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A Carbonara Party

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Now that Food52's Editorial Assistant Brette Warshaw has stocked her First Kitchen, she's ready to throw parties in it: no-stress weeknight parties for anyone, anytime, and (almost) every kitchen. You're invited.

Today: How to bring Rome to your dinner table, with a photo tutorial.

Plated Carbonara

I have a lot of dreams about Rome.

These are dreams of pockmarked cobblestones beneath my boots, of rumbling Vespas beneath my hands, of floury, velvety sheets of pasta that pass through my fingers. Of salty-soft foccacia; of milky-sweet gelato. Of the satisfying jaw-clench at the bottom of a negroni

But I do not live in Rome. My tiny, wall-of-appliances-in-a-living room "kitchen" is far from Rome. And so the way I go to Rome -- with a gaggle of friends in tow -- is through carbonara.

Carbonara -- the making of it, the eating of it -- is a bodily experience. (Just ask Nora Ephron.) Made with just guanciale (cured pork jowl), eggs, and cheese, it is a bowl of those textures of Rome that I dream about, the salty-slicky-stickiness that I crave. It is a food that makes you feel good: a lopsided-grin kind of feel-good, a slumping-in-your-chair-with-egg-on-your-face kind of feel-good.

In other words: it's a food perfect for a dinner party where the making of it -- and the eating of it -- are the main event.

Tossing carbonara

The Menu:

Cured meats + ricotta + toast
Spaghetti Carbonara
Pink Greens (with whatever greens you'd like)
Louisa's Cake

The weekend before: Get yourself out of bed and head to the kind of market where you can ask for cured pork jowl without getting an eyebrow-lift. Pick up your guanciale, cured meats, and ricotta. Put them in the back of your fridge and put skull-and-cross-bones post-its on them.

The night before: Make Louisa's Cake. Label it as such, and have your roommates think it's for someone else. (They'll be happily surprised later.)

Louisa's Cake

As soon as you get home from work/school/wherever you spend your days: Make the Pink Greens, and keep them on the stove, covered. You'll re-warm them before serving.

Before your guests arrive: Slice a good baguette or ciabatta; toast your slices in the oven. Set out with a bowl of ricotta topped with salt, pepper, and olive oil. (If you're an over-achiever, you can make Bruschetta with Ricotta, Honey and Lemon Zest instead.) Arrange your meats on a board or plate.

Pink Greens  Meats

Showtime: Time to make the carbonara. First, set a pot of salted water to boil. Then, brown your guanciale, and reserve the drippings. Crack your eggs in your serving bowl, whisk them, and add the guanciale.

Eggs/guanciale  Adding guanciale

Cook your pasta to al dente, and reserve some of the pasta water. Dump the pasta in the serving bowl, adding 2 tablespoons of pasta water and 1 teaspoon guanciale drippings. Toss vigorously to combine.

Dumping pasta  Adding pasta water

Tossing pasta  Tossing pasta

Gradually add your Pecorino, stirring and tossing to melt between batches. Season with salt and lots of black pepper.

Adding Pecorino  Adding pepper

Divide among plates, or eat straight from the serving bowl. 

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

Adapted from Barbara Lynch's recipe in Bon Appetit's April 2012 issue

Serves 4-6

1/4 pound guanciale or pancetta, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
7 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 pound spaghetti
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly-grated Pecorino, plus more for garnish

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Pasta, Entertaining, Burnt Toast Dinner Brigade