Carbonara is one of those very simple dishes that requires attention to the techniques to get it just right. When done well, the eggs are ever so gently cooked by the heat of the just-drained pasta. The cheese is delicately blended and also barely melted by the same heat. Too much heat and the eggs curdle. Too little and they are still runny.
The trick is to have all your ingredients on hand and ready to go when the pasta is finished cooking so that the pasta doesn’t cool down. The eggs should be room temperature and then combined with the cheese to help them gently come up to temperature when added to the pasta. Don’t return the pot to the heat on the stove unless for some reason you see that the eggs are just not thickening. If this is the case, return the pot to the burner, but don’t actually turn it on, so that you can take advantage of the gentle residual heat.
To get refrigerated eggs room temperature, place the eggs in a bowl of warm water while you are prepping the rest of your ingredients.
1 pound spaghetti
4 large eggs, room temperature
6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese; about 3/4 cup light packed (plus more for garnish)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces prosciutto, sliced into 1/4-inch strips (or pancetta)
2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 2 cloves
1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Beat the eggs with a fork in a small bowl until they are frothy. Add the cheese to the eggs and beat again to mix. Set aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the prosciutto and sauté for one minute. Add the garlic and remove the pan from the heat. Sauté for another minute and add the parsley.
When the pasta is done, drain and add it to the skillet with the prosciutto and garlic immediately. Add the salt, pepper, and eggs and gently but quickly incorporate with rubber-tipped tongs or wooden spoon. Return to the residual heat of the burner (without turning it on) if you feel the eggs are not setting up via the heat from the pasta. This whole process of mixing the pasta should take less than one minute. Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan cheese and black pepper.
Serves 4 to 6
Happy Cooking to All!