Pasta Un-Carbonara

By • April 28, 2011 28 Comments

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Author Notes: As a cook, I’d love to be remembered as someone who took inspiration from my culinary heritage, but also relished making dishes my own, by not feeling shackled by recipes, but rather enjoying the freedom to apply skills I’ve acquired over the years to bring new techniques and ingredients to my cooking. I’d also like to be remembered for the time I’ve spent cooking with my family, teaching my kids a few things about cooking before they head out on their own in the world.

This dish, our twist on Spaghetti Carbonara spoke to both of these things, and therefor fit the bill of this week’s challenge nicely. A family favorite that gives a nod to my Italian culinary roots, but veers from the traditional in substantive ways, it’s a dish that was born out of experimentation with my clan, one that the kids not only helped to re-define, but ultimately learned how to make themselves. And the best part just might be the fact that it’s finished with an element that the kids and I learned together just for this dish (David Chang’s “just” poached egg), how cool is that.

This is not a “carbonara” in the true sense as the real deal is always made with spaghetti, and NEVER with cream or herbs and spices other than salt and lots of black pepper. What this dish IS, is a treat that takes the basic elements of a carbonara, eggs, bacon, cheese and pasta and spins them into a familiar, yet unique play on the classic. The sauce is fortified with shallot, rosemary, cream, butter, parmesan and pimenton, the guanciale, cut into thick lardons is seared to a perfect chewy-crisp. The final flourish is the egg, poached a la Chef Chang to yield a just-set globe of deliciousness that dissolves completely when each diner “finishes” the dish themselves by stirring the egg among the bite-sized bits of sauce enrobed pasta.....a little bit of magic on a plate. - Oui, Chef
Oui, Chef

Food52 Review: This un-carbonara recipe combines all the elements of a delicious simple and tasty pasta sauce; bacon, egg, cheese, cream and a little pimenton to add a spicy kick. It's exceptionally simple to make, although the eggs do take a fair amount of babysitting. That being said, the results are certainly worth the effort. I found moderating the temperature was most easily done by popping in an ice cube when the temperature rose to 141°F. It's fun to experiment with a new technique, and it was simple enough to keep an eye on it while prepping the rest of the ingredients. I like my sauces a little more on the thick side, so didn't add much of the pasta water and there was still enough sauce left for my bread to soak up! - thehappycookthehappycook

Serves 6

  • 6 large, free-range organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 stick, unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated parmesan-reggiano cheese, plus peeled strips for garnish
  • 12 ounces guanciale (or thickly sliced pancetta) cut into lardons
  • 1 pound small shelled pasta (we use Lumachine)
  • Finely minced parsley for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. For the eggs, place a cooling rack or steamer insert (I used my tamis) in the bottom of a large pot or deep baking pan, fill with hot water, insert a fry thermometer, and place on stove over medium heat. Bring temperature to 140 to 145 ? degrees, then turn the heat to the lowest setting possible and add eggs (still in their shells). They must stay on the rack and not touch the bottom of the pan. Maintain the temperature within this range, checking frequently and adjusting the flame as needed, and cook the eggs for 40-45 minutes. We were lucky, our combination of using a large Le Creuset dutch oven, the tamis, and the lowest possible flame on the range kept the temperature just over 140 ? with very little babysitting. Test an egg after 40 minutes by cracking into a small bowl, if the white is cooked, the egg is done. If not, try another in 5 minutes. When the eggs are done, use immediately, or let sit on the counter to cool slightly while you pull the rest of the dish together.
  2. While the eggs are poaching, place a large skillet over medium heat, and cook the guanciale in a fine slick of olive oil until nicely browned, but before it has rendered all of its fat, you want it to be crispy-chewy. Remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off any excess fat in the pan, then set it aside to use later. Put a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat and toss in 2 tablespoons of the butter and the minced shallot, cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, rosemary and pimenton, and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the cream and bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to low, then whisk in the balance of the butter in chunks until it is fully integrated. Pour the grated cheese in slowly, whisking all the while until it is fully melted and the mix is smooth. Mix with an immersion blender until silky smooth, then season to taste with salt and black pepper, remove from heat, cover and reserve.
  3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water per the manufacturers instructions for an al-dente texture. When done, drain well (reserving a cup of cooking water to thin your sauce later in needed), and pour the pasta into the large skillet in which you cooked the guanciale. Add the cream sauce and guanciale and place over a low-medium heat to warm through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if desired.
  4. To plate, spoon the pasta mix into a heated bowl, break a poached egg in the center, top with parmesan shavings, minced parsley and freshly ground black pepper. Just before eating, encourage all to stir the egg into the pasta until it melts completely.

More Great Recipes: Cheese & Dairy|Eggs|Pasta|Entrees

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Comments (28) Questions (0)


over 2 years ago darksideofthespoon

This looks so wonderful! I plan on trying this next week, perhaps with a little less cream, however. We're trying to "diet". ;)


over 4 years ago blanka.n

I hate to be a naysayer here - you have a new twist on carbonara - but it's way too much cream. 1 cup maybe. Carbonara is so delicate - mine tastes differently each time I make it - depending on the pancetta brand, parm brand, saltiness of ingredients etc., the amount of cream or no cream (sometimes I don't have it) I like the idea of rosemary - that I might try next time.


over 4 years ago cookinginvictoria

Wow -- as someone with Italian roots, this looks like perfection on a plate. I would not at all send the food police after you for using cream in a carbonara-style dish. That egg poaching technique sounds amazing. I will have to try it with this recipe, and on its own. I also wanted to say that your head note is lovely -- I especially like how you are teaching your children about cooking and that they are finding their own way in the kitchen. Love how they helped create this dish with you. I am trying to teach my own six year old daughter about the pleasures of food and the fun of cooking!


over 4 years ago gingerroot

This sounds amazing! Love that it is the product of you and your children in the kitchen. Will definitely be trying this soon, thank you for another wonderful recipe, Oui, Chef!


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thanks, gingerroot...I'd love to hear how it goes if you get around to making it. - S


over 4 years ago lapadia

Oui, This narrative clearly “shines brightly” on your desired personal legacy and the recipe is one of many culinary milestones identifying that you are well on your way to achieving all you hope for; much luck with your endeavor and thank you for sharing it all with us!


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thank you so much for your kind words, lapadia. - S


over 4 years ago lastnightsdinner

Wow, this is just gorgeous, and I am definitely going to have to play with that egg technique!


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thanks, Jennifer. Yeah, the egg is a special thing, great not only because you can make a BUNCH of them at once, but also because it turns out so tender that once stirred into the pasta, it literally disappears. I kept thinking that there would be chunks of egg-white turning up here and there, but there was none, it just vanishes. - S


over 4 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.



over 4 years ago Oui, Chef



over 4 years ago lorigoldsby

love the "easy peasy" aspect of the egg...thanks for embracing the freedom and sharing your creativity with us. This is definitely a remarkable dish and I predict an EP!


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Well I don't know about an EP, but I appreciate your vote of confidence, lorigoldsby!


over 4 years ago Midge

Wow! This sounds scrumptious and couldn't be more perfect for this theme. Cannot wait to try this crazy egg-poaching method.


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thanks, Midge. DO try the poaching technique, it will amaze you. - S


over 4 years ago wssmom

Whatever you call it, it looks and sounds divine! Can't wait to try it!!


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thanks, wssmom. Funny name, I know, but I was afraid to call it a carbonara for fear that the food police would jump ugly with me because I added cream (among other things) to the dish.


over 4 years ago hennef7

I agree with other commenters....this sounds devine! Can't wait to try it and will comment again.


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thanks! I hope you do try it, and can't wait to hear what you think. - S


over 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Does the egg just come out of the shell without a fight? This looks amazing.


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

aargersi, I had that exact same thought as I gently cracked open the first egg. Fact is, a very thin membrane of white stays behind in the shell, but the rest just slips out like a charm....easy peasy. - S


over 4 years ago fitsxarts

this sounds incredible. will def. make this soon. wondering how is the egg poached and not hard-boiled if it is cooked in its shell?


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

That's the "magic" part of the dish. The long, low temp cooking is just enough to soft poach the egg, but allows it to keep a nice compact shape. They are beautiful, really.


over 4 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I love a pasta that isn't afraid of cream. That poached egg - gorgeous!


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Amen, boulangere!


over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Oh my goodness. We should call you Voodoo Chef, because this is INDEED magic on a plate! Love the poached egg technique - what's a tamis??


over 4 years ago Oui, Chef

Thanks, mrslarkin. A tamis is often called a drum sieve, and is often used for passing purees through to get them incredibly refined and smooth. Robuchon's famed potatoes are passed through a tamis 4-5 times by his kitchen slaves. It sort of looks like a big tambourine, with a fine mesh screen along one side. Mine was perfect for making these eggs. Hmmm...I like the sound of Voodoo Chef, I will take it under advisement. ;-) - S


over 4 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

The old English recipe books call it a "tammy," but theirs (if my memory serves me correctly) were cloth bags. I've heard that you can still get them, though it's getting increasingly difficult. The cloth has a very tight weave; I read somewhere that some chefs prefer the cloth tammy to a mesh strainer, because the tight weave keeps even the tiniest solids out of the sauce or stock. ;o)