Pasta carbonara may sound like some fancy Italian dish that will inevitably be full of ingredients you’ve never heard of, but don’t let the name fool you: in a pinch, this meal can be whipped up in almost no time at all… and it tastes delicious! Which is probably why it’s so often featured in anime as a meal that even a high schooler can make, and anyone (even a bird?) will love.
Let’s take, for example, episode 3 of Tamako Market when Shiori coincidentally visits Tamako’s house and ends up staying and making pasta carbonara for dinner for Tamako’s family. They’re all notably impressed by the fancy dinner prepared for them, and shower Shiori with warm praise and appreciation. Of course, this anime is more known for mochi than any other dish, but the fact that this pasta dish gets a good amount of screen-time certainly says something to it’s general popularity.
Pasta carbonara is also featured in Kamisama Dolls, Ano Natsu de Matteru (albeit, a strange “alien” version made by Ichika), and Sengoku Collection, just to name a few other anime series.
About the recipe:
Despite requiring minimal ingredients, pasta carbonara is surprisingly rich, satisfying, and flavourful. The egg is left only partially cooked by the hot pasta, which creates a creamy sauce that coats every strand of spaghetti, while the guanciale (or pancetta) offers a bit of chew as well as small bursts of saltiness.
The key to this recipe is having all your ingredients ready to go, so that when your pasta is ready, you can quickly drain it and dump it right into the egg mixture. Because this dish relies on the hot pasta on coagulating the raw egg and thus partially cooking it, it is imperative that the pasta is placed immediately into the egg mixture after a quick draining. By only coagulating the egg mixture, rather than cooking it over direct heat on the stove (which would make the egg become lumpy and scrambled), the egg remains loose to create a creamy sauce that readily coats the pasta.
About the ingredients:
Guanciale is an unsmoked Italian bacon made from pig’s jowl or cheeks. The flavour is stronger than pancetta, and its texture more delicate. Since guanciale isn’t the easiest to find in your typical grocery store, you can also use pancetta as a substitute. I like to trim some (but not all!) of the fat off of the pancetta before frying it up. Thick cut bacon could also be used in a pinch.
Because this dish contains an egg that is somewhere in between cooked and raw, I recommend using eggs that are as fresh as possible and from a reputable source. I’ve personally never had a problem before, but you can never be too safe.
Pecorino romano is a hard, salty Italian cheese, made from sheep’s milk. It is often used in pasta dishes, and is aromatic, sharp, and salty. Parmigiano-reggiano can also be used as a substitute.
Makes 2 servings
- 5 oz guanciale, pancetta, or thick cut bacon, cut into battons
- 6 oz dried spaghetti
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1.8 oz (50 g) pecorino romano cheese or parmigiano-reggiano, grated
- Pepper to taste
- Slow cooked egg (or onsen tamago) – see my recipe for gyu-don for directions
- Parsley, finely chopped
1. Heat a pan on medium heat and fry the guanciale until cooked through. Remove the cooked guanciale from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil.
2. Bring a large pot of well salted water to boil, and cook the pasta until al dante.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together egg, olive oil and grated cheese until well incorporated and no egg white is visible. Add pepper to taste.
3. Drain the cooked pasta, then immediately dump it into the egg mixture. Mix well to coat the hot pasta evenly in the sauce. Add the fried guanciale and toss to combine.
Serve the pasta topped with parsley and a slow cooked egg.
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