When in Rome (or at Home)... Eat Carbonara

I need to provide a little background. If you've ever been around anyone that does CrossFit, you will have probably heard the term "Paleo" come up. The paleo diet basically refers to eating like a caveman, and consists of primarily eating wild plants and animals. For the most part, we try to follow the paleo diet Monday through Friday and then on the weekends we relax a bit and let ourselves indulge in some carbs and non-paleo alcohol.

Well, long story short, this blog post is not about being paleo. My point is, this post is the exact opposite of paleo! On our honeymoon in Italy this past September, we knew that paleo eating would be a thing of the past. I mean seriously, who goes to Italy and doesn't plan to eat enough pasta and bread to fill a small bus? Basically, we fell in love with pasta and pizza all over again in Rome (maybe because we had been depriving ourselves). 

Well, we've been craving some of those classic carb-loaded dishes ever since we returned. The one I've been thinking about most, spaghetti alla carbonara (although, cacio e pepe is arguably it's equally tasty, yet simpler, relative).
The BEST pizza I've ever put in my pizza-pie-hole. From Bonci's Pizzarium 
Spaghetti alla carbonara is like a staple in Rome (think perfectly al dente spaghetti coated in a cheesy/eggy sauce with small chunks of crispy and chewy ham throughout). However, it surprisingly hard to find in Italian restaurants in the States (well, good carbonara is). So, last Friday, I'm taking a little stroll through DiBruno Bros mini-market on my lunch break and I stumble upon this big hunk of pancetta. Ding ding ding! I get the bright idea to try and make some spaghetti alla carbonara at home that very evening. I call up the hubby, ask him to pick up a few essentials at the market and rush home, eagerly anticipating the moment when I'll get to shovel pounds of that pasta in my mouth.

I was determined to make this in the true authentic Roman style, so I found this great recipe on Salted & Styled, appropriately named Classic Spaghetti alla Carbonara

I quickly discovered that I'd already messed up by buying pancetta instead of guanciale. But oh well, I was determined to make this work! Overall, I was really surprised at how easy it was (I think I was done making in in about 25 minutes). The most labor-intensive part is shredding the parmesan. 

*Recipe update February 2014 - The last time I made this, I used a combination of Parmesan and Pecorino Romano (about 1/2 cup pecorino and the rest parmesan) I really like the combination of the two cheese, it gives the dish a little extra dimension. 

I was really happy with how the dish turned out and yes, we ate and entire pound of spaghetti that evening.
Dice pancetta (or guanciale) and cook in olive oil in pan.
 Add fresh ground black pepper for last few minutes of browning.
Put cooked pancetta (and dripping) in a large bowl allow it to cool slightly. 
Add the eggs and cheese and mix mix mix!
Add the cookedpasta to your bowl.
(Make sure to reserve some of the pasta water)
Stir pasta into the sauce to coat, add a little pasta water if needed to loosen up the sauce.
Mangia! I sprinkle a little extra parm on there...it can't hurt! 
Dig in!
Spaghetti alla Carbonara 
(Serves 4) 

8 ounces guanciale, thinly sliced (can substitute pancetta cut into small pieces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, more for garnish
4 eggs, room temperature
1 pound spaghetti

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Stir in guanciale and cook (stirring occasionally, until lightly browned (approximately 6 minutes). Stir in pepper and cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer contents of skillet to a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool slightly.

Add spaghetti to the boiling water and cook until al dente (approximately 8-10 minutes). Drain pasta and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

Add the grated cheese and eggs to the slightly cooled guanciale. Using a wooden spoon, vigorously stir the mixture together until it become thick sauce (mayonnaise consistency). 

Transfer the cooked pasta (still hot) to the bowl and toss it with the sauce. Add a little pasta water at a time until the sauce coats the noodles and is creamy (you probably won’t need all of the water). Salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve immediately and garnish with more Parmesan.

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