yolks. Glorious - this is how eggs SHOULD look. When I was separating the yolks from the whites in my hands I could FEEL the egginess of the yolk. They were plump and fresh.
Sidebar: When I get my film developed, I'll post the picture of the stand where I purchased these beauties. Can I just tell you I nearly fainted from pork fat pleasure when I walked into that place? It is sheer heaven for those who love pork. Pancetta, lardo, guanciale, prosciutto...heavenly. Forget buying Italian shoes, I'll be the first in line to smuggle some pork products back into the States!
I minced the two types of guanciale and pancetta into small pieces - turns out TOO small as when I was done cooking them over a medium flame, I ended up with something closer to lardons than slightly undercooked bacon (think British breakfast - soft bacon not BLT bacon). I believe I cooked them too long as well.
Next time, I will adjust the size of the guanciale and pancetta. However, the crunchy pieces provided a good contrast to the pasta and egg in the final dish.
I cooked the pasta in salted water for 9 minutes, making sure it was al dente. After eating perfectly prepared pasta in Florence I didn't want to sully my palate by eating gummy strands of starch. (Pasta snob alert!
) As soon as it was done I drained the pasta, swirled the pasta around the pan that I used to cooked the guanciale and pancetta in so that it could absorb the browned bitts of goodness and a little bit of oil (don't worry, I drained most of it off first!), added the yolks (lightly beaten - I was worried that adding the yolks whole to hot pasta would cause them to poach - I know, worrywart and silly) then thinned the yolks with half and half, added some percorino and black pepper.
I was careful not too add too much as I destest carbonaras that are pale with excess cream/half and half. Ai ya, if I wanted to eat alfredo I would've ordered it, ya know?
And here is the final product in its messy glory.
I would've added a little bit more half and half to the pasta to get a silkier consistency. Otherwise, I thought this was a pretty good first attempt. Now I have to control myself from making it for another 2 months lest my cholestrol go through the roof!
PS: I'm still learning to use the digital camera. Excuse the not-so clear shots!
Edited by Gastro888, 28 February 2005 - 06:48 PM.