Daddy's Carbonara

By • July 19, 2009 • 46 Comments

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Author Notes: I refuse on principle to make pasta with butter (or powdered cheese) for my children. So I respond with this crowd-pleaser and artery-clogger. I prepared this version for my daughter's slumber party, and everyone loved it (even the vegetarian). Quick to prepare and easy to have on hand. Modify quantities and proportions as you will. Note use of complete packages below. I totally prefer American bacon to pancetta for its crispness in this dish.Eric Liftin

Food52 Review: A good carbonara is not easy to find -- nor, for that matter, to make. We found the silky, rich sauce resulting from generous doses of bacon, egg and cheese totally addictive, and peas are a great addition. We also love the story behind Eric's recipe. After all, feeding one's children is often a necessity that breeds culinary invention. Because one of us (we won't name names) suffers the chronic plight of scrambling her eggs when she makes carbonara, we tempered the egg and cheese mixture by whisking in about 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water before adding the spaghetti. 10 oz. is a whole lotta peas (we're guessing Eric's kids are fans), so feel free to take his advice and modify the proportions. - A&MThe Editors

Serves about 6

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 10 ounces frozen peas (1 package)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • black pepper
  1. Start cooking the pasta (I have long subscribed to the less-water method Harold McGee addresses here).
  2. Take the bacon out of the package, cold out of the refrigerator, and cut across the slices into 1/2" wide blocks. Cook in a skillet over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the blocks with a wooden spoon.
  3. Dump the peas into a Pyrex bowl with a little water and microwave 3-4 minutes, until they are warm, stirring halfway through.
  4. While all the cooking is going on, Mix the egg, parmesan, and pepper (to taste - it's best to use a lot, but for kids, maybe less) in a large bowl. It should have the consistency of thick batter.
  5. When the pasta is done, drain it quickly. Don't linger, as it's good to capture some of the water. Dump the steaming spaghetti into the egg mixture, and agitate well to cook the egg. Add the bacon with a slotted spoon. Some purists will just empty the skillet into the bowl, but that is too much. Mix in the peas, and you're done. The biggest challenge is to get the bacon and peas mixed in evenly - I recommend steel tongs.
  • This recipe is a Wildcard Contest Winner!
Jump to Comments (46)

Tags: bacon, Pancetta, pasta, roman food, serves a crowd

Comments (46) Questions (3)

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3 months ago KitchVega

Love this dish! I used bow tie pasta because that's all I had at the moment. Added the 1/2c to temper the eggs and since I was 4 slices short of a pound of bacon, I added most of the rendered fat. I'll walk off the extra calories tonight.

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9 months ago LeeLeeBee

I love that the peas cut the richness of this dish (and make me feel a touch less guilty about what I'm eating for dinner!). I usually reserve about a cup of pasta water, whisking about 1/3 to 1/2 cup into the eggs to temper them before adding the egg mixture to the hot pasta, and then adding a bit more if needed. I've never had a problem with scrambling or with raw eggs that way. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

Stringio

10 months ago John Bartenstein

Thank you for this. I don't care about authenticity. I love peas, I love bacon, I love pasta, I love Parmesan, I love eggs, and I love pepper. I made this tonight and it was excellent. The only adjustments I made after reading all of the comments was tempering the egg/cheese 'batter' with a 1/2 cup of the hot past water and mixing all the final ingredients in a large Pyrex bowl with a close fitting lid. Great way to combine all of the yumminess and finish the egg off while combining with the hot pasta, peas and bacon. (I may have added a few tablespoons of the rendered peppered bacon fat as well) Ok, I definitely did that. Might even add another Tbsp or two next time. This was amazing.

Junechamp

10 months ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Peas are not a standard ingredient in Carbonara, though I agree they are a tasty addition.

Stringio

11 months ago Tina Heaney Birdsall

Just made this with Jonathan Robinson's notes. YUM.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Jonathan Robinson

You should really start with a tablespoon of olive oil, or a tiny knob of butter before adding the bacon. Even in a non stick pan, Especially if you are using lean bacon. Crack fresh pepper over the bacon as it cooks. Seasoning is so important at every stage of the dish. No Salt is needed because the bacon is salted. Instead of cooking the peas in the microwave, throw the frozen peas into the pasta water 1 minute before you drain it, (probably 2 mins if you are using the whole bag) this doesnt overcook them and the peas pop in your mouth with amazing freshness.
Once you have drained the pasta and reserved a cup full of the water. Throw the pasta straight into the skillet, stir, season again with pepper. Add the water back to the skillet and as it starts to simmer. Turn the heat off and crack the eggs directly into the pasta and fold through, then fold through the cheese and finish with more cracked pepper. This allows the egg to coddle as it folds through the pasta and makes a wonderously creamy sauce.

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about 1 year ago Christian

Great quick meal if your starving, took me bout 15 minutes to prep & serve... Thank you!

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about 1 year ago Cooking in Spain

I made it with edemame instead of peas to please the non-pea lovers in the family. Pretty good results. Everything's good with bacon...

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over 1 year ago Elaine Greene Weisburg

Nonna
When I lived in Rome in the1960s I was told that Carbonara refers to the occupation of charcoal burners--visible black pepper is a reminder of them. No peas in the Roman version--that is from paglia e fieno (hay and straw--white and green linguini).

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over 1 year ago nanw.

my mother made this for me, and i want more

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almost 2 years ago walkie74

i screwed up and added 1 whole cup, as opposed to half a cup, of pasta water. Hubby didn't complain, though--he seemed to enjoy it. He added red pepper flakes as well as black pepper. I had to substitute raw spinach for the peas, but it was still a hit.

Dsc_0011

almost 2 years ago Eric Liftin

The Times had a nice article about carbonara just recently: http://nyti.ms/ZZYGKC .
Authenticity is interesting, if elusive. It is alluring to connect back to old traditions. And sometimes authenticity reconnects us with a lost ingredient or technique. But with the explosion of available foods we must make choices and encourage evolution for reasons of health, taste, and sustainability. That said, I agree with @PazzoNico that black pepper is to be applied heavily. It is the symbolic soul of the dish.

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almost 2 years ago PazzoNico

True, the origins of the dish aren't really certain. Either way, black pepper is vital in the dish (for whatever reason). It runs along the same lines as Cacio e Pepe and Pasta alla Gricia; minimal ingredients, each playing an important role.
And also, there is usually some type of fat used in the base of the dish to render the pork; olive oil, butter, or lard. And even on the rare occasion, a clove of garlic (whole) is used to flavor the oil and later removed.

Chris_in_oslo

almost 2 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Really interesting discussion. My understanding is that the origins of the dish are lost in history. Is it pasta in the manner of carbon workers? Does pepper symbolize carbon? Are there in fact no written references to the dish before World War II? I'm pretty sure I've never seen a reference to true authenticity but I'd love to see anything people come up with. And pizza with pineapple? Thanks for blaming that one on the Germans, I'd thought it was pseudo-Hawaiian and the fault of some American chain!

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almost 2 years ago mboerner

The Germans also put corn on pizza. But they really shouldn't call it pizza since not only are the toppings un-Italian, so is the pizza crust itself. I suppose the Italians would say the same of pizza found in the United States.

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almost 2 years ago PazzoNico

@Serena: If you want to be true to authenticity, freshly cracked black pepper is an important ingredient in carbonara; much to the respect of the origin of the name of the dish - "charcoal/carbon worker's pasta". The black pepper is sort of "symbolic" to the name since it looks like ash on the pasta. It goes in the base of the dish and as a garnish to serve, along with the pepper in the guanciale. But again, there are so many variations.

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almost 2 years ago mboerner

It's quite a tasty dish. But it really shouldn't be called "carbonara" since it is not. Nor is it pizza when the Germans put pineapple on it. If we want to talk about food, shouldn't we use the terms in their original meaning?

Chris_in_oslo

almost 2 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Even with peas, this is a pretty standard "Americanized" carbonara and a great dish for the night you arrive home from a trip, as well as when you're cooking for kids. And (without the peas) exactly how I learned to make it in Germany 30+ years ago. I admit I was a little surprised when I got to Rome and found how much less meat the chefs used in it there than we do in the US or the Germans did in Germany. But that's another story...

Dsc_0011

almost 2 years ago Eric Liftin

Serena, I learned it the "traditional" way, too, 25 years ago... but what fun is cooking if we adhere rigidly to tradition? Of course, everything tastes better in Rome, but having had it both ways, I prefer crispy American bacon to guanciale. Peas contribute some freshness, but as I'm putting this forward as a family recipe, the agenda is to incorporate something green. So we get all 5 food groups, protein, grain, vegetables, dairy, and bacon.

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almost 2 years ago Serena Palumbo

Eric, I understand your point but I am really traditional when it comes to these recipes. It really is my pet peeve and I apologize if my comment sounded more abrasive then I planned. I have been defending a lot of Italian traditions lately :-)
Guess what, you inspired me and I'll make carbonara tonight!

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almost 2 years ago Serena Palumbo

Food 52 you are letting me down. Carbonara with peas? really? how about some garlic cream and onion in it too? This is no carbonara. I have learned to make this pasta sauce in Rome at a restaurant called Il Matriciano and there are only 4 ingredients: eggs (many only put the yolk in but that is way to heavy for my taste) guanciale (or pancetta but even american bacon will do) pecorino and parmigiano. Maybe a touch of black pepper. That's it. Check out this video to see how it is made http://serenapalumbo.com...

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almost 2 years ago Muse

Mmmmmm...I love peas, am trying this recipe for dinner tonight...can't wait to eat it!