Late one Sunday morning we were trying to decide what to eat. With no leftovers, we considered a frittata, but with only three eggs in stock, that wasn’t going to cut it. Then a lightbulb went off in Russ’s noggin’. Having just purchased a fresh supply of good-quality double-smoked bacon from the Amish farmer’s market, he said he could whip up a Pasta Carbonara.
There are many theories for the origin of the name, which may be more recent than the dish itself. Since the name is derived from “carbonaro” (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. History notes, in 1950 it was described in the Italian newspaper La Stampa as a dish sought by the American officers after the allied liberation of Rome in 1944, and first described after the war as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States.
Loosely based on a recipe found in Fine Cooking, Russ adjusted the instructions to fit our needs. Other ingredients included pasta: check, grated parm: check, frozen peas: check, fresh thyme, salt and pepper: check, check and check! As for the pasta, we had several long varieties on hand but settled on the pici—something we learned to make in a cooking class in Italy—although this was store-bought.
Be warned, this is a rich and filling dish where a little goes a long way. I seldom eat bacon and the only kind that seems to agree with me is a small amount of the aforementioned Amish double-smoked variety, so I figured this dish would be a safe bet. By the time we ate at 1:00, it filled the void for both breakfast and lunch. Check!
NOTE: In place of bacon, you could also use the more traditional pancetta.
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/3 lb. good-quality bacon, cut into thin strips about 1/4 inch thick
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for grating on the finished pasta
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 lb. dried linguine or other pasta
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil and cook the bacon until cooked through but not crisp.
- Meanwhile, in a large metal bowl, lightly beat the eggs; add the thyme, cheese, salt, and pepper.
- Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water according to package directions.
- About 1 min. before the pasta is done, add the peas to the boiling water. Scoop out and reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water. When the pasta is al dente, drain it and immediately add it and the peas to the bowl with the egg mixture.
- Pour the bacon and the rendered fat onto the pasta and toss well until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta.
- If necessary, add up to the entire 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to the pancetta pan to deglaze it (we didn’t need to), scraping up any bits stuck to the pan, and add as much of this as you like to the bowl of pasta. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Grate more cheese and grind a little pepper on top of the finished pasta and serve immediately.