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Pasta Carbonara

March 15, 2010
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Yup, another “go to” dinner when we’re in a bit of a rush. It is also a great way to use up egg yolks left over from a “whites only” recipe. I am told that this dish is named after the beautiful valley on the backside of the mountain town where my father-in-law Saverio kept his sheep and goats. The ground black pepper that spices this dish up represents the coal made in la valle di carbonara or the coal makers valley. Before the houses had modern heating, they were kept warm by burning charcoal, in a low brass pot called “ooh bracere”. That’s as close as I can guess at spelling it as the dialect of those mountain people was very hard to understand let alone how to spell it.  Some Americanized verisons of this dish call for whole eggs and whipping cream but I can promise you that the shepherds in that remote valley did not have whipping cream, so stick to this recipe and you can’t go wrong. Serve with Primitivo (pree-meh-TEE-voh) di Manduria, a rustic zinfandel also with origins in Puglia. 

This is what you’ll need per person:

2 tsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. chopped, smoked pancetta

1 sage leaf or 1/8 tsp. sage, dried and rubbed

1 egg yolk

1 Tbsp. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano –  buy the good stuff, please.

2 oz. spaghetti. I used Trader Joe’s organic spaghetti and they have a very good whole wheat organic as well

Lots of freshly ground pepper

Fill a large pot with water, add about 1 Tbsp. kosher salt and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook ‘til al dente (about a minute less than the manufacturers suggested time take one strand out and cut it, if you see a tiny white spot in the middle it needs a little bit more time, but not much).

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add pancetta and sage. Cook on med heat for 2-3 minutes then turn off.

In a large bowl, put egg yolks and ground pepper. Mix well with fork. Grate parmesan in a separate bowl to add to pasta later.

When the pasta is done, drain well and add to egg mixture. Toss with two forks to coat. The egg will be heated and cook by the hot pasta. Turn the pancetta, sage and oil on top and toss again, followed by the cheese and toss one last time. Serve immediately. Make sure to say “buon appetito” and let me know if everyone has a big smile on their face when they taste this.

Pancetta and sage cooking in olive oil.

Parmigiano-Reggiano ready for grating

Toss hot pasta with egg yolks.

Add pancetta and sage.


and grated Parmigiano

Ready to serve

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jacqueline permalink
    March 16, 2010 11:30 am

    Looks delicious. If anyone is concerned about the possibility of undercooked egg, you can use pasteurized eggs. They’re also great for those of us who like to sample the cookie dough before baking…

  2. Andrew permalink
    March 18, 2010 6:21 am

    Carbonara was the very first thing I ever learned how to make as a kid. We used the recipe from (I’m going to spell the wrong, I’m sure) Ramangolli’s Table, but I’ve got a couple different recipes now. But I’d not seen one where sage was added to the pancetta. I can see that adding a great earthy flavor. Thanks for the tip!

    • March 18, 2010 6:54 am

      I’d never had this before I lived in Italy and oddly both in Como and in Puglia they used sage so I thought it was standard. It’s especially good in the summer with fresh sage from the garden and it gets all crispy. Hope you find other good recipes and tips as I add posts. Amy

  3. Geoff permalink
    March 24, 2010 9:58 pm

    My heart skipped a beat when I saw the pancetta sizzling with the sage…mm mm! I could eat carbonara every day.

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