Soft-Scrambled Eggs That Take a Cheesy, Bacon-y Cue From Pasta

September 17, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

The phrase “when in Rome” has always bothered me. Not because it’s a cliche, but because it gives me FOMO: I’ve never actually been to Rome, and I love all of their pastas from afar. Like, really love. When I do finally go, they’ll have to alter the phrase to, “When in Rome, see if you can track down Ella Quittner, or whatever she’s going by now, and convince her to return to her old life and family here in the States. P.S. Remind her that she owes us $6 from when we spotted her for a sandwich.”

How could you not adore Roman pasta? There’s cacio e pepe, for one. A cheesy, peppery dream of a dish, like the most sophisticated, souped up, yet simplest, mac 'n' cheese possible. There’s all’Amatriciana, which is my platonic ideal of a red sauce pasta: al dente, hollow bucatini, twirled around with a spicy, tomatoey sauce studded with crisped guanciale (basically bacon, but from the jowl) and caramelized onions. And there’s carbonara, the most out-of-control, creamy, umami-rich of them all. If carbonara ran for president, I’d vote for it—and I’d petition to abolish the whole two-term thing.

And then, there’s pasta alla gricia. The humblest of the fantastic four, but don’t you dare mistake humble for meek. Pasta alla gricia, if you haven’t had it, is like carbonara’s less fussy cousin, or cacio e pepe’s spunky older sister—the one who always brings the bacon. It has all the ingredient simplicity and nuanced flavor balance of its pasta relatives (it’s basically just pecorino, guanciale, black pepper, and pasta water), with no complex technical elements. It is, I think, the perfect pasta for a weeknight. Or for a dinner party. It’s nearly impossible to mess up, even if you’ve had enough wine to convince yourself that you’re in Rome for the night.

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Which brings us to one fortuitous Sunday morning, a few weeks back. I awoke, happily (okay, fine, lightly hungover), and reflected on my dinner party success the night prior. Until. I remembered. The dishes. I stumbled into the kitchen, looking for some food to fortify myself against the impending cleaning session.

I came upon a goldmine: A leftover hunk of guanciale the size of a baby’s fist, and enough pecorino to make it rain on twenty bowls of breakfast. The only “alla gricia” staple I didn’t have left was pasta. No matter—I got to work right away, rendering down the guanciale, and whisking together some eggs for a soft scramble.

The result? Everything I love about alla gricia, turned up a notch. Or five. Think: Eggs so custardy and flavorful, you don’t know where the salty cheesiness ends, and where the deeply bacon-y flavor begins. Oh, and a shower of freshly ground pepper and crispy guanciale shards to top things off.

If you wanted to get technical about the ingredient list, you could call these “soft scrambled eggs alla carbonara,” but then you’d be missing the point: These are super easy to make. (You know what they say about Sunday morning, after all.)

My recipe makes enough for two—but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll make the whole thing for yourself, and eat it in your PJs. If it's a Sunday, I’ll be doing the same, in a hopelessly messy apartment, taking a break from last night’s dishes to eat my new favorite breakfast, while scrolling wistfully through photos of Rome.

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.