I don't know what it is, but I almost always think "breakfast for dinner" when I am cooking dinner just for myself. The meal is always savory, not sweet (although ENunn's Lemony Cream Cheese pancakes may change that someday), and usually boils down to a choice of either a stinky cheese and veggie omelet, or this "bacon and egg" wonder, Spaghetti Carbonara. It is a meal that I always have the ingredients on-hand for, and is a breeze to cook for one. Spaghetti Carbonara, loosely translated from Italian means “Coal Miner’s Pasta.” As legend has it, it was a favored dish of said Italian miners because they could easily carry the few ingredients required underground and cook them simply on a camp stove. I’ve even read that the liberal sprinkling of fresh ground black pepper to finish the dish is meant to evoke the coal dust that inevitably settled on each plate of the miners’ meal. The dish is rumored to have been imported to the states by GIs returning home from duty in WWII. It is said to have been a favorite meal prepared for our soldiers by recently liberated, and very grateful Italian families, who cooked with ingredients that they knew the GIs were homesick for, bacon and eggs. The recipe as written below will serve 4 people, when alone, I'll make a 1/4 version. I could eat it EVERY night! —Oui, Chef
- Serves 1-4
pancetta (sliced 1/4 “ thick at the deli, and cut into lardons)
large eggs (locally raised and cage-free if possible)
garlic, finely chopped
Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
extra virgin olive oil
finely minced fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan reggiano to pass at the table
- Put salted water on the boil for the pasta, grate the romano cheese and set aside, finely mince the fresh parsley and reserve.
- In a very large skillet, saute the pancetta lardons in the olive oil over medium heat until the bacon has rendered much of its fat. You don’t want to cook the pancetta to the point of being crisp, it is better with a little fatty “chew” still left in it. Just before the pancetta is done, add the minced garlic to the pan and allow to cook until the garlic is golden brown. Set the pan aside to cool. (Allowing the pan to cool some at this point is important, because if the pan is too hot when you add the eggs later, they will immediately scramble, and not gently cook into the creamy sauce that is your ultimate goal. The dish will still taste fine if this happens, but it will look like someone gacked in your pan, so be careful.)
- Break the eggs into a medium sized bowl and whisk them till smooth. Add the grated cheese to the eggs and keep handy.
- Cook the pasta to the maker’s instructions for “al dente”, and as soon as it is done, quickly strain it and toss it into the skillet with the pancetta, reserving a cup of the pasta cooking water to thin your sauce later if needed. Add the cheese and egg mixture to the pasta along with the parsley, and toss to coat. The heat from the pasta will gently cook the eggs, and melt the cheese into a luxuriously rich and smooth sauce. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen it. Check the sauce for seasoning before plating.
- To serve, place the pasta into warmed bowls, top liberally with freshly ground black pepper, and sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan.