Pasta Un-Carbonara

April 28, 2011
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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! - thehappycook —Victoria Ross

  • 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
In This Recipe
  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.

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I am a father of five, who recently completed a two year professional hiatus during which I indulged my long held passion for cooking by moving to France to study the culinary arts and immerse myself in all things French. I earned “Le Grande Diplome” from Le Cordon Bleu, studied also at The Ritz Escoffier and Lenotre cooking schools, and completed the course offerings of the Bordeaux L’Ecole du Vin. About six months ago started "Oui, Chef", which is a food blog that exists as an extension of my efforts to teach my children a few things about cooking, and how our food choices over time effect not only our own health, but that of our local food communities and our planet at large. By sharing some of our cooking experiences through the blog, I hope to inspire other families to start spending more time together in the kitchen, cooking healthy meals as a family, passing on established familial food traditions, and perhaps starting some new ones.